Applying the principles of the alter ego effect can be powerful in your life and your business. There are some action steps outlined below in this section, but they aren’t a substitute for reading the book. I highly recommend getting your own copy of the book so you can hear from Todd himself.
Once you’ve done that I suggest implementing the action plan below:
1. Decide on who your alter ego will be and why
Think about the people who‘ve inspired you most in your life. What qualities about them do you find inspiring? For instance, I find Barack Obama’s speeches to be very inspiring. I felt he stood up for what he believed in and reformed the financial and health systems in his two terms. This meant he faced a lot of criticism. But his commitment to his vision and his ability to stay focused was exactly what I found inspiring.
Who do you find inspiring? Why do you find them inspiring? Grab a pen and paper and write their names down. Write down the qualities you admire in them. What about their qualities do you relate to? Why?
2. Reconnect with your inner child to suspend disbelief (and unlearn the self-limiting lessons that ‘growing up’ has taught you)
Remember when you were a young kid around the age of 7? Do you remember feeling a sense of wonder and excitement about most things in life? Do you remember feeling filled with possibility? But then as you grew into your teens and then into adulthood, that sense of possibility kinda faded away? The world told you to be realistic? Dreaming of possibility was seen to be immature and childish?
Well, I‘ve got news for you. Being childlike (not childish) is critical if you want to reach your true potential. To embrace your alter ego you need to step into your imaginary world and embrace it with so much passion that you draw that world into your reality. Much like Michaelangelo ‘drew’ David out of that piece of marble.
3. Choose the artifact you’ll use to activate your alter-ego whenever you need it
Once you’ve decided on your alter-ego and embraced it, you need to choose a totem or an artifact that will help you connect with that alter ego instantly. If you want to activate your internal ‘superman’ maybe you want to carry a scrabble piece with the letter S on it. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s easy to carry with you.
Note: Only use the artifact/totem when you really want to summon your alter ego. Using it indiscriminately will dilute its effect. You must respect and maintain the sanctity of the totem. If you don’t it’ll lose its effect.
We can leverage the idea of someone in something else which taps into the superpower that every human being has. Bar none, it’s truly the thing that makes us vastly unique on this planet, which is our creative imagination, our ability to suspend disbelief, our ability to create new narratives and worlds and stories in our mind and live with them, not just live inside of them as a dream. That’s the sticking point for many people. They build them up as a dream in their mind and they daydream it. Instead, what I do is I take it one step further and I go, no, we can act through that idea and now you’re activating those qualities which actually moves you past the puppet strings of resistance and you now go and you activate the qualities that you already have nested inside of you.
James Schramko here from superfastbusiness.com and you’re listening to my friend Ash Roy at ProductiveInsights.com. Welcome to the Productive Insights podcast where you can learn how to systemize, automate, and scale your business via the internet to access previous episodes and useful productivity tips. Go to www.productiveinsights.com now, here’s your host, Ash Roy.
Ash Roy: (01:17)
Welcome back to the Productive Insights podcast. This is episode 176 and I’m Ash Roy the host of the Productive Insights podcast and the founder of ProductiveInsights.com. I’m holding up a hammer and this hammer is a totem, as we will discover later in this episode. If you can’t see the hammer because you’re listening to this on iTunes, then I highly recommend you watch this video on YouTube, which you can access at ProductiveInsights.com/YouTube or YouTube.com/Productive Insights. Now, if you have superpowers, you can probably see this hammer even though you’re only listening on iTunes, in which case I congratulate you on your superpowers. However, if you would like to develop superpowers, then you need to listen to this awesome episode with Todd Herman where he talks about how you can create an alter ego to activate your inner superpowers and take your mindset to the next level.
Ash Roy: (02:18)
This is a masterclass on mindset and I highly recommend you watch it on our YouTube channel. If you can’t access YouTube right now, if you’re driving, then do the second best thing which is to listen to it on iTunes. Subscribe to the podcast and if you think it’s useful, please share it with somebody else. In this episode, Todd shares some really great strategies that you can use today, right now to activate that part of yourself that lives within your imagination to take you from your ordinary world to your extraordinary world. This is the strategy that Beyonce Knowles used via her alter ego called Sasha Fierce. I’m very excited about the content that Todd has shared in this episode and I’m very grateful he shared it with us. I hope you find it as useful as I did. If you need help with anything discussed in this episode or any other episodes on the Productive Insights podcast, then you should check out the Productive Insights membership program which you can access at https://GetMeToDone.com. Right now we’re accepting founding members at only 99 US dollars per month for a very limited time into the Productive Insights membership. You have access to me directly via a discussion thread, which is private and only you get to see it. So I hope you take advantage of this. As a founding member, you’ll lock in your monthly membership rate for the life of your membership. I do plan to increase the monthly fees, so if you’re interested, definitely head over to https://GetMeToDone.com or just email me on Ash@productiveinsights.com.
Now here is Todd Herman.
Tapping into an alter ego isn’t just a powerful way to perform to the best of your abilities. It’s also scientifically proven to work and back by stories of amazing people you’ve heard that use it. When Todd Herman, the author of the Wall Street Journal bestselling book, the alter ego effect speaks about secret identities and alter egos. He’s talking about leveraging the innate creative powers of your mind and being intentional about the traits and characteristics that you want to activate on any field of play that you enter. When you can suspend disbelief about what you think you can or can’t do for whatever reason, and tap into the traits of someone or something else, you circumvent the resistance and forces that typically stops you so you can finally get the results you’ve been capable of all along and surprise yourself by doing things you never thought possible. Todd has spent 20 plus years mentoring Olympic athletes, public figures, leaders and entrepreneurs on peak performance and has built his own life based on one foundational principle that all things being equal, the people that win, whether they’re smart, ignorant, young or old, are the ones that can unlock their heroic self and display all of their capabilities on their field of play. Tune in to our discussion and enjoy this fascinating and entertaining conversation with someone that will challenge your paradigms. We’ll give you a new perspective on what’s possible. So I’m really excited to welcome Todd Herman to the Productive Insights podcast. Welcome, Todd!
