I’ve been reading a lot about Steve Jobs’ so-called “reality distortion field”—his ability to make people in his presence believe that the normally impossible was not only possible, but inevitable. The end result was that members of his teams achieved breakthroughs that few thought possible–or had even thought of at all. (The “reality distortion field” concept reportedly comes from an early “Star Trek” episode concerning the Talosians, who were able to create and sustain illusory realities using the power of their minds.)
I think we all encounter and use reality distortion fields, RDFs, every day, some more functional than others. For instance, I’m familiar with the “Rose-Colored Glasses” RDF. I’ve met a few people—my mother was one—whose expectations of others are so positive that they can walk through any situation and emerge unscathed. They make friends with the enemy, simply because they don’t expect anyone to really BE an enemy. That threatening, dangerous bad guy becomes as sweet as a puppy—with them. But their experience can seldom be duplicated by us ordinary mortals, because we simply don’t share their expectations. We don’t have access to their RDF generator.
Then there’s the opposite phenomenon, the “Chip on the Shoulder” RDF, the one where an unhappy or put-upon person expects to be treated badly… and acts in such a way as to elicit exactly that behavior from others.
There’s the RDF we use when pushing ourselves to achieve something new, something challenging. The Little Engine that Could’s “I think I can” is a personal RDF sustained by a sheer effort of will, chug-chug-chug by chug.
We use RDFs in business all the time, when we envision a new product, project, or way of doing business… and then do what it takes to make it real.
Some of us try to change reality with affirmations, which can be a very powerful tool. On the other hand, I have observed people (never myself, of course!) become downright ludicrous in expecting affirmations or positive thinking to work in isolation… when they’re not exerting themselves in any other way to create the significant change they seek.
Salespeople, especially good ones, are always generating RDFs… your life/work/body/etc can be different and here’s how. In fact this is one of the difficulties of being in business… falling prey to others’ RDFs. Would I like to have lifetime blog traffic…. guaranteed? Do I want to quadruple my current rates? Use social media for five minutes per week to achieve a continuous client stream?
Yes, of course I want those things. But just how flexible is reality, anyway? If I pay you hundreds or thousands of dollars… will you change my reality? Please?
In fact, I think we’re all in the business of reality-changing.
I can tell you that the people whose blogs I read regularly and whose newsletters I subscribe to are the ones who DO change my reality. They change my mindset, suggest a better way to think about something, show me how to do something I need to get done, share helpful information—or sometimes, just make me laugh. They do it time after time, week after week. And usually, I end up buying something from these folks because I appreciate what they’ve done for me already.
But they’re not generally the ones with huge hype and oversized promises. They’re not the ones who pander to my greed, or my grandiosity. They’re the ones who actually do or say something that makes even a tiny incremental positive change in my reality, now.
So here are my questions for you, for each of us, in our businesses and endeavors.
1. What reality do you promise to change? (Problem you solve.)
2. What can you give people, for free, that will tangibly change some aspect of their reality… right now?