Thom wrote his book "Cracking The Code" on the air: This was the third week, covering motivation strategies.
Cracking The Code 03: Motivation strategies. 22 Dec 2006
[Thom used several sound effects for reactions such as pain or fear in this segment that I was unable to transliterate so I either skipped them or replaced them with something close. - ed.]
So how do we effectively communicate a political message? How do you change somebody's mind politically? How do you transform them? How do you awaken them?… And it's the last hour, the third hour of our Friday program and what we started doing two weeks ago I believe, maybe three weeks ago is, and we're going to continue doing for probably another month and a half or so, is take this last hour of Friday each week and live and online, and by the way, we put transcripts of this up over at thomhartmann.com on our message board, I'm going to be writing a book on the air.
The title of the book is "Cracking the Code: The Art and Science of Political Persuasion". It's based on my background and training in the advertising and marketing business and in the psychology field, or psychotherapy field - to be super precise, I was on the Vermont roster of psychotherapists - and Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) - I'm a licensed and certified NLP trainer, practitioner and trainer. Richard Bandler, in fact, the founder of NLP wrote the introduction to one of my books on this topic. So, anyhow, this book will be coming out in the fall of 2007, the fall of next year. We're literally writing it right now.
And today's chapter is on motivation. How do we motivate ourselves? How do we motivate other people? What are the basic human motivation systems that are working? How do they work? Because if we understand how motivation happens to ourselves and others then two extraordinary things open up to us.
The first is that we can change our own internal motivation systems and decision-making strategies to move ourselves in the directions that we want to move.
And secondly, we have a better handle on, a better view of, a better story for how to help other people at least understand clearly what it is we're suggesting in a political context so that they can decide whether or not to be motivated by it.
And also, I suppose, number 3 is a bonus. If you let people know how motivation strategies work, then when those motivation strategies are being intentionally but surreptitiously inflicted upon them, they can spot them coming and say, "Oh no". In other words, it provides you with a defense system.
There are two foundational motivation strategies that we share as, basically as mammals, but because we have conceptual abilities and the ability to imagine and the ability to understand time and project into the future and remember the past and place it all in the context of time, which seems to place us relatively unique among most animals. There are some of the higher apes and there's some question about dolphins and some other mammals. It's becoming increasingly clear that they also have a sense of self and an understanding of time, but ours is quite well developed and as a consequence of that we have motivation strategies that go beyond just the purely animal responsive, you know, biological, in other words, they go from biological to psychological but they're all founded in the biological.
And there's these two polar opposites that are the root of it, that are at the basis of it. And that is that we are almost at all times doing one of two things. We are at all times, virtually at all times, we are either moving away from pain or we are moving toward pleasure. Those are the two foundational motivations systems. Now, there's a real significant difference between these two. The biological imperative of them, by the way, moving away from pain - put your hand in a fire; you're going to pull it back really quick.
Pain produces a loud, hot, shouting, red, bright, whatever, you know, sensation experienced in the nervous system that says "Stop now!" right. Pain does that. Pleasure is typically nowhere near as extreme as pain. Even a small amount of pain, like just pricking your finger with a pin, for example, it's hard to produce a pleasure, an experience of pleasure that has that strong and that brief, that instantaneous an experience; it's really difficult, it's really rare. And I suppose you could argue that probably the closest we get to that are either drug induced experiences, where you've seen these things with rats, where they'll push the bar to get the cocaine until they starve to death, that kind of thing, which is why some of these substances are so destructive, or orgasm. And look at how many people have ruined their lives around sexuality, you know, around over engaging, shall we say, in that.
And so, but broadly, the vast majority of all our other moving toward pleasure behaviors, setting aside drug-induced and sexual ones, are very, very, very gentle; thinking about getting a pay raise, or thinking about having a nice conversation with somebody, or thinking about a nice lunch that we're going to have, or even eating a good meal, none of that, in terms of the intensity of the sensation comes even close of having somebody poke you, you know, poke your butt with a pin. You go "woho"; you jump immediately. I'm not going to jump for a meal.
