Have you ever heard of the mere exposure effect?
It's a psychological artifact first studied by Robert Zajonc.
Zajonc briefly exposed subjects to a picture or piece of music.
Later they rated it more positively than other similar stimuli.
Ones they had not been shown.
This psychological effect is well known to advertisers.
But think about Zajonc's experiment for a minute.
Subjects were exposed to a bunch of meaningless stimuli.
And they preferred the more familiar to the less familiar.
So if two stimuli are fairly meaningless, one should employ the mere exposure effect.
That's why local politicians litter the landscape with "Vote for Our Candidate" signs.
When faced on a ballot with a choice between two meaningless names, people will vote for the more familiar one.
They rate it more positively and they assume, based on the abundance of signs, that a majority of others do too.
Familiarity makes their choice feel safe.
And what about advertising goods and services?
Does the principle work in the same way?
For products that consumers have ascribed little personal meaning to, like gum.
But for ones with values associated with them, like reputation, identity, and affiliation, mere exposure is simply that.
It signals social acceptance, but does little to convey meaning.
So before you shell out limited resources to take a surface approach and incessantly repeat your message, think twice.
Your competitors may be hard at work going deep and adding relevance and meaning to theirs.
There are two different kinds of belief.
Belief-in and belief-that.
Belief-in is about an ideal.
It's faith in a concept or cause.
A conviction from within.
Belief-that is about a tangible idea.
One validated by present day assumptions.
And supported by empirical evidence.
Belief-in is dietary.
It's a daily regimen that fuels organizations.
It keeps them healthy in mind and spirit.
Belief-that is medicinal.
It's an impermanent step.
One that should be continually questioned and reexamined.
Great brands are a belief-in and a belief-that.
Belief-in an improved life and a better world.
And belief-that a particular approach will make it happen.
Consider Elon Musk.
Elon believes-in renewable and environmentally friendly energy technologies.
He believes-that electric cars (Tesla Motors) and solar power (SolarCity) are the best ways to achieve it.
There are many people who believe-in what Elon believes-in.
But until recently hardly anyone believed-that he could make it happen.
That's changing, and really fast.
Because Elon is making his ideas tangible.
Belief-in is our most abundant and combustible resource.
And belief-that sets that latent force on fire!
Here are a few of my most popular posts over the past 12 months:
Thank you for reading, and for sharing. I look forward to connecting with you in 2014!
Success in the marketplace of products, services, causes and ideas is driven by scarcity.
Always has been and always will be.
But achieving scarcity is a very different pursuit in today's chaotic, connected and rapidly evolving marketplace.
The old way of attaining scarcity, and thus success, was through control.
Control of resources, control of the airwaves, control of distribution, control of capital, control of real estate, control of knowledge, and even control of interactions with people.
Paradoxically, these days success is achieved by giving up control.
Consider selling: A universally accepted, time-proven approach.
Today, the simple word "sales" conjures up controlling tactics like "foot in the door" and "closing techniques."
Modern day consumers repel at such stratagems.
They want to feel informed and cared for.
They want respect and understanding.
They want you to slow down and focus intently and confidently on them and their feelings.
This new desire has created a new scarcity.
And a moment in time that holds more possibilities than any period in the history of business.
And the only thing standing between you and the results you truly want is you.
And your need to control everything.
Control blinds you to opportunities.
Control is driven by your ego's need to serve itself.
Control is an illusion you cling to primarily to alleviate your fears.
In a turbulent environment, control is your enemy.
We like to believe otherwise.
We like to believe that control is a good thing.
An attribute of a strong individual.
In our upside-down way of thinking, we assume that by being in control we can prevent bad surprises and get precisely what we desire out of life.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The need for control comes from insecurity.
It is fear-based.
Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being judged by others, fear of loss, fear of not making quota.
And this fear is what prevents us from discovering our true passion and purpose.
It prevents us from doing what we do best and letting others do what they do best.
It stifles growth and pushes others away from us.
Great leaders understand the distinctions of today's tumultuous marketplace.
They've given up the need to control events, have come to terms with their egos, and are dedicated to adding value and happiness to people's lives.
They embrace change.
They accept the uncertainty of the future.
Do you want to be fearless in this new and complex environment?
Do you want to get past the impatience and skepticism of today's savvy customer and employee and create something truly scarce?
Simply change your intentions.
Start right now by listening to your inner voice and never act again without first asking yourself:
"Am I passionate and proud of this approach?
Is this a caring thing to say or do?"
When you create this openness and excitement for life, the feeling radiates within, and to others around you.
Sincere caring for others will act as an antidote to reduce fear and anxiety.
You won't be afraid of what others think or whether or not you'll be successful.
You'll simply feel good about your efforts to engage with, and help, others.
Giving up control will also create a huge sense of internal relief.
By giving up control, you won't have to pretend to be perfect, to know it all.
You can set grand expectations and avoid the disappointment that comes from trying to micromanage people and events.
By allowing for the unexpected, you'll stay mindful and in the present.
Let your anxious mind go.
Feel and understand with your heart and gut.
Don't be quietly cynical or apathetic.