Ash, you’re a champ. That’s the best introduction I’ve had across all of the podcasts I’ve done for my book, so thanks man, that was great.
Ash Roy: (05:39)
Oh, thank you very much. You’re welcome. I really like to do a good intro, especially when it’s so justified and, so well earned in my opinion. Before we recorded this interview, I showed you Todd that I’d been taking detailed notes from the book The Alter Ego Effect. I highly recommend the book, especially if you’re somebody who suffers from imposter syndrome like I have in the past and still do from time to time. And one of the things that I find particularly powerful about the principles explained in the book is that it works so well because when you create this alter ego persona and you activate this persona to go from your ordinary world into your extraordinary world by suspending disbelief, for a period of time, you are able to shortcut all of the baggage that you have built up over your life that has probably led to the imposter syndrome — particularly if you’re somebody who’s experienced trauma or anxiety or has gone through some really painful experiences which I know Todd, you have yourself. You’re able to just phase into this new character just for a period of time and you’re able to perform at that insanely high level, modelled on someone you admire or something you admire until eventually the ordinary you and the extraordinary you meet somewhere in the middle. So without stealing too much of your thunder, Todd, can you talk to us about, your take on how to use the alter ego effect to overcome imposter syndrome?
Sure. So I think the first place to start with people is, just getting people to realize that, this isn’t like some cute tool that you can use. It’s not something that’s reserved only for people that are entertainers or athletes. Like, you know, people can automatically go to David Bowie, activating Ziggy stardust or Beyonce, activating Sasha Fierce or Kobe Bryant going out as the Black Mamba or insert it’s not just reserved for athletes and entertainers. That’s where it has probably, its most well known source. But people consistently have been using this for a millennia to help them move past exactly all the stuff that you’ve just talked about, whether it’s imposter syndrome or you know what the natural part of the people that are listening to this podcast is, they’re most likely individuals who are achievers, they wouldn’t be listening to you and trying to improve themselves each and every day if they weren’t trying to do challenging things.
Ash Roy: (08:17)
If they weren’t constantly bumping up against the comfort zone of life and moving beyond that. Right? there’s a natural resistance that sits right there, you know, in Steven Pressfield’s book, the war of art, which is a great book on resistance. He talks about all that. So for me, as someone who is paid to help people do ambitious things, whether it’s on the sporting field or in the boardroom or on the entrepreneurial field of play, the hardest thing to do would be to try to change someone, right? We all know that. Like when it’s like anytime we’re trying to get someone to try and develop themselves, there’s an element of change that’s right there.
Well instead of me looking at you Ash and saying, okay, well the current version of you is not built to help you do the hard things that we’re about to go pursue. That’s how many people in the kind of change in leadership and personal development world would look at someone and I look at it differently. I go, you’re already complete. The heroic you is already inside of you. Right? And so instead of me trying to unpack all of the traumas and the personal narratives and the stories from your past and the resistance strings that the puppeteer of resistance loves to use to stop you, instead, why don’t I use an already existing psychological phenomenon that’s built into the human psyche to help you navigate and move around it. Now I don’t need to handle all that change. I can just go, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Wait Ash I get it. I get that sometimes you argue for your own limitations. I get that sometimes the worry and concern of what other people are going to think of you stops you. Right. I get all that. Okay. So that’s the current identity that you know, we are discussing this version of Ash, but there is also a version of Ash that we can build and we can leverage the idea of someone in something else which taps into the superpower that every human being has. Bar none, it’s truly the thing that makes us vastly unique on this planet, which is our creative imagination, our ability to suspend disbelief, our ability to create new narratives and worlds and stories in our mind and live with them, not just live inside of them as a dream. That’s the sticking point for many people. They build them up as a dream in their mind and they daydream it.
Instead, what I do is I take it one step further and I go, no, we can act through that idea. We can activate your inner Winston Churchill, or we can be inspired through the idea of the Black Mamba like Kobe Bryant used to get on the court and now you’re activating those qualities which actually moves you past the puppet strings of resistance. And you now go and you activate the qualities that you already have nested inside of you. My favorite thing about the work that I get to do is the shock and awe that people have with their experience of what they can do. Yeah. Most people are just so under indexing in their life and when you really start to leverage and tap into an idea that’s like this, you find a gear that you didn’t even know that you had. Right. And so my view is like that of Michelangelo. I am here to subtract, delete, and remove, you know, he went to the piece of marble and he said, David’s already inside. And what I do when I’m working with people as the heroic version of you is already inside and I’m going to use an alter ego or one of the other many tools that I use to help you activate that. This is science-based. There’s psychological phenomenon. I’m simply greasing the slide of what already exists for you.
