Beliefs must be broken before they can be replaced.
The writer in me hates the passive voice of that sentence, but the breaking of beliefs often happens to us. Think of an old belief like a brown egg, and think of a certain abrupt moment that, like a tiny brass hammer, cracks the egg with a tink.
Such moments find us when we aren’t looking for them.
A paragraph in a book makes you realize you gave up on art and need to start drawing again. A question from a mentor causes you to put a mental finger on the edge of a growing awareness: You must stop doubting yourself. How?
Perhaps you were sitting in the audience and listening to an industry expert give a talk and the insight hit you like a hammer on the noggin: “This guy isn’t all that impressive. Why is he getting better results? Surely I can figure this out.”
Neuroplasticity ensures that we can, in a literal sense, change our minds, but we need abrupt moments of transition, cracks in the egg, to begin rethinking what’s possible.
Or, to use a different metaphor, we need our rational minds to step outside of our automatic lives for a moment, like Peter Pan’s shadow, and turn around and point the flashlight of ratiocination at beliefs and thought patterns operating at a subconscious level. We need to make the unconscious conscious.
Two short anecdotes will illustrate how an unseen barrier can become visible in a flash
Cracking the 4-Minute Mile
On May 6, 1954 an English medical student named Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.
In 1900 the record mile was around 4:15. In 1923, Paavo Nurmiran ran a 4:10.4 mile in Stockholm. By the end of the 1930s, Sydney Wooderson had pushed the record time down to 4:06.4; and by the end of the 1940s, Gunder Hägg had shaved off nearly five seconds: 4:01.6.
So when Bannister finally achieved what many deemed a physical impossibility, running a mile in less than four minutes, he did more than set a record. He tore down a psychological barrier.
Just six weeks later, John Landy ran a 3:58.
The feat was possible, but an innovator like Bannister, who studied the mechanics of running and developed new training techniques, needed to prove it to everyone.
Getting Paid to Plan Projects
In September 2015 Brennan Dunn unknowingly became my Roger Bannister.
During a drive down to St. George Island in Florida, I binge-listened to his Double Your Freelancing podcast. I was having a bit of a crisis because I wasn’t making enough money, plain and simple.
Most of my waking hours went to Closeup.fm, the music tech startup I had co-founded and invested $25,000 in. The startup couldn’t afford to pay me, so my family still relied on my freelance business to pay the bills.
I was at a loss, metaphorically and financially, but as I listened to some dude named Brennan talk about actually charging freelance clients for the discovery phase, what he called “roadmapping,” I wondered, “Would that work for me?”
I went from not knowing a client would pay a freelancer to bring clarity and assist with planning to thinking, “If he can’t do it, why can’t I?”
Once you know to look for examples of psychological barriers coming down, you will see them scattered across history.
Yuri Gagarin completed one orbit of Earth on April 12, 1961 and became the first human to journey into outer space. John F. Kennedy had taken office only three months prior, and the Soviet Union’s accomplishment with Gargarin spurred Kennedy and the U.S. space program to put a man on the moon and win the space race.
My friend Jay Clouse, host of the popular Creative Science podcast, interviewed Marie Poulin. In 2021, she was earning $40,000 per month with Notion Mastery, her course business. Jay knew Marie well, and that familiarity made the difference for him:
“That just blew my mind. It was a memorable step of me changing my money story to say what is possible with courses for somebody because I knew her. I know her. I interact with her very closely, and when you know somebody well, who has a different money story than you, and you can see that they’re not a different person than you, they’re not doing things differently, they’re not some superhuman with a different set of rules, it gets real for you, that your limitations are self-imposed in a lot of ways.”
Jay had a positive mentor, and Alex Hormozi had a negative one. Alex describes a moment when he learned that another member of his mastermind group was making $350,000 per month:
“He got up there [on stage], and he sounded like an idiot. Layla and I looked at each other afterwards and we were like, ‘If he can do it, we can do it.’”
Alex’s Negative Mentor brought hope:
“Seeing people who I didn’t think were ‘better than me’ do something better than me gave me hope that I too could do it. I’d see somebody and be like, ‘I don’t think they work harder than me. I don’t think they’ve got some genius brain.’ If they can do it, I can do it too.”
We all need moments where positive and Negative Mentors crack our eggs and prove certain “true” beliefs false and certain “false” beliefs true. Only then can we rethink what’s possible.
Do you believe you can build a thriving freelance business that bankrolls the life you really want? Why? Why not?
People less intelligent, talented, and industrious than you have accomplished the feat, so what is missing for you right now, a skill, belief, or character trait?