Lessons from America – Unleash the autopilot within
How’s the plan going?
Which one, you ask.
So, you’ve got more than one?
I envy you. If it were left to me, summer holidays and Christmas parties just wouldn’t happen. Unlike my teenage son who is forever demanding to know the plan. It can make for stress, when the scatter-brained must co-exist with the Teutonic minded. Still, I pay the bills, including his, so we find a middle ground, mostly.
If you are reading this blog you are pretty smart, you know where to come for good stuff. You want incisive and witty thoughts that lighten your day, and help you get on with your plan, and I’m here to give you what you want.
And, today, I’ve decided to share one of my unique and original insights.
That insight is that most of our life you and me get by just fine without a plan. Examine everything you’ve done, said, or had happen to you – particularly the last – today, and ask yourself how much of it had anything to do with your plan?
Every day things just happen. Emails arrive, people say and do random things that interfere with whatever course we set as we brushed our teeth. And we cope. We get through the day. And we get through life one day at a time, one drink at a time.
Well here’s what. I’m writing this in the land of the free, where they can legally incarcerate you indefinitely without charge or trial. (How frighteningly medieval is that?) And I was reminded of how a complete stranger outside Sea World extracted cash from me in less than a minute – cash I didn’t want to have extracted. Slam, bang, wallop, and it was done, he was gone, and I was left on the sidewalk asking myself, “how did that happen?”
Ok, it was only five bucks. But as my growing band of twitter followers know, in the land of the free – where few things are actually free – you can get a 24 egg omelet with all the trimmings for $4.99. Really, I don’t make this stuff up. Google it and check it out – Jersey Boys Diner on Imperial Beach. (Ok, maybe it was only two bucks I gave the guy and maybe it’s $25 for the omelet, but you get my point.)
Now that guy got my money because he was smart, and speedier of thought than me. He knew that I was drifting along that sidewalk with no particular plan; that I was going through the day like you go through yours, mostly on autopilot. We don’t have the time or the inclination to think about everything that invades our space and our consciousness, and react based on a plan. We react based on experience. Our senses are bombarded with a host of stimuli, and our autopilot works it all out for us, and we do something without consciously thinking about it. And that’s when I handed over the money.
Now here’s the clever part. When we are thinking about stuff, when we are PLANNING, we are quite often thinking about how we get someone else to do something we want them to do. In my case maybe it’s how to get my teenage son to pay his own bills. In your case, maybe it’s how to get your boss to give you a raise, your assistant to get in on time, or your client to sign the deal.
Now the guy outside Sea World had a second to get my attention, and needed less than a minute to get my money. And when I reflected on just how he did that – so skillfully, so smoothly – I realized there were at least five things he did that kicked my auto-pilot into gear, and caused my hand to reach for my pocket. Five great persuasion tools that I could learn from. Now I’m not going to give you all five right here and now, I have more blogs to fill, and books to sell. But I will share the single most effective thing he did. It’s an obvious one and you’ve heard it before, but I’m not apologizing for reminding you about what we all know, because knowing and doing are two different things. Here’s what he did first: he engaged me with an open and welcoming smile. And there was nothing to suggest he was selling timeshare, so I responded in kind. Then he had me.
When I was creating Isobel, the beautiful but lonely heroine in “When the Siren Calls,” what I learnt on that sidewalk outside Sea World helped me imagine the dramatic opening scene where she meets an artful seller in a Marrakech souk.
So, while we all know it’s a good thing to smile more, maybe we are less aware of the power of the auto-pilot. If it can work for my fleeting friend in less than 60 seconds, think how powerful it can be for you.