Ash Roy: (11:56)
Yes. I have experienced this in the last few days as I’ve been taking notes from your book. And I’ve been applying some of the principles and I honestly have found it to be really powerful. For example, Steve Jobs is somebody who I admire. He’s not the only alter ego I want to implement in my life. But he’s one of the alter egos if you like. And I know that he was a very flawed individual, but he had some great qualities. One of the questions he asked, which he talked about in a Stanford address and which I’ve written a detailed blog post about on my website was if today was the last day of my life, would I do what I’m about to do today? And I’ve actually been asking myself that question for the last seven or eight days. And they did a Facebook live about this. And it has actually transformed not just the actions that I’m taking each day, like what I choose to focus on, but it also has transformed how I approach those actions and those tasks. My tasks selection or my project selection is different and my attitude is different.
Ash Roy: (12:58)
Something I really want to also bring out Todd, an objection that first came up in my mind and it probably is coming up in a lot of our listeners or viewers minds (If you’re watching this on YouTube) and that is, how is this different from “fake it till you make it”, Todd. I think you have some great narrative around this. So can you explain that to our listeners and our viewers? How was this different from fake it till you make it?
Well, I’ve always had a massive resistance against the term, fake it till you make it anyway. I mean anyone who’s a student of messaging and using the right choice of words. I mean one of my mentors, Jim Rohn was very, very picky about, he always harped on me about when you find the right word, you can eliminate a lot of the resistance or you can have your message come across to someone. So fake it till you make, it’s just a terrible way of saying something. Cause none of us want to be perceived as being fake. And so that the kind of flip of that is well … but you know, shouldn’t I just be my authentic self?
Ash Roy: (13:56)
And so yes, I love that idea and this is where the personal development self help world people who are influencers nowadays and bloggers, people who actually don’t work with people one on one, which frustrates me when they’re out there pandering their ideas.
If you don’t work with someone one on one, there is a huge caveat to anything that I will ever accept from someone who doesn’t work with someone one on one because you have not been playing the game, nose to nose, toes to toes, boots on the field, getting your fingernails dirty with the people that are now facing you down one on one every single day saying, Hey, I tried your thing and it didn’t work, right. So people who only just, work in a group format and spread their message out that way, that is really not being held under the white hot light of performance. I get paid, I work with people one on one. I do have a lot of like group stuff that I do and I speak on stages, but all my stuff has been carved out of the hard realities of one on one stuff.
So my point about saying all that is that the idea of authenticity has been massively bastardized over the last, I’d say seven years, especially where people are now waiting to become authentic before they go and do something. And that is so dangerous. Besides the fact that under its current definition of why people would object to this idea is they, I mean, I break it right away when I say, okay, so based on the idea that you just want to be authentic, what that means is eight months ago you were probably different than you were today, which means underneath the definition of how people define authenticity, they were fake eight months ago, which then also means that who you are today is fake, right? We’re constantly evolving. We’re constantly growing. We’re at least where I hope people are. And so that’s a dangerous thing to wrap yourself in, enclothe yourself with is that type of definition of authenticity. Being inauthentic is when you’re trying to do things to trick and deceive other people.
If your motivation is to deceive and trick, that’s being inauthentic. But if you are activating and you’re answering the question that I have in the book of who do you want to be showing up as, not for the purposes of other people, but really honoring how you want to be showing up. Like, you know, nothing can frustrate you more than when you lay your head down on the pillow at night and you say, why didn’t I speak up when that person was saying those things about my friend? Or why didn’t I raise my hand in the meeting when I had the idea for how to improve our marketing or our strategy, but I didn’t say anything or why didn’t I finally close the sale when that person was obvious that they were interested in what I had, but I didn’t wanna lose the sale or I didn’t want to have rejection.
That’s when you’re being inauthentic now because that’s the stuff that eats away at you. Right. But when you start activating and in those moments, what I call those moments of impact that are highly impactful on the results that you get on whatever domain of life, whether it’s parenting, a moment of impact in parenting is when your son or daughter is having a meltdown. That’s a moment of impact because most people will react in a very emotional way. Right. And then we end up saying things or doing things that are out of character for us or that we regret immediately. That is when you are inauthentic. Because you know that you could have done something better. Right? And I know there’s this great idea of, you know, everyone’s out there doing the very best that they can with what they’ve got. That’s a nice idea. But it’s also a huge crutch cause then people can say I was doing the best I can. No you weren’t. Okay. Cause again, I’m here to apply pressure. I know that there’s a hero inside. I know that there’s more there.
Ash Roy: (18:02)
Jobs actually did that a lot with his employees and a lot of them actually said this, that they achieved a lot more than they would have ever done if that had not worked for him. And he does have a bit of a bad rep because some people took it the wrong way and resented it. I’m not making excuses for the harsh words he used …. Maybe he was unfair sometimes, but he was always trying to drag that David out of that employee most of the time. That was his intention. Maybe the way he went about it was the wrong way. Now I want to put my hand up and confess. I have been guilty of trying to be authentic before doing stuff …. before putting things out there … “Oh it’s not authentic enough. Oh, it’s not good enough. So I’m not going to put it out there.” And then a few weeks ago I spoke to Ryan Deiss and episode 170 and he told me about one of his books that he liked called ready, fire, aim. And so I’ve just been trying to repeat that in my mind. Ready, fire, aim, ready, fire, aim. And it does help a little bit. But I’ve gotta say, I do feel a certain … an internal cringing before I publish a piece of content because I feel it’s not authentic. It’s not perfect. So can you talk to us about how … how do we walk that fine line between authenticity …. and maybe perfection is not the right word, but something that is pure … a pure result of pure piece of content.