So, it's useful first of all to understand the really, truly profound difference between these two experiences, of moving away from pain and moving toward pleasure. Moving away from pain, and then to put it in a political context, which we'll be doing as we continue through this hour. Moving away from pain, to compare it with a force of nature, is like lightning. It's like the electromagnetic force. You know, in nature there's these four forces. There's the electromagnetic force, the nuclear force, gravity, and the weak nuclear force, as I recall. It's been a long time since I took physics, but let's just take two of those; the electromagnetic force - lightning, for example, electricity - and gravity; a strong force and a weak force.
If moving away from pain is like a bolt of lightning, then moving toward pleasure is like gravity. It's gentle, it's persistent, it's continuous, and over time it's irresistible. It's damned hard to defy gravity, and when you do, you can't do it for very long. So, for long term strategies of motivation, if we want to motivate people over the long term, if we want to get them involved in something over a long term, or if we want to motivate ourselves over the long term, if we want to wake up every day looking forward to the day, and go to sleep every night looking forward to the next day, then we need to instill in ourselves, we need to build into ourselves, long term positive motivational strategies.
On the other hand, if we want to, if we need to, get an abrupt response from somebody, a sudden "Stop!" type of response, then you use a moving away from pain strategy. Moving away from pain, you know, poking somebody with a sharp stick or the emotional equivalent. Moving away from pain strategies are very, very, very, very powerful because the sensation is so close to our nervous system. I mean, it's just bang, right into the nervous system, the whole moving away from pain thing. So, you know, if you're frightened by something, move away from pain.
The problem with using moving away from pain strategies, even though we realize that they are very, very powerful, and they get instant results, the problem with using moving away from pain strategies is that they wear out very quickly. It's so like, you know, whipping a horse. You can whip that horse and make it go faster and whip it and whip it and it goes faster and faster, and whip it and whip it and faster and faster until finally it falls over dead.
And the same thing happens to all of us. So, for example, in management, you know, I mean, the biggest mistake that most managers make is that they manage based on moving away from pain. They criticize their employees. They catch people doing things wrong. They think that that's what management is. Management, you know, it's like parenting a one year old. You know, typically a child's first word is "no" because there's been a lot of this moving away from pain stuff, because there's a lot of potential pain out there in the world. "No! Don't run out in the traffic". And so managers think their job is to catch people doing things wrong. A good manager understands is that their job is to catch people doing things right, because if you catch people doing things right they'll want to do more of it and they'll grow and they'll get better and better and better.
So, how do we politically do the equivalent of that? How can we establish a political positive moving towards pleasure strategy, and what are the times in a political context when it is actually useful to use a moving away from pain strategy to put it out there, to throw it out there into the political arena, and what will the response be to it, and how long can you use it and when do you have to stop? We'll cover those things right after the break.
"This is the land of the free and the home of the brave,
But George Bush doesn't think that way.
He'd rather lead with everyone afraid
than handle things the American way.
But fear didn't make America great."
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." [FDR]
(Fear Didn't Make America Great, Stephen Sergo.)
…No, fear did not make America great.
Back in 1978, from '78 to '83 I was the executive director, and I've been on the board of directors ever since, of the New England Salem Children's Village, which is a community, residential treatment facility for severely abused and emotionally disturbed kids in New Hampshire, and then about 10 years ago we started a school for Attention Deficit Disorder kids, ADHD kids, there also, Hunter School...
And the majority, I would say, frankly I would say all, of the kids that we did intake on, back then when I ran that program, were the victims of severe abuse. But they were also the victim of parents who believed, who really only had one tool. They only had one motivation strategy. They only had one way to accomplish what they wanted to accomplish, and that was using moving away from pain. It was the only strategy that they understood, and so they would inflict pain.
I want to come back to this story in just a second, but let me just toss a call out here, first of all. If you have a real easy time waking up in the morning; if you're one of those people who wakes up even seconds before the alarm clock goes off and you're out of bed and you're just looking forward to the day and you just have an easy, easy, easy time getting out of bed in the morning and I'd just like to ask you a question about that experience. I think you'll find it interesting. Give us a call at 866 440 8466.
