9 Counter-Intuitive Lessons You can Apply to Your Life

There is little in life that hurts more when you realize truths you believed to be truths turned out to be lies. This introduces chaos into the universe you’ve spent years crafting with bits and pieces. And then the house of cards come tumbling down.

The world isn’t always as we think it is. Sometimes the idea of how we want to world to be distorts how we see the world as it is. So here are 9 counter-intuitive pieces of wisdom that you can implement now.

The more you try to prove somebody wrong, the more they’ll believe they’re right.

When you get into an argument with somebody, most people aren’t listening to your arguments. Ever argue politics with somebody? They’re not listening, they’re too preoccupied coming up with rebuttals. Sometimes rebuttals they never even thought of because they never had their arguments tested. In this manner, the more you frame the argument as me vs. you, the more nothing will be accomplished (on your end, he gets the benefit of tightening up his argument).

The best way to prove somebody wrong is with subtlety. Either demonstrate it so that they can see it or ask them an innocuous question that gets them to question their belief. Real change comes internally.

If you’re afraid to fail, you’re probably going to fail.

Playing not to lose is different from playing to win. Playing to win involves taking necessary risks that’ll improve your chances of winning. Playing not to lose means playing it safe always. Ironically, this is the least safe position there is because it is only a matter of time before your defenses break. Blockbusters is a classic example of playing not to lose.

Assume success to achieve success

The best way to get children to eat vegetables is to turn ‘Eat your vegetables.’ into ‘Do you want to eat carrots or spinach?’ This assumes they’re going to eat vegetables, but it also gives them power to choose which vegetables to eat.

What’s the number one job interview tip you hear over and over? Pretend like you already have the job. This puts you at ease during the interview and portrays you as a confident, competent individual.

The thing about assuming success is how subtle it is. It’s subtle but it packs a punch. When done correctly, it oozes confidence and increases chances of success.

Speak in positives, not negatives

Don’t eat the cookies. What’s the first thing that popped into your mind? For most people, it would be ‘What cookies.’ The brain doesn’t focus on ‘don’t.’ The word ‘don’t’ is an abstraction. ‘Cookie’ is tangible, the brain can grab onto ‘cookie’ so that’s what your brain gravitates towards.

This type of distinction can occur within words as well. ‘Uncomplicated,’ for example. It denotes the lack of complication, but the brain still fixates on the word ‘complicated.’ A better word would be ‘simple’ or ‘easy.’ This way your words won’t lose their meaning and your audience will understand you better.

Treat others how they want to be treated

We’ve all heard of the golden rule. Treat others how you want to be treated. This is a great rule to develop empathy for your fellow human beings. As a rule for social interaction, however, the golden rule is horrible. It places too much emphasis on how you would like to be treated and completely discounts the individuality of the person sitting in front of you.

Different people like different things. To be a charmer you must be able to find out what it is that makes the person in front of you unique and interesting. I go more in-depth in my blog post The Number One Way to Charm Everybody You Meet.

The one who is willing to walk away has the most power

In relationships, negotiations, the one who gets the better deal is the one who isn’t afraid to walk away. It’s like a twisted game of chicken, who needs who more. It’s not all twisted, however, you still have to care if the other party walks away and vice-versa.

Blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong develops a resiliency that cannot be broken

One reason for this is because when you start blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong, you stop dwelling in the realm of problems and you start living in the realm of solutions. You’re not looking at all the possible reasons or people to point your finger at, you’re looking at ways you could’ve improved or done something better.

The more you live in the realm of solutions, the more confidence you will have in your ability to overcome hurdles. It’ll hurt at first, but like shots of penicillin, it’ll protect you from pain that is yet to come.

“Amateurs practice things until they get them right. Professionals practice until they can’t get them wrong.” – Ed Latimore

The nuance between the amateur and the professional is in the depth of understanding. If I practice a kick 10,000 times, I have a better understanding of how to set up the kick, how to execute the kick, and then what to do after the kick. Understanding how to do the kick is step one. Likewise, book learning and understanding theory is only the beginning of the journey. You must apply that knowledge and then fine-tune the details.

You have more gratitude when you don’t expect help from anybody

People can be inconsistent. If you expect help, and they don’t deliver, you’ll be disappointed and behind on your task. So prepare for the worst and set aside contingencies so that even if they don’t deliver, you’ll still be able to finish your task. This way if they do deliver, you’ll feel nothing but gratitude because you never expected them to help in the first place.

Wrapping it all up

I have wasted a lot of time figuring these lessons out. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have had times when you would argue and argue and things would just go nowhere. Maybe you have been on the losing side of a relationship or negotiation.

These are all lessons you can learn from, lessons that act as vaccinations against future pain. The sooner we internalize them, the better off we’ll be.

To recap here are 9 of those lessons:

  1. The more you try to prove somebody wrong, the more they’ll believe they’re right.
  2. If you’re afraid to fail, you’re probably going to fail.
  3. Assume success to achieve success
  4. Speak in positives, not negatives
  5. Treat others how they want to be treated
  6. The one who is willing to walk away has the most power
  7. Blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong develops a resiliency that cannot be broken
  8. “Amateurs practice things until they get them right. Professionals practice until they can’t get them wrong.” – Ed Latimore
  9. You have more gratitude when you don’t expect help from anybody

What are some lessons you have to share? Leave them in the comments below.


2 Comments

  • Reply Joshua at

    Another fantastic article! I think I see a bit of Robert Greene’s influence again in the very first point. Never argue, prove them wrong with actions!

    Arnold Schwarzenegger has advice similar to point 2 – he doesn’t compete, he wins.

    And blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong…well, there are a few different ways to look at that. You also need to praise yourself for what you do right.

    The combination of the two creates the staple of having a strong internal locus of control. You understand and believe that your choices (and efforts) have effects, whether they’re positive or negative.

    A bad grade doesn’t equal stupidity, it means you didn’t study hard enough (or in the correct way). A good sale means you hustled and studied your mark.

    Thanks for the insights, and I’m sorry for rambling! Keep ’em coming!

    • Reply Alex Liang at

      You bring up a good point Joshua. It is important to thank yourself for going above and beyond as well or sometimes even just for not doing the wrong thing.
      Appreciate your thoughts!

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