Yeah. Okay. So, I actually just don’t operate inside of the paradigm of authenticity and I know that I’m a constantly evolving self, right? I am every single day I am trying to strip away the layers of narrative to continuously find, you know, that pure white, hot, creative source of power that I know I have nesting inside of me. And it’s so natural for the limbic brain that’s so tribal in nature that wants to fit in, not get kicked out of the tribe to kick in to override and overdrive to pull us back into safety so that we’re not kicked out of our tribe or slings and arrows come our way. And so what I do is I pull back and I go, anytime I have any sort of thinking that is revolving around the concerns of other people. I teach this and I’ve worked on this for myself, I have a good detachment with that and I always have the same response like, oh, isn’t that interesting? Isn’t it interesting that my limbic brain is throwing some little darts, my way of concern about what other people might think my stuff. Just isn’t that interesting. It’s so odd. I’m trying to do is just see it as, it’s a passing thought. It’s like a cloud in my mind. It’s not me, it’s not me, it’s, I don’t identify with it. It’s just, that’s what it’s doing.
Ash Roy: (21:00)
What you just described is something I’ve been practicing for several years on and off. And that is the practice of self awareness or mindfulness, which is just awareness of your thought patterns. And I talked about this in detail with Amy Porterfield episode 145, about how to use that self awareness to overcome your fears by getting some distance from it. So thank you for touching on that. That’s a really valuable point.
And I mean, I know Amy well cause I mentored Amy.
Ash Roy: (21:29)
That’s how when I first discovered you several years ago,
And, her and I worked on that stuff a lot because she’s such a naturally caring person. But sometimes it carries too far into the concern and worry about other people. But getting back to you, cause you’ve got a valid question of how do I get past that pursuit of authentic voice. And it’s like, well, the only way that you can even find it is to continue to pursue it, right. Is to get the thing out onto the field and then just see the finished product. The more and more that you write or the more and more that you create videos, the more and more you’re going to find that voice of yours or that special way that you bring yourself to a video or a podcast interview or something like that. So that’s the pursuit.
It’s not so much the pursuit of this idea of authenticity, it’s that I’m trying to constantly carve away the natural heaping of environmental narrative that’s trying to force me into being a, you know square peg or whatever cause everyone wants to label us. Right. So you know, he’s that way also he’s a Canadian, which means he’s going to be overly nice to talk to. Anyone of my good Canadian friends, they’ll tell you that I’m the most un-Canadian Canadian there is because I’ve been living in New York City for far too long. So I have few more sharp edges and it’s not really a byproduct of New York City. It’s more a byproduct of the fact that I work with extraordinarily high achieving people. And anyone living in that domain, I have to when you’re working with billionaires who have nothing but “yes people” around them and no one ever gives them an honest remark back.
And yet I’m the first person to punch them in the teeth with a sharp comment and it jars them and their first response is to come back at me hard. And then I come back at them and I’m like, listen, I don’t need your money. I’ve got 76 other clients that are waiting to talk to me. I don’t need you, okay. But you’re the one who came to me with this issue of your own personal leadership inside of your business. And so you either want to fix it or you don’t want to fix that. Okay. That’s how they need to be challenged that way.
Ash Roy: (23:34)
That’s sounds a lot like somebody we both know – A guy called James Schramko. And we’ll talk about it later.
yeah, that’s, that’s why I love him. But going back to the whole idea of leveraging the alter ego, A, one of the greatest thinkers to ever grace the planet is the person who actually coined the term alter ego Cicero, who is widely known as being, if not the greatest Roman statesman and philosopher to ever live. He’s either number one or number two and Cicero wrote about an alter ego when he penned a letter to a good friend of his in 44 BC. And that letter was about honoring the idea that an alter ego is a trusted friend or ally. And we can bring that trusted friend and ally, into our minds to help us navigate the difficult things of life or to pursue the new challenges that we want to go after with more grace and more grit. And I talk about the science of how it’s proven that when you activate an alter ego immediately your perseverance and your grit goes up.
And we can talk about one of the studies in a second, but in there is such a powerful idea. I know that your final question to me is there is anything else that you’d want to share with everyone and I’ll share it right now. At the end of the day, there is nothing that will help you on the pathway to success more. Nothing. Bar None, nothing like zero than friends and allies. Nothing. I mean there are more studies that have been done around joy and fulfillment and success and the only one common denominator amongst all of them was that the people who said that they had a extraordinarily high quality of life and succeeded in life or whatever, every single of those studies would talk about relationships. The power of relationships. So we all understand that those who rise up in life and have a phenomenal Rolodex, I mean, you’ve got such an advantage.
I pursue it. I’m always trying to up level the crowd that I’m around. Okay. Now, here’s the thing though: most people do not try to build a powerful ally between the six inches of their own ears. This is the thing that matters more than anything else towards the quality of your own psychological life, right? When you bring in and you start to leverage an alter ego, which every single person that’s listening to this or watching this has already done. You did this as a child when you were jumping off of the couch pretending to see how far you could go if you are superman or wonder woman or Black Panther nowadays or Thor and on and on, or when you’re in the driveway and you were pretending to activate your favorite athlete in order to go and dunk the ball or shoot the ball, or you know, in Canada you’d be like, you know, score the goal as a hockey player.
We do those things and we ask ourselves, what could I do if I was Lebron James? And then, but if you unpack it though, okay, so how does the brain work from the ages of zero to seven? Okay, well, from the ages of zero to seven, that is when a human being is activating the most creative part of their mind at a brain wave level. We are operating for the most part in Theta brainwave state when we are in childhood. Okay? So Theta brainwave state is where you and I are trying to pursue it nowadays when we get into like meditation and it’s were phenomenal creative problem solving is happening. Our conscious mind and that thinking and judging mind isn’t kicking into overdrive quite yet. All right, so then what happens after seven? Our critical thinking skills start to develop. What we also start is we get bombarded with an educational system and a world that tells us to grow up, act or rage, have more responsibilities.