And alternatively, if you have a really hard time getting out of bed; I mean, really difficult; you have to hit the snooze button three or four times to get up and even then it's dragging out, really rough. Not as a consequence of biological things like you don't have enough sleep, you know, or you're working too many hours, but just, you know, it's there. It seems to be that's how it is. Give me a call. And I'd like to put somebody on the air who has a really easy time getting out of bed and somebody who has a really hard time getting out of bed and just share the contrasting internal motivation strategies to illustrate the point that I'm making here.
Anyhow, back to the, and so in just a second after Lauren has gone through and kind of filtered these out we'll just pop a couple of people on the air.
Back to the kids; it's like, you know, the parents would yell at them, when they were very young, and that didn't, you know, and that worked for a little while. But then it stopped working, and so then they, you know, hit them, and that worked for a little while, and then that stopped working. And then they hit them harder, and that worked for a little while, and that stopped working. And then they started hitting them with things, and it would escalate to the point, you know, one of the first kids that we did intake on, a little boy named Tony, he was 8 or 9 years old, his brother had been starved to death by his parents in the basement. I mean, he literally died. That's how Tony came to the attention of the people at the Department of Health and, or DCYF, whatever that, I've forgotten, Department of Family and Youth and Children, or whatever it is.
And his parents, I mean, you know, when they were asked about this, believed that they were trying to teach their kids how to be good citizens, that they were trying to teach their kids how to, you know, I mean, it's twisted and weird, but I can tell you, virtually every parent, severely abusive parents, that I've ever talked to and we had to interact with these folks as, you know, running a program that cared for and provided therapy to their kids, they lacked the tool set.
It's one of the reasons why I think it's so important that we be out there offering, you know, these tool kits in the context of parenting. Well, we're seeing the same thing, frankly, in the context of country-running. Louise makes the point that torture is moving away from pain and, you know, so of course, you're going to get some kind of response. It may not be an accurate response. You know, if I poke somebody with a pin, I'm going to get a response. I don't that they're actually going to move 20 seconds to the right or 20 degrees to the left. I know I'm going to get a response. So torture will produce a response. It may not be an accurate response.
But what you really want to do, what a really competent interrogator does, knows how to do well, and does for a living, what a really brilliant interrogator does, what the FBI and what counter-terrorism and interrogation folks in the NSA and the CIA, what they're really trained in doing is inducing Stockholm syndrome in people; causing people to identify with their captors. You know, what happened to Patty what's her name, the young woman who was with the Symbionese Liberation Army, Patty Hearst. And all of a sudden she's showing up in a bank with a machine gun. What? They took her captive and then she started identifying with them.
If you can induce the Stockholm syndrome; if you can get somebody on your side. How do you that? You have to do that with a positive moving toward pleasure strategy. So there's a profound difference and we'll just give you an example of this real quickly with a couple of quick phone calls when we come back from the break and then I'll explain how we can then take this knowledge into the political world.
[Thom] We have Loretta in Brooklyn, New York and Pete in Madison, Wisconsin and Loretta, you have an easy time getting up in the morning?
[Loretta] Oh, I most certainly do.
[Thom] OK, great. And Pete, you have a hard time getting up in the morning?
[Thom] OK, great. I have a question for both of you. Let me just start with you, Loretta. Loretta, when you first wake up in the morning, what is the first thing that you typically think of, that you're willing to talk about on the radio?
[Loretta] Turning on the computer.
[Thom] OK, and are you looking forward to that?
[Loretta] Yes I do.
[Thom] OK, and when you look forward, when you imagine your day, the things that you are going to do throughout your day, broadly, what are you thinking of when you get up in the morning?
[Loretta] Excuse me?
[Thom] The other things of your day that you're thinking about?
[Loretta] Oh, I already have my day planned out by the day before.
[Thom] Ah, OK. And do you have it planned out based on the things that you are looking forward to doing, or the things that you're trying to avoid doing?
[Loretta] No, I look forward to everything I do.
[Loretta] I'm an extremist. I'm very neat.
[Thom] You're an optimist.
[Loretta] I'm a neat freak.
[Thom] OK. Loretta, hang on just a second here. Pete, when you wake up in the morning, what's the first thing that comes into your mind?/
[Pete] Well, sometimes it's, "Oh God, I'm awake", but most of the time it's kind of wondering what's going on in the world, in the news that day… Go ahead.
