⭐️ Overcoming limiting scripts through agency expanding experiments

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I rediscovered this amazing blog post that lists “things you’re allowed to do that you thought you couldn’t, or didn’t even know you could.”

The cool thing about these ideas is that they’re agency-expanding.

It’s very easy to get stuck in a rut and do things the way you’ve always done them just because you’ve always done them like that.

As children, we learn all kinds of nonsensical patterns through osmosis from our parents. Far too often we don’t reflect on these invisible scripts that drive most of our decisions.

For example, my parents would always park far outside of cities when we were traveling since downtown parking spots tend to be pricey.

So naturally, this is also what I always did.

But one day I was traveling with the parents of my girlfriend at the time, and they never hesitated to spend some money to make their life easier. We went to a restaurant and without blinking an eye they parked in an expensive car park right next to it.

I still remember that I thought how stupid and wasteful this is.

However, after the meal, it was dark, rainy, and I was sleepy from all the great food. And instead of having to walk for 30 minutes, we were able to hop into the car right away. This is when it hit me: This. Is. Amazing!

If you think about it, it makes little sense to choose a far-away parking spot just to save a few dollars. Good parking spots are still pretty cheap in the grand scheme of things. We are talking about maybe 30 dollars for a full day. And in return, you save so much time and energy.

My parents are neither particularly frugal nor poor. They can easily afford better parking spots. Probably the only reason why they always did this is something that their parents always did.

Luckily, I’ve since then also convinced them that a good parking spot is a good investment. I did this by simply paying the fees from my own pocket until they realized that this totally makes sense. After all, if even I, as a poor student at the time, could afford it, it’s really a no-brainer for them.

A more recent example would be my realization that throwing a bit more money at a technical problem is almost always the right decision. Especially when we’re talking about something like $10/month.

An interesting lesson hidden in these stories is that you have to try these things to truly understand them and break free from your invisible scripts.

It’s a bit like with new clothes. You can’t really tell if something looks good until you try it on and look at yourself in the mirror.

Yes, you can argue that if you dollarize your time, spending 45 minutes to walk to a cheaper parking spot just to save $10, means you’re valuing your time at less than minimum wage. But this kind of rational argument rarely convinces anyone.

(If you never thought about dollarizing your time, this tool is a great place to start.)

It’s important to remember that thinking in terms of money-time tradeoffs is just one part of the story.

Here’s a very different example: Like most guys, I read The Game by Neil Strauss in my 20s. There is really just one thing I took away from it: If you want to talk to someone, you can just walk over and say “Hi”.

This sounds so stupidly simple. And yet almost no one does it. It’s really as if everyone is held back by invisible chains.

After reading The Game, I tried it, nothing bad happened, and my life was forever changed.

The Emerson quote from above is really fitting. Once your agency has expanded in this way, there’s no going back.

And just to be clear, I’m not just talking about hitting on girls. For example, as a student, I went to several summer schools and while everyone else was intimidated by the famous lecturers I just walked over and said “Hi”. Turns out that Nobel laureates (just like beautiful girls) are really happy if someone treats them like normal people.

It can also make sense to spend a lot of money (more than you could justify with your meticulously calculated hourly rate) just to feel better or put you into a different state of mind.

This includes purchases like unreasonably expensive perfume, clothes, or haircuts.

More outlandish examples would be renting a nice office (even if you’re a solopreneur), flying first class, or driving to the airport with a rented limo.

I’m not saying these things make sense for everyone. But they definitely can make a lot of sense if you envision yourself as the kind of person who does these things.

This idea is nicely summarized by one of my favorite mantras“You need to start living like the person you want to be.”

For example, I’m convinced it’s much harder to become successful if you’re living in your parents’ basement and don’t take care of your looks.

The way you dress, treat yourself, and your environment most certainly have an effect on your self-image.

And your self-image will not only affect how you interact with others but also what kind of opportunities you pursue.

If your self-image is that you’re just a random dude sitting in his parents’ basement, you will most likely sabotage yourself. When someone presents you with an amazing offer or you become aware of a great opportunity, you’ll say no or wait too long since you feel like you don’t deserve it or are not ready for it.

But when the same thing happens while you’re looking sharp and sitting in a nice office, it just seems completely normal that this kind of thing happens. So you say yes and pursue better opportunities.

One related data point: People on higher floors of buildings tend to take more risks.

Similarly, it definitely affects your self-image how you travel. Someone who travels to an important presentation by taking a smelly bus will not radiate the same level of confidence as someone who travels with a private driver.

Now since agency expansions rarely happen automatically unless you make a conscious effort, I’ve decided to try at least one potentially agency-expanding experiment per week.

I’m still working on my list of experiments, so let me know if you have any suggestions!

Written on January 28, 2022

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