We also start to look at what other people that are older than us can do. At least I did it and I said, I can’t wait until I have my driver’s license and I can drive. And then you say, I can’t wait until I’m an adult and I can do this. And we take a look at what those adults are doing that we see around us. And most adults are serious. They’re stressed out, they’re anxious. And so we think that’s what adults do. And then we start to walk away from the things that were making us grow at such a rapid rate, which was our creative imagination skills, right? And so when we’re playing in our creative imagination, that’s when we’re using things like alter egos and secret identities and playing, make-believe in our own mind. And so some people classify that and if they think that, oh, that’s me being childish so I shouldn’t be childish.
So all those things I did when I was zero to seven, that’s childish. I want to do things that are adult. And that’s the mistake. No, it’s the childlike attitudes that we need to borrow back from so that we can move past the natural adult narratives that slow people down, the concern of what other people think of you. And it’s so powerful. So Cicero named it back then and that’s a powerful way to think about this, this is you bringing a trusted friend inside of your own mind to help you become 20% better as an entrepreneur or 40% better or whatever it might be and help you to strip away the stuff that just seems to be slowing you down. And you said it earlier, what ends up happening for people, the experience you have is, and I did this just even my own story when I started in the business, I was 21 I looked like I was 12 so insecure about how young I look cause I had a baby face.
Who’s going to listen to me when I go out on stage and talk about the mental game and you know, oh, by the way, don’t have six degrees on this and I’m not 40 years old and I don’t have nine awards behind my back yet. You know, all these rules that we place on ourselves about, you know, I’m only going to be anointed as being competent and successful until I have those things and then it stops us. Right? Imposter Syndrome and all those things. But it still didn’t change the fact that I had this burning desire to want to help the young athletes. I wasn’t going out and trying to advertise myself as the guy who worked at pro athletes, which some people do nowadays as you know, they kind of come out of the gate and they want to be at the very top of the mountain.
It’s like, no, no, no, you gotta pay your dues. You got to like, plus you’ve got to develop your skill set anyway. But I was, I was really good at helping athletes with the stuff that I had used to help me get the absolute maximum amount out of my physical skills using mental game tools. So I had always thought that people that work glasses, we’re smarter, more articulate than others. You know, that’s like another rule that I placed in my mind, but I was like, wait for a second, that’s how I want to be. I want to show up and be articulate and I want to get my ideas across as being smart and help people. So I went out and I bought a pair of non-prescription glasses and I called it my reverse superman. I put on those glasses and I would activate my inner Superman. I called it Super Richard. That was my alter egos’ name was Super Richard. And what I did, it was me being more, being very intentional about stepping into being more confident, articulate and decisive. And I was just hugely indecisive.
Ash Roy: (30:45)
And Richard is your first name? And Todd is your middle name, and that’s your alter ego.
Yeah, that’s who I use. I thought cause Richard sounded more business-y then Todd did so. Right. But my point was, so I did that.
Ash Roy: (30:56)
And I didn’t do it for like all of my working day. It was literally just those important things I needed to do where I was putting myself out there, making phone calls, trying to book workshops and speaking gigs and things like that. I didn’t need it for the coaching side of things because I was already really competent. I didn’t have any sort of insecurities there, but it was when I had to go build the actual business that I was facing my own challenges. So anyway, when I would do it, I put on those glasses and all thinking around the concern and worry about what other people were thinking of me and someone saying no to me that, that Super Richard would never think that way.
Ash Roy: (31:34)
And now we are talking about something called totems, which we will talk about in a little bit more detail a bit further in. But if it’s okay, can I just jump into the study to set up a conversation about totems and how you use totems to activate your alter ego. In episode 142 and 143 I talked to Dr Srini Pillay from Harvard medical school. He’s a professor of psychiatry. He talked about something called Psychological Halloween-ism, which is quite similar to the principles of alter ego effect. And he too has come up with the same conclusion that adopting a certain persona actually can improve your performance. And you talk about the Minnesota study in your book. So could you talk us through that and explain the science to our viewers and listeners around how this actually has been proved to work?
Yeah, there’s actually two studies of note that are in the book. One, the University of Minnesota: They brought a group of four to six-year-olds into a room where they gave them a puzzle that was unsolvable. And they’re testing to see their grit and perseverance. So how long they were going to continue to stick out this puzzle before they ended up quitting. So they tracked the data. The one thing that was a surprise was their self-talk… what it sounded like. So what would they say to themselves was, “oh I can’t do this and this is too hard for me. I can’t get it.” So they’re tracking all that. Then they rolled in a rack of Superhero costumes, specifically Batman and Dora the Explorer, and they asked the kids to pick up their favorite superhero costume, put it on, and then they brought in another puzzle for them to work on and there, again, we’re going to track their perseverance… their grit.
Well, the data shows and showed that the kid’s stuck with the puzzle longer when they were wearing Batman or Dora the Explorer. And what they said and thought completely changed. They would say things like, well, Batman wouldn’t quit, so I’m not going to quit. What they’ve just done is they have removed the outcome from being attached to their own personal identity and being judged by that. Because now you know, Susie isn’t being judged by the fact that she can’t finish the puzzle instead Batman is doing the puzzle.
Ash Roy: (34:01)
This is the equivalent of dropping your baggage that I talked about at the start right? You’re taking that shortcut, you’re detaching from your ordinary personality or your ordinary world and you’re attaching to the extraordinary world using your imagination to activate. Qualities that are already in you.
