Full text of mind hacker Scott Ely’s talk: Free your mind to evolve faster: reboot, rewire & rethink at TEDxNorthwesternU conference
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Free your mind to evolve faster reboot, rewire & rethink by Scott Ely
Scott Ely – Author & Mind Hacker
Good afternoon. Hope I can live up to that introduction. I should have set the bar low and had these guys say something like Scott Ely is alive and lives in Chicago.
So how’s everybody feeling? You got enough mental energy left for one more talk?
I promise I’ll make it as engaging as I can. And, but I’m going to try to make you think.
So I’m going to try to question that mental capacity that we just say we all have some left of, because it’s important to take a look and see if you’re chained by chaos.
So by chained by chaos, I mean, all these things we put into our lives that hold us back, that take our time.
Our lives, our collective train of thought are derailing, and it’s likely there’s going to be no survivors unless we intervene.
So what if your mind could be as free as the feeling of standing at the top of a mountain?
What if you could make it through this whole talk without wanting to grab your phone even once and check your email?
What if the more that you want out of life was as simple as not being held back by these chains?
So let me ask a quick question. Who here wants less out of life?
Good, nobody. That would have made my talk difficult.
We all want more on life. We all want more fun, more travel, more excitement, more impact, but we let these things hold us back.
And the problem and the solution lies in your adaptive brain.
Now for the nerds it’s neuroplasticity. We’ve got this great thing from evolution, where we have the ability to adapt and restructure our brain as needed. It’s a very powerful thing, but it can easily be hacked and it gets manipulated all the time on multiple levels.
And a lot of times it’s being manipulated by that person that’s looking back at you in the mirror, they pull some of the most insidious Jedi mind tricks on you there.
So we’re going to take a short journey today through the path to finding more from your life. And the destination is up to you, but a path to the solution exists if you’re willing to free your mind.
But, let me step back and tell a quick story about how I started seeking more in my life.
Back around the year 2000, I was working in software and it was a fun time to be in software and technology because it was the first dot-com boom. And there was a lot of money and fun and travel.
And I was living overseas at the time and I just moved from London to Amsterdam. I was working for a new startup there.
And then one night, everything changed. Everyone has their own story about what happened when the 9/11 attacks happened.
I think what it did was it amplified whatever you had going on with you already and made it, it made it a lot worse or a lot better. In my case, I was already feeling a disconnect.
I’d been living overseas for a couple years. I was far from my family. And when those attacks happened, I was very disconnected. I couldn’t get in touch with anyone.
The company I was working for was supposed to have an office in Tower 2. So there was this impact of, you know. I almost lost friends and I was already feeling a disconnect with a bigger vision of my life. So it just drove those feelings deeper. And the weight of that event made me change course.
And I made a decision that night that I was going to resign and change everything. And within six months I’d moved back to Chicago and that started a decade and a half journey of trial and error.
Now I know this goes a little fast, but that’s how it felt for me. So that’s why I wanted you to feel the same. And obviously no one wants to get stuck watching someone’s slideshow from their journeys.
But it started a decade and a half journey of travel and experimentation. It took me to over 50 countries and multiple startup companies that I built, and lots of mistakes. It was definitely a journey of trial and error because you don’t get reward out of life without taking the risks.
Now your journey will be different than mine. There’s probably a lot of academics in here. Probably some artists taking completely different paths, but every day is a choice. Every day is a different crossroads with what you do with your time.
And if you’re in control of your mind, then those decisions can be intuitive.
Purge the chaos
So the problem is both deep and wide, but I’m going to focus today on one piece of it that I call purge the chaos. So we all know of different types of chaos in our lives. We have, some of us are addicted to the internet. We are on social media non-stop.
A recent Nielsen study showed that the average American spends 11 hours of their waking day on consuming some kind of electronic media. So the problem with this is that when you’re consuming, you’re not thinking, and if you’re not thinking, then who’s in control?
And that number is only going up. So it goes further that when you aren’t thinking, we start to not want to think for ourselves.
So a study published in the journal Science recently highlights this. They took a set of subjects and they wanted to see what would happen if they put them in a room by themselves to think on their own without any kind of distractions at all.
So it was a series of tests, but the one that was the most interesting to me was they administered a painful electric shock to their brain before the test started.
Now, most subjects said it was so painful that they would pay money to not have the shock administered again.
But then what happened was when they put them in the room for 15 minutes with no phones, no music, no distractions or nothing. 67% of men and 25% of women still chose to shock themselves multiple times.
So what does this mean?
Well, for one thing, it’s probably a statement on what your gender is smarter. Come on guys. One guy shocked himself 190 times in 15 minutes, but he’s the subject of a completely different talk.
But what it means is we’re addicted to these distractions. We don’t like to be alone with our own thoughts. They interviewed the subject afterwards and most of them said it was really uncomfortable to sit alone with their own thoughts.
So let me bring it closer to home right now. It’s something you’re probably suffering right now as you sit here.
So this is the last talk of the day. It’s a great opportunity to end the event on a high note.
But it’s also a challenging slot because especially if you’ve been here all day, watching talks, you’re suffering from something you don’t even realize, which is called decision fatigue. It also goes by the more psychobabble sound like ego-destruction, which incidentally would be a great band name.