[Thom] And what is it that, you know, on a typical day, or this morning if you can remember, what is it that you might have thought about, you know, "Gee, I wonder what's going on in the news", or like that. By the way, is that what motivates you to turn the radio on or listen to it, curiosity? OK.
[Pete] Pretty much, yeah. Yeah, absolutely, especially to your show; actually, your show is pretty positive, so. But yeah, that's pretty much what motivates me, is what's going on in the news, and even though I don't like a lot of what's going on and there's the moving away from pain, I want to be involved, so it's almost an approach avoidance conflict, in a way.
[Thom] Yeah, yeah, it sounds like you're actually sort of in the middle area. I had a person - I used to teach this in workshops on marketing, advertising, communications - and I had a person - and also in psychology workshops, actually - and a person once in one classroom I asked who had a really hard time, this guy had three alarm clocks by his bed, and he had to go, cause each one only had three opportunities on the snooze button before it gave up and so he'd go through nine snooze buttons before he finally got up. And I asked him, you know, "what is it that you imagine when you wake up?" and he said, "I think about going into work". And then, I said, "what do you think about going into work?" and he said, "Well, I imagine myself showing up late, and that's how I get myself out of bed". And then I said, "Well, and then what do you imagine?" and he says. "And then I imagine myself, you know, being yelled at by my boss." And I said, "What's after that?" and he said, "Well, and then my boss fires me, finally, because I've been late too many times. And then I imagine myself standing in the unemployment line and being humiliated by standing there. And then I imagine the unemployment running out and being kicked out of my apartment. "
[Thom] "And as I'm being kicked out of my apartment I'm living under a bridge with all my stuff in a shopping cart and some guy beats me up."
And that was literally the movie this guy ran in his mind every morning in order to force himself out of bed. And as we deconstructed it we learned that over time, over a period of years, he had gone from a relatively short negative moving away from pain strategy of just, "Oh my god, I'm going to be late for work if I don't get out of bed" all the way through this whole thing of "I'm going to end up dying and homeless and being beat up and rolled by people, you know, cause I'm living on the streets" because he had to keep amping up the pain for it to work. And I'm curious, Pete, if you have any parallel experience. You don't need to give us any details on it but does that, is there any resonance there for you?
[Pete] Not quite to the extent that he went to with it but there is a resonance with regard to not only the political situation but then, you know, sometimes I get into all the, you know, start thinking about the things that are wrong in my life and it sort of branches off from there, basically - short version.
[Thom] Yeah, so, right, in other words you wake up thinking, "Oh, this could happen, that could happen, and might as well just stay in bed".
[Pete] Yeah, exactly.
[Thom] OK. So, what I would like to suggest, Pete, is that you borrow, or you can even steal it if you prefer, part of Loretta's strategy, if that's OK with you, Loretta?
[Loretta] Oh definitely, and let me let you know something, Thom, you're part of my day, man. I hear you on Sirius. I emailed you the other day and told you I bought two lifetime Sirius radios. That is, paid up as full, and I let them know, because of you and Mike Malloy.
[Thom] Oh well, that's sweet of you, oh God bless you. Thank you. Well thank you, but back to this.
[Loretta] I tell you, you're number one. You know, you are so positive. I love you.
[Thom] Well, I appreciate that and, see, that's what keeps, well, that's what gets me up in the morning every morning, is the fact that I'm going to interact with folks like you, Loretta, and you, Pete. And so, what I'd like to suggest is, Loretta, your strategy is, before you go to bed at night, you think about the things the next day that you are going to look forward to. Now, I'm guessing, Loretta, that there are things in your day that you don't like; that there are people in your world you don't like, that there are unpleasant things in that happen from time to time.
[Loretta] I keep away from people like that, and there's really not too many, and if there is, I let them know it.
[Thom] Well see, there you go. So my point is, though, that what you're choosing to focus on, because we all have negative things in our lives and we all have positive things in our lives. And Loretta, what you're choosing to focus on are the positives.
[Loretta] Right, that's correct.