Yeah, exactly. So the grit was already there. The perseverance was already there, there was nothing magical that was happening. It’s not like they were anointed or took some sort of magical pill. And yet it was a bit of a magic pill because what they had actually done was they activated a psychological phenomenon called enclothed cognition. Okay. And enclothed cognition is the phenomenon that exists inside of all human beings where we attach story and narrative to the clothes that we wear and that other people wear. So when someone walks in with a doctor’s coat on, we immediately make a bunch of assumptions about them and we placed them somewhere on the hierarchy of life, whatever that might be for you. Some people might have a massively negative response against that coat, but for the most part, it has a positive narrative.
Right. Same thing if we saw some with a police uniform or an army new uniform or someone with an apron, if you want to be a better chef or a better cook, I can literally make you a better chef and better cook without even giving you extra skills. I can either put on a chef’s coat with you or I can give you an apron, one of the two and it will 100% elevate the level of your traits and you know, just to wrap up. So their level of grit and perseverance tracked went way up. They stuck with the puzzle way longer when they wore a Dora the explorer outfit. They would say things like, you know, Dora always finds a way, so I’m going to find a way.
Their self-talk changes there. It’s the lens with which they looked at themselves was now different. That’s really powerful. And here’s what I know … this always happens. Anyone who was objecting to the idea or is like a little bit, I don’t know about it, up until this point has now just completely softened. And here’s why: we will do more for others than we will do for ourselves. And what I mean by that is (cause I get pinged in Instagram daily cause I’ve done so many podcasts and the book’s done really well so far and …) people go, “Oh man, I can’t wait to use this with my kids.” And I’m like, Hey, that’s wonderful, but why aren’t you using this for yourself? Right. And it’s again, it gets back to the fact that people go, oh yeah, well, you know, I don’t know …. and I’m like, you’re literally defying your human nature by you not doing this. You’re literally just denying something that’s naturally built inside of you right now. So anyway, you know, I always know that’s a winner for people. Okay. So enclothed cognition, another study that was done at the Kellogg School of Management, they wanted to now test this even more as well. So they brought a bunch of students into a room to do a test around … have you ever seen that little eye test where it’s got the word of color, but then it’s colored differently? …. So it’s like a word green, but then it’s yellow and then the word blue, but it’s red and the word Brown, but it’s green and you, your job is to say the actual word, not the color that you’re seeing. Because your eye picks up the color before the word itself.
So they have a bunch of these words on there and your job is to see how quickly you can go through it without making any mistakes and in tracking the time. So that’s what they did with these students. They brought them in, they got them to do the little test, and they track all the data, see how many mistakes they made, how long it took them. Then they bring in another group. This time they hand them a white coat and as they put it on, they tell him it’s a painter’s coat. Okay? And so then they do the test. They track all the data, they leave, bring in another group of people, hand them the exact same white coat, get them to put it on and tell them it’s a doctor’s coat or a lab coat, and then they do it. What were their results in comparison to the others?
Well, the people who had a doctor’s coat on or lab coat on, were able to perform the task and make less than half the mistakes and complete the test in less than half the time. And why is that? Because they’ve in clothed themselves in the cognitive traits of someone who’s a lab technician or a doctor. And because we think that doctors are methodical and careful and detailed, that’s going to help them with that specific task that they were just enlisted with and now, but what about people who wore the painter’s coat? Well, they got the exact same results as the people who had just had the plain clothes on. No difference whatsoever. Why is because when you put on a painter’s coat, you’re activating the traits of someone who’s expressive, creative, imaginative. Those three qualities don’t help you with that specific task. The coat was actually the exact same, the painter’s coat and the doctor’s coat where is actually the same coat they were just told it was something different.
But in that one statement, I just said holds one of the keys to activating a different you. How many people do not create the context for the identity that shows up on the many fields of play that we exist on? And this gets to another major point that’s in the book and science. It’s that anyone who operates in life with a single identity, you see yourself as one complete and whole person that goes out onto the many areas and plays the many roles of your life. You, by the way, have a high tendency to have mental health issues, which actually runs against many of the preconceived notions about how to operate in life. Authenticity. Me being authentic, you know, which means I’ve got ONE self that I take across all the fields. No, you’ve just signed yourself up to having a very difficult time.
And for the longest time the psychology world had trotted out the idea that the person with a single identity in a single self, that is the healthiest individual. It’s actually categorically wrong. And instead one of the leading areas of growth in the psychology world is this thing called multiple-self theory. Something that I’ve been living inside of for 22 years now and helping people with and it’s this: that the person who sees and identifies themselves as having multiple selves that yes … Who and how I show up in business is of course and should be different than how I show up when I go home at night to be a parent to my kids. It’s just like it’s going to be different than what gets magnified when I’m around my friends. It makes sense to people. How you show up when you’re around your friends is different than how you show up when you’re with your mom or how you are with your kids or how you are as a leader inside your business or how you are as a podcasting host.
Right? That’s really, really healthy. And so someone who is enclothing themselves with a painter’s coat, but they’re taking that painter’s coat onto a field that that doesn’t help them with. That’s why they’ve got resistance, right? So, someone who’s a single identity, we’re trying to activate a specific set of qualities that helps you win out there, which is honoring the fact that at our creative core, there’s this bubbling up of a whole bunch of YOUs inside of you. Then you get to decide how you’re gonna activate them. And for me, as someone who helps people perform, helping people to get the results that they might not even see that they could ever get. My job is to make sure that the identity that we create for that field of play is custom built to help you to win, not only with the results that you get but also with more grace, with more grit, right? That you can actually be more playful with this stuff. It’s super powerful. Super Powerful. And I mean, I’ve seen people shift and change like that. That’s the beautiful part about working with our existing ideas that are built into the human mind.
