I’m the last person who’ll argue with the notion that you’re a unique and beautiful snowflake. Just a few month’s as a therapist taught me that no two people (and their problems) are ever identical.
You may be the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, but your thinking makes you different. Except when it doesn’t. Sometimes, despite our differences, we all think the same.
Case in point: We humans have a psychological program running in our minds that destroys our ability to learn. We all have it – no one is immune. There is no cure.
Because of this mental program, we’re letting some of the best insights and realizations pass right over our head. Our development, as entrepreneurs and as people is retarded.
Learning about it and being more aware of it is our only hope. Today we’re going to dig deep into some juicy psychology to figure out what’s blocking our ability to learn.
The Law of Closure
This Gestalt Psychology principle holds that we have an innate tendency to perceive incomplete objects as complete. To close or fill gaps and to perceive asymmetric stimuli as symmetric.
That’s the stuffy, textbook definition of the phenomena that screws up our learning. What does it really mean?
As humans, we tend to work hard to “get” stuff. In fact, in modern english the phrase “I get it” has become an everyday occurrence.
“I get it”. Which is to say…. The learning is mine. I own this. I’ve grasped it.
I get it – I’ve got closure.
Whenever we’re exposed to a learning opportunity, we begin trying to furiously “get” everything in sight.
Think of the last time you asked someone for advice. Or read a book. Or a blog post.
In fact, think of any time you were exposed to new information!
When the human brain begins to absorb new information, it rushes to fill in the blanks. It “perceives incomplete objects as complete”. We have a deeply ingrained need for closure.
For some mysterious reason, we all like to digest new information in perfect bite sized chunks. Have you already spotted the danger of this tendency?
You’re an entrepreneur. You meet a world famous business tycoon in the street, randomly. You ask her for advice. You’re smart enough to ask a clever question – not just some lame “how can I get rich?” cliche.
When the guru delivers their advice in a quick-fire soundbite, what’s your response going to be?
I get it.
But do you? You understood the words they said, for sure. You might have even understood the principle they were explaining… but do you really “get” it?
I’d define “totally getting it” as having a level of practical understanding that’d allow you to action your new learnings to create similarly amazing results. In other words, if you really GET the tycoon’s advice – you’re getting tycoon sized results.
But you’re not… at least, not yet. So you don’t really get it.
“Get it” shuts down learning
Even the words imply the end of a process. You get it – it’s been got. There is no more getting to do.
When you get it, the learning is finished. You’re basically telling us (and yourself) that you know everything there is to know about the topic and that you don’t need to hear anymore.
Getting it sends a clear signal to your unconscious mind. The message reads “learning time is over!”
Have you ever sat in a Q&A panel session, listened to another person ask a question and instantly thought “Oh, I already get this”? How carefully did you listen to the response provided?
How about while reading a business book. How many chapter-endings have you skimmed because you already “got it”?
“Getting it” is an absolute illusion. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to make it okay to terminate our curiosity.
The real masters of any discipline, be it business, martial arts or ice-sculpting all tend to agree on one thing: They never stop learning.
There is always more to know. New discoveries are around every corner. The moment you stop learning (and growing) you start dying.
In business, this is the harsh truth. The moment you get complacent some nimble young competitor sneaks up and blows you out of the market.
There is no “I get it”. You haven’t got it and you can’t even being to imagine how much more there is yet to get.
I might sound arrogant telling you this but don’t worry, I don’t get it either.
It’s fair to say that the moment an entrepreneur believes they “get it”, they’re at risk of some other (nimble and smart) whizkid making them eat dust.
“I know all about that”
“I know what kind of person he is”
“There’s only one way this works”
“I get it!”
Can we, as entrepreneurs, afford to keep up the habit of premature closure?
When we hunt to find the pattern, symmetry or closure in the limited information we have, we rob ourselves of the bigger pattern. We miss out on the sublime learning that can be discovered at even greater levels of closure.
The law of closure is something we never escape. However, the more aware of it we are the more we can try to escape it.
By striving to reject closure, we cultivate the curiosity and creativity that opens our mind to unlimited possibilities. Make a habit of doing this and you’ll quickly gain a reputation as one of those incredible people who simply sees things others don’t.
Think about the super-star entrepreneurs you know. Are they the people who spot the opportunities that everyone else misses? Do they create unconventional connections that change everything?
My favorite example? The law of closure prevented every shoe retailer on the planet from achieving mass online success. It wasn’t possible – everyone knew this. They got it. Except Tony Hsieh. He didn’t get it and stayed curious enough that he “got” something else entirely.
“Getting it” creates your own mini, psychological status-quo. When you get it, you’re subscribing to a delusion that you know it all. That belief, as my mum would say, is bound to end in tears.
And: It’s all fun and games until someone loses a business.
Seeking closure and completeness of understanding is part of what makes us human. It’s how we make sense of our crazy world.
We’ll never transcend it completely. Weirdly enough though, it’s trying to do exactly that (even though it’s impossible) that creates success and happiness in life. Guaranteed.
The act of striving makes the difference. It’s the most significant journey you can embark on as an entrepreneur. Best part? You’ll never arrive at the destination.
Do you get it? Let me know in the comments…