[Thom] And Pete, I would suggest to you that you might want to consider, now here's, a person whose primary motivation strategy is moving away from pain, it's become a habit, will probably try to change their strategy by creating a moving away from pain strategy to do it. In other words, you would say, "Oh, well, I've got to stop thinking about negative things that might happen and so I'm going to figure out a way to punish myself if I think about them". And what I'm suggesting is a radical change. Instead of doing that, just allow yourself to think about, in fact, you have the resource for doing this, Pete, you've done it before many times in your life, I'm sure, of knowing that there is something out there that has a positive future that you want and you're looking forward to.
[Thom] And transfer that feeling of "Gee, I'm looking forward to that" to just creating a list before you go to sleep and reviewing it when you wake up of cool stuff that might happen during the day.
[Pete] Hey, that's a really good idea.
[Thom] OK. Try it out, and give us a call later in the week, Pete, and let us know how it worked, OK?
[Pete] All right. Thanks. Peace everybody, and thanks Thom, for doing the show.
[Thom] Thank you Pete, and Loretta, thank you so much.
[Loretta] Thom, thank you, and happy holidays to and your staff, OK? Bye, bye.
[Thom] You too, Loretta, and thank you so much for listening there in Brooklyn.
All right, that's moving away from pain and moving towards pleasure. So how do we take this into politics? Well here's, for example, moving away from pain, and this is why, you know, it's so powerful, and it works for a little while. This is a montage, a collection of things, from Bush's speech before the Republican National Convention.
[Bush] " Be afraid, September the 11th, we saw a tragedy arrive on a quiet morning."
[Thom] Just notice the tonality. The tonality is one of punishment and pain.
[Bush] "The evil terrorists, danger, doom, killers, be afraid, the world will drift toward tragedy."
[Thom] And this is a speech to is own people, to his buds. This is his speech before the Republican National Convention when they re-nominated him in 2004.
[Bush] "May God bless you, evil God, Iraq, darkness, the continuing danger of terrorism, be afraid, we have fought the terrorists across the earth, evil, we are staying on the offensive."
[Thom] So, anyhow, enough of that. I can give you another couple of minutes of it but I, you know, who wants to inflict that? And that's the point. Over the short term it worked brilliantly. It scared the hell out of all of us. George W. Bush's moving away from pain strategy which he probably got from being, you know - now hear, this is pure psychobabble, right, pure speculation - but I'm guessing that probably a large part of his life he was more punished than he was praised. Who knows? I mean, you know, it might just be that it's just, you know, some weird gene or he ate too many carrots. But that's typically the situation.
People who are punished a lot as they are growing up rather than praised a lot internalize that as an internal strategy for motivating themselves. And then when they try to motivate other people, they inflict their own strategies on those other people. Now, flip that around. Here's Franklin Roosevelt; he's talking to Congress; this is a speech before Congress, and first of all he starts out telling them how they're going to be appreciated by their own constituents if they do what he tells them to do.
[FDR] "If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause."
[Thom] So, first of all he starts out saying to Congress, you know, the voters, you know, this is patriotic stuff. And then he presents a vision. Notice the word "forward".
[FDR] "In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want -- which, translated into world terms…"
[Thom] Now let me just pause this for a second. "Freedom from want"; see, want is a negative term, but he's presenting this in a positive frame. He continues:
[FDR] "… means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants - everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear…"
[Thom] "Freedom from fear"; here he is, the ultimate moving toward pleasure strategy employing the core of the moving away from pain strategies.
[FDR] "… which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world."
[Thom] And thus, and there the applause line. I mean, there he is basically saying, "Let's have a world with peace." This is a moving toward pleasure strategy. I'll give you a very, very short example of, another example of that after the break. We're talking about how can we incorporate this into messages, how can our politicians do it, and how can we do it in our interactions with other people?
"I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world."
Now there's your moving toward pleasure strategy…
So, back to this book that we're writing on the air, here, that will be out in the fall of next year, "Cracking the Code: The Art and Science of Political Persuasion". The, you'll recall, and this has been a big, you know, conundrum for a lot of people, I get calls from people saying, "You know, I don't understand. Why is it that we could get millions of people on the streets before Bush attacked Iraq, but now we can't get millions of people on the streets?"