Don't push or persuade.
Be open and optimistic, compassionate and kind.
Give up control.
Give up trying to be the best in the world and instead focus on what matters most.
Being the best for the world.
Let those grand ambitions for wealth, status and power fade away with the old economy.
It will take time and patience.
But it will make you scarce.
Here's my guess.
Yes, if you live in the United States.
Otherwise, probably not.
Same phenomenum, different beliefs.
But is the experience really the same?
As a boy, I helped my grandfather around his small farm.
My favorite job was gathering eggs from the henhouse.
Each time I returned with my take, I was instructed to leave them on the kitchen counter.
And there they sat.
I never questioned that decision.
It was what I knew, it was how I was raised.
When I returned home to the city, the eggs were in the fridge.
And I never thought about that either.
It's what we did, who we were.
So, I had two different beliefs about eggs.
Beliefs determined by my environment, my "cultures."
Beliefs influenced by the beliefs and behaviors of the people around me.
I had a vague idea that the store eggs must be different.
But I had no idea that it was because they were commercially cleaned.
An elaborate American requirement that strips the egg of its natural, antimicrobial coating.
Thus making them more susceptible to Salmonella.
So my beliefs were, in fact, pertinent to my situations.
Even though the reasons were unknown to me.
But that's certainly not always the case.
And especially not in our modern day organizations.
Despite all of the rapid changes in our wild market economy, we hold tight to our beliefs.
Because it's what we do, who we are.
The way we see the world, our "reality," is determined by the people around us, our "culture."
We have a vague idea that what we're doing is appropriate.
Because, like me with the eggs, we feel that it's appropriate.
But maybe, just maybe, it's not.
Perhaps something has changed.
Something that makes our behaviors irrelevant.
So instead of doing what feels natural and right, it may be time to dig a little deeper.
It may be time to question our beliefs.
What's the opposite of fear?
It's not a simple question.
The first word that comes to mind is courage.
But courage is not the absence of fear, like darkness is the absence of light.
Rather, courage is the spirit that moves people forward in the face of fear.
It's a beam of light that pierces the darkness.
The voice of fear is still present.
But it is overwhelmed by the adrenaline of action.
I think the opposite of fear is ignorance.
We're genetically programmed to fear.
As infants, we fear being left alone.
We fear scowling faces and growling dogs.
But as we grow (and feeling more secure), we approach the world as fearless experimenters.
Blissfully ignorant to the threats that come with living a curious, passionate life.
Over time, through bumps and bruises and well-intentioned counsel, we learn.
Fear is important when it causes us to adapt our behaviors in a beneficial manner.
Fear of injury makes us prepare more diligently and intelligently for combat and sport.
Fear of social reproach makes us work to perfect a speech or stage performance.
Fear of contracting an infectious disease causes us to take necessary precautions.
Fear is trying to protect us.
Fear is our friend.
Fear is a critical component of an aware, developed mind.
The great tenor Luciano Pavarotti said, "Am I afraid of high notes? Of course I am afraid. What sane man is not?"
Here's the rub: Fear has no perspective.
Fear can't differentiate between missing a high note and missing a heartbeat.
Between losing one's income and losing one's life.
Fear doesn't care about others.
Fear isn't concerned with right or wrong, good or bad.
Fear could care less whether we live an exciting and meaningful life.
Some fears are reasonable, some are not.
In today's highly sanitized, civilized world, most are not.
Yes, be aware of fear.
Listen to fear.
Thank fear for its concern.
And then live life from a place of compassion and daring.
Transcend the voice in your head.
The one that wants you to stay safe and sound, to hold on tight to what you've got.
The result of letting fear run your show is called life.
To be bold and daring, to be driven by passion and meaning, that's called living.
And start today.
Because as Larry McMurtry made clear, "If you wait, all that happens is that you get older."
Kobe Bryant is paid more than $350,000 each game to bounce a ball and toss it through a hoop.
A staff seargant deployed to Afganistan for one harrowing year earns less than $50,000.
Malcolm Gladwell gets $100,000 to give a talk about his latest book.
It takes a typical math teacher two long years to make that same amount.
Calvin Harris makes $300,000 for a single night's work as a Las Vegas DJ.
During those six hours, a neonatal nurse makes a whopping $200.
Can you believe it?
You should, because your beliefs (and mine) created it.
Not our passive, rational "big B" Belief.
One that questions right and wrong and relative worth.
Rather the active, instinctive "little b" beliefs driven by our everyday desires.
Like tuning in to watch the game.
Gulping down another mass marketed beverage.
Passing along a YouTube video.
Or slipping on our logoed clothing.
But we find that hard to believe.
That our insignificant, individual actions create substantial, public beliefs.
We disconnect our actions from the bigger story.
We imagine that someone "out there" is controlling the plot.
Sorry, but it's an illusion (and delusion).
No one is in control.
We all are.
And what can you do?
Be more conscious.
Slow down and consider the far reaching effects of your choices.
You're like the butterfly who flaps its wings in its little world.
And ultimately creates a storm of unintended consequences in everyone's.