Ash Roy: (42:22)
Something you touched on triggered another idea around psychology, I read quite a bit about it. Historically the approach to the human brain has been, as you said, quite static and you know the Freudian kind of thinkers tended to believe very much in a more linear approach to personality and the brain structure. But more recent studies have talked about brain plasticity and what I appreciate that’s a completely different concept, there seems to be some parallels between brain plasticity and multiple selves. I just want to say that I feel you’ve just unlocked something for me because when you explained it that way like you just did, even though I read it in the book earlier on … when you just explained it the way you did, I realized for me that authenticity does not have to be a static one person. You can be multiple selves and you can still be authentic when you’re inauthentic is when you are deliberately trying to deceive people. And that comes to down to intention. So if your intention is to be authentic, you’re being authentic.
Well, I think a helpful way of thinking about authenticity for people is, it’s that you need to honor the fact that because you’re a human being, you are not a friggin tree. You’re not an oak tree. And so some people define themselves, well, this is just who I am. This is just how I am. Here’s my response back to that every single time. And this is me borrowing the greatest contribution that Dr Phil has given to society: Which is one question… Such a great question …. “How’s that working for you?”
Ash Roy: (44:08)
How’s that working for you? Do you define yourself as an oak tree? “Well, that’s just, I’m an introvert. That’s just how I am”. So, okay, so you’ve chosen to build a business. Okay. And so the current definition that you have around being an introvert is that you need to avoid human beings. That has nothing to do with introversion. That has a lot to do with you being *bleep*
right. Like I mean the fact that you know so many people that they’ve glorify this idea that introversion is like, Oh, this is me wearing the badge of honor that I just think that other human beings, I like my dog more than I like other human beings. How’s that working for you? Is that you’re going to go through life that way? Again, Ash you and I talked about this before, I am never going to be the most popular guest you have on your podcast. I will never be the most popular person in the performance and personal development world because I’m way too much of a challenger. I’m here to challenge people’s paradigms. I am 100% in pursuit of truth. I debate things, not for the sake of debating. My challenge is to always ask a better question, right? So that we can get to the truth because I know that that is the 100% pursuit of my role is when I can help you Ash find your 100% truth of what you’re here to do.
The friction that falls away from that. And then how much you trust yourself. Because trust is the center of town when it comes to elite performance and peak performance. When you trust your prep, when you trust your routines when you trust the plan that you’ve put in place. When you trust your skills and when you trust the fact that you’re there in that moment for a reason. Well, you’re a really difficult athlete to stop. Because you’re caught up with all the things that you can control. You’re caught up in the process as opposed to the outcome. Right. Just like what you had said before, if your intention is about deceit, you can’t find your authenticity there. And so what I’m trying to get people to do is really, really understand and honor the fact that as human beings, we are massively creative. We’ve got this powerful imagination that can unlock just an untold amount of possibilities for you. And whether you use an alter ego or not, or whether you’re just that idea in someone’s mind unlocks it for them or whether you do use an alter ego, whatever it takes to help someone navigate that very, very easy minefield in our head to get them out of their own way, then, you know, so be it.
Ash Roy: (46:50)
Cool. Okay, so let’s talk about totems, which is the how we actually get results using this approach. Now we only have seven minutes left, so I’m gonna try and be as concise as I can. So basically a totem is an artifact or ….. something like this hammer. If you’re listening to the audio, I was given this hammered by our common friend James Schramko because I chip away at stuff and I use this totem and I have it next to my desk all the time. So you can have a totem, you have a pair of glasses on the cover of your book, Todd, and you talked about it earlier on, so how do we use totems activate our extraordinary world to get results?
Sure. I talked earlier about the power of enclothed cognition. It’s something that’s natural that we use. Well, you know, anytime I’m trying to help people make change happen, I don’t want to try to invent something that runs counter to how the brain works. So why don’t I just use the existing psychological switches that are inside of us. And if we already carry around this idea of enclothed cognition, why don’t I just use this tool of a totem and artifact … a pair of glasses, in this case, a ring for some people, a bracelet for a client of mine who’s superhero self was wonder woman. That’s who it was. So we went out and got a custom bracelet and when she snapped it together, that’s when she activated that alter ego inside. That’s when she stepped into an embodied the spirit of wonder woman.
And for me, what I try to relay to people is the more meaning that you can attach to that artifact, the more it resonates deeply with you emotionally. The higher the likelihood that you’re going to be able to activate those traits and unlock this heroic self for you in that moment of impact. And so for me, I had it where Super Richard lived inside the glasses, right? And plus I have this origin story about who Super Richard is, how he shows up, how he thinks, the attitudes that he brings to this situation. And when I put that at on, that’s me. I am 100% stepping into that persona. Okay. Now the moment that I found myself being pulled into the ordinary world with those insecurities that might be stopping me, those glasses would come off. And it became a powerful kind of state changing switch for me where it’s like, oh wait a second. That’s not Super Richard, Super Richard would never think that way. Take those glasses off. You gotta honor ….
Ash Roy: (49:27)
Todd … I just want to really bring that out. That is key because I was thinking that earlier on today, if you use the totem indiscriminately and you don’t use it with a certain amount of sanctity around it, then it will deactivate. So you must use it with intention and purpose or don’t use it because you build these grooves in your brain around this.
