When life doesn’t go the way you want, haven’t you sometimes thought that, well, reality sucks?
Well, you’re not the only one. We’ve all had those moments.
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be more effective at dealing with reality than others? Why some people achieve success, and others don’t?
Well, I have. And so have phsychologists around the world.
Now, as we all know, phsychologists are diabolical. They love to run experiments. Is anybody here a psychologist?
Oops. Alas, my statement still stands.
As you might expect, there’s an experiment that directly addresses this issue. Now, I confess, it features rats, but I think you’ll find that the results are directly applicable to us humans.
Picture two tanks filled with water, right here in front of us. Let’s make the tanks four feet high, four long and three feet wide. In the second tank, the experimenters place a metal stool, which is set up so that the top of the stool is about four inches below the water surface.
Now, they add milk to both tanks, so that the water is opaque. The stool in the second tank is no longer visible.
Next, dump 10 rats into each tank.
In the first tank, the rats swim around and around until they get tired. Eventually, they get too tired, and one-by-one they slip beneath the surface. Whereupon an experimenter leaps into action with a little net to rescue each rat before it drowns.
Things are a little different in the second tank. The rats swim around for a while, but then one of them discovers the stool. It figures out that it can stand on the stool and keep its head above water. Pretty soon, all ten rats are standing on the stool.
This is Day 1 of the experiment.
On Day 2, the experimenters set up the two tanks just as they did before. Except that they remove the stool from the second tank. I told you, psychologists are diabolical.
Then they dumped the same two sets of rats in the tanks, just as they did previously. What they discovered was that the rats in the second tank swam for twice as long as the rats in the first group.
How About Those Soggy Rats?
I know what you’re thinking, what can a bunch of soggy rats tell me about dealing with reality?
Well, think about it this way. The reality was the same for both sets of rats. But the rats who thought there might be an island were twice as effective at trying to survive than the other rats. In other words, how they perceived the world, regardless of whether they were right or wrong, affected how well they could deal with it.
“Islands in the mind” equaled enhanced survivability for the rats.
How you think about reality affects how well you can deal with it. This is powerful stuff. Let’s apply it to humans.
My wife is a lovely person. But she can’t swim. She’s had swimming lessons. She knows about the Deadman’s Float, which anybody can do to survive in the water. But deep down, she thinks she can’t swim.
And she’s right. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. She can’t swim because she believes she can’t swim. Her mind won’t let her be a swimmer. She’s successful at many other things in life, but she’s programmed herself to fail when it comes to swimming. In the water, she’s like one of the rats in the first group.
Um, it would probably be best if nobody mentioned this speech to her, by the way.
Anyway, let’s contrast this with a lawyer who once lived in Mississippi, working for relatively low pay at the Mississippi state court house. He’d always wanted to be a novelist. He spent years writing his first book. People laughed at him when he showed it to them, asking for their input and advice.
That book was published … and it sank without a trace.
But traditional publishing is really slow, so he’d already completed a second book. By the time that was published, he was already done with his third book.
Well, that second turned out to be, very possibly, the top-selling book in the entire world the year that it was published. It was made into a very profitable, but otherwise mediocre movie, starring Tom Cruise. His first book was eventually made into an excellent film with Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock.
Anybody want to guess who I’m talking about?
His second book was “The Firm,” which was made into a movie with Tom Cruise. The first was “A Time to Kill,” which starred Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock.
Islands in the mind. He believed he was a writer. He didn’t let reality affect him, even when his first book tanked. He just kept writing.
Islands in the mind.
This is what Toastmasters is about. Toastmasters teaches us that you can be a better speaker. You can become an effective leader. You can stand in front of a crowd … and entertain them. You have the capability to organize events.
You’ll need to work hard to achieve these things, but Toastmasters teaches you that it’s possible.
Islands in the mind.
Has anybody ever heard of Bruce Barton?
He was an ad executive and a politician, but he’s primarily noted for being one of the first really successful self-help writers. He said:
“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared to believe that something inside themselves was superior to circumstance.”
Island in the mind, folks, islands in the mind.