Well, the answer is really easy. When, before Bush had attacked Iraq, we were all imagining great pain, right; the possibility of world war, the possibility of soldiers dying, we were all, it was an imagined pain. Imagined pain actually can, particularly things like political pain, much greater than actual physical pain for most people. I mean, that's one of the keys of torture, is creating the fear of the coming pain, not the actual pain itself; the anticipation of it. And so, that moving away from pain strategy provoked millions of us to go out into the street all around the planet.
But once the deed was done; once Bush had already invaded Iraq, then we had to start constructing a vision of a world that would work; a positive vision, a moving towards pleasure strategy because the attempts at, you know, let's move away from pain some more, just, you know, just never really caught on, because it was exhausted. The horse had fallen over dead. It had been whipped too many times; by Bush, by, you know, the Department of Homeland Security, by the red alerts, by the airport screeners, the whole apparatus of "be afraid, be very afraid".
So now what you are finding are those politicians who are holding a clear and positive ideal, a moving toward pleasure ideal forward, are the ones who are getting elected and who are, you know, we are all looking toward. John Kennedy was the master of doing both, and this is the key to it; you have to have both. In a truly effective motivation strategy there has to be a little bit of moving away from pain and a lot of moving toward pleasure. The little bit of moving away from pain gets people's attention; not enough to cause "Ouch!" but more like, "Huh?" and then the moving towards pleasure. And this is the speech that I shared with you earlier. The way that he wraps it up; he starts out with moving away from pain and then very quickly segues into moving toward pleasure. Listen to this.
[JFK]: "We shall be prepared if others wish it."
[Thom]: There's pain.
[JFK]: "We shall be alert to try to stop it. "
[Thom]: There's, this is the threat.
[JFK]: "But we shall also do our part…"
[Thom]: And now we move.
[JFK]: "… to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just."
[Thom]: A positive vision.
[JFK]: "We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. "
[Thom]: And, in fact, he's going to use the word vision.
[JFK]: "Confident and unafraid, we must labor on -- not towards a strategy of annihilation but towards a strategy of peace. "
[Thom]: Notice the 'towards', right. He starts out, you know, "Well, if they want this, they'll get it, but we're going to move on" and as soon as you start using that kind of language, that move on, that "we're going to look toward", which you also heard Franklin Roosevelt using. Now, Bush, in his speeches, he's trying in a very labored way now to start using forward-looking language. Apparently, you know, Frank Luntz sat him down, but by and large, most of his speeches refer back to a time of pain; 9/11; "Now, these terrorists, they want to hurt us, they want to hurt us", right? "We've got to stop the guys who want to hurt us". And it always gets back to that. It's always "We've got to stop the pain".
Well, it's OK once in a while. In fact, it's useful once in a while to have a little bit of that moving away from pain strategy, but mostly we want it to be moving toward pleasure. So it would be with something like with Social Security saying, "You know, we don't want the Social Security system to go broke because we don't want to be back as we were before Franklin Roosevelt put it into place, in a situation where one of the leading causes of death among elderly people was that they'd freeze to death in the winter. But the solution, if we look forward, is really very straightforward. All we do is eliminate that cap on it so that right now, only people who earn up to $90,000 a year pay social security tax. After that, if you earn more than $90,000 a year, you don't pay any social security tax whatsoever on your earnings beyond the first $90,000. So if you make a million, 5 million, 50 million, or 500 million, none of that is taxed for social security. That's crazy! That's not just a regressive tax, that's not even a flat tax! So, let's just do away with the cap so that everybody pays the exact same percentage and what that's going to do is to bring the wealthy and the very wealthy into the pool of social security payers and you do the math on it, the fund will be totally secure forever".
It solves the problem. And so, as we look forward we can see, you see, now what we've done is we've given them a story line so that they can hear it, the audio people can hear it. It's also a story that people can feel in their gut; they can, you know, get a sense of it. You talk about real examples, make things real, bring people into it. You know, elderly people used to die of hypothermia. And then, of course, we've given a forward-looking vision. That's the way to successfully motivate people in the political sphere.