Yeah. And you’re building a powerful ritual and you’re being powerfully mindful as well. Right? Like, you know, if I caught myself being concerned about picking up the phone and calling someone, boom, those classes had to come off because Super Richard would never think that way. Right. It’s that owning that state change. Now I’m owning my psychology, right? I’m catching myself. I’m catching the enemy trying to pull me into the ordinary world, which I talk about in the book, you know, and all the different ways that it’ll show up to do that. And so I’m going to put those glasses back on as an FU to the enemy and say, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I own this real estate in my head and Super Richard has taken over here. Okay. The other thing with it too is we talked about honoring and that you just said the word sanctity.
And it’s a great way of talking about it because for me when I use this when I played sport, I talked about how my alter ego was Geronimo. And Geronimo was a composite of many native American warriors, five in particular, plus Ronnie Lott and Walter Payton. And if you’re not familiar with American football, the NFL, Ronnie Lott and Walter Payton are hall of famers. Walter Payton was a phenom running back and Ronnie Lott was this devastating defensive hitter and all seven of them combined together. And Geronimo was the name I gave them all and that’s who I stepped into to go out onto the football field. And for me, I had this ritual, I would step into my mental movie theater, which is something that I teach people how to build. And when I would go into my mental movie theater, when I was in the locker room getting ready for the game, I would imagine there were two doors at either end of the room and in one door would be Walter Payton and Ronnie Lott walking into it with their football equipment on.
And then the native American warriors were walking in the other door. And Geronimo would be carrying five trading cards with him like you know, playing cards. And they would walk towards me and Walter Payton would say to me as drawn in what would hand them to me and I would grab them. He would say, take these as a representation of each of us so that you can activate our qualities and how we would show up on that field. But don’t you for one second, dishonor our memory and the way that we would show up by not showing up like we would. Right. And so that was my emotional engagement point. Cause, I revered all those people. That’s why it’s important that you have any emotional connection to the origin story of that alter ego so that you can really embody the idea of the sanctity of that person, the memory of that person or thing or honoring it.
That’s why Kobe Bryant did a great job when he activated Black Mamba. He knows more about a black mamba snake then most biology people know about black mamba snakes. He learned a lot about it. Just like the first story in the book …. one of the first stories in the book … I talk about one of my clients, Anthony. A young teenage kid who came up to see me here in New York City and his was the Black Panther, and he knew so much about, he just saw a show about the Black Panther and its nickname is the black ghost. And so that’s what became his nickname was Anthony ghost … and so he would step into that and really honor the idea of what it meant to be a panther out on the court. So for me, I was honoring those and I actually did have five trading cards.
So those were my physical totems and I would stuff one of them in my helmet. So I could think like Walter Payton, I’d stuff two more of Walter Payton’s in my thigh pads to run like him and two more of Ronnie Lott underneath my shoulder pads so I could hit like him. And then I would carry the spirit of the Native American warriors in my heart. And that’s who I would take out into the field. And when I would snap my helmet shut, that was the moment that everything came together. And I did not go out on that field as Todd. I went out there and I carried all seven of them out there with me and played through them. And you know, I was not a physically gifted human being, but I played way bigger than my size demanded.
Ash Roy: (53:47)
Right. As you were talking about the sanctity around totems, I thought with great power comes great responsibility and you must wield those totems with the responsibility and the care and respect they deserve.
Hey, at the end of the day we’ve talked about helping people like really navigate, you know, resistance to things. At the end of the day, folks though. if we can be a little bit more playful with life and actually use this mind with the way that it was built, I mean, that’s why we can actually operate with more grace, right? Because now, just like the kids showed the study that was done at the University of Minnesota, there was this detachment, now they’re like, oh, well Batman wouldn’t quit, so I’m not going to quit. So whoever you end up choosing or whatever, you end up choosing for yourself, it creates this fantastic detachment from the slings and arrows that would naturally come your way. It helps you to be more playful, be more creative when you’re with your problem-solving. And this idea of playfulness is something that I’m excited that I get to at least play some part over the next 30, 50 years. Now that I’ve brought the book out in the public’s eye so that people can use it more.
Ash Roy: (55:07)
Unfortunately, we have to wrap up soon. I would love to talk about so much more then maybe we can talk another time. I wanted to talk about origin stories and the story of the tennis player and there’s so much, but I just want to say that the alter ego effect is available at any good bookstore. You can get it on Amazon. I will link to the URL in the show notes. You can also access it at toddherman.me/alteregoeffect. Is that right Todd?
Yeah, they can go to www.alteregoeffect.com and that’s one place to go to it, but also www.Toddherman.me, I’ve got it plastered all over my home page too right now.
Ash Roy: (55:44)
Right, and the alteregoeffect.com has got some really excellent tools that you can download. It all goes with a book. I’ve bought the audiobook. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook because Todd conveys a lot of emotion in the book and I feel like I’m being coached personally by him when I’m listening to that book. So it’s very transformative. And then reading the book helps as well. And then taking notes if you’re a geek like me will help too. So Todd, man, it was so much fun having you on. I would be honored to have you back on sometime … so many things I want to talk about in terms of how to apply these principles. We talked a lot about the background in this episode, but I want to come and talk about putting it into action and getting results. So if you’re open to it, I’d love to have you back.
Absolutely. This is a treat. You’re a great host, so whatever alter ego you bring to this situation is a good one, so I appreciate it, man.
Ash Roy: (56:36)
All right, well thank you so much for being on Todd and I’ll get in touch to organize another follow up of this.
Absolutely. Thanks, Ash.
Ash Roy: (56:44)
Bye for now man.