Once in Northern Ireland, I visited the shipyard in Belfast where the Titanic was made. I purchased a book and read about the maiden voyage of the Titanic. As you may recall, on that fateful night, five clear warnings of icebergs came from other ships. These were given to the captain of the “unsinkable” Titanic before the ship struck an iceberg. The last warning was ignored to the point that the Titanic basically signalled back, “Don’t bother us. Who the hell are you to tell us anything?”

You know the rest of the story. Many a proud captain has gone down with the ship because he refused to listen to objective feedback and make course corrections. Invariably, the result is a disaster of Titanic proportions. Without a measure of humility and willingness to be open, flexible, and adaptive, you too can sink your dreams.

We All Need Feedback

A teleological mechanism operates on sound, like sonar; or on electronic waves, like radar; or on metallic attraction, like a magnet. But it doesn’t stay on the beam; it self-corrects when it’s off beam.

When you perceive yourself behaving beneath your moral standards, your conscience bothers you. And you correct your behavior. When you perceive your income beneath what you normally know you need to live on, you do things to correct the problem. When you perceive yourself being different than you know you are, you try to correct back to the standard.

Accurate, objective feedback triggers the correction process. If you perceive yourself beneath your target, you correct. And if you perceive yourself doing better than you think you should, you’ll correct back. You get anxious and uptight when business isn’t as good as you think it should be. But you also get anxious and uptight when business is better than you think it should be. Athletes not only get uptight when their performance is below their expectations, pressure comes when it’s above their expectations. And they do things to correct back to what they think it should be.

If you want a higher quality of life, raise your internal idea, expectation, or standard of what is good enough for you. If you try to temporarily override the automatic feedback system, such as when you try hard to be nicer or neater when you have company, you invite stress. That’s why when company leaves you, say “Now we can relax and be ourselves.” So why aren’t you nice and neat all the time? Perhaps because you think that it would be too hard or too much of a bother.

Watch for such dumb talk in your reflective thinking. Watch for times when you try hard to be non-authentic, or different from who you know yourself to be, just to put on a show. Where you are “trying hard” in your life is where you have taken conscious control of your behavior, and you’re trying hard to override how you know you are. It’s very telling on you because you put a lot of stress and pressure on your system.

If you’re facing change and needing to improve, don’t try to override the system. Just make the internal change through visualization and affirmation and then just be like you imagine yourself being. When you learn to change the internal system, you let this guidance system take care of itself.

feedback photo

If you know you’re poor, you could win the lottery and still be poor; it won’t take you long to correct for the “mistake” of wealth. For example, growing up I had poverty consciousness, and so I always spent more money than I made. I was always in debt. If you don’t change your internal idea of being in debt, of always being a poor person, you can make $1,000,000 a year and spend $1,500,000. I would keep myself poor. I had to change my internal beliefs; otherwise, I just kept correcting for the “mistake” of having money.

A teleological mechanism has the ability to receive feedback and change directions after it’s released. A teleological mechanism doesn’t care where it started; it only cares where it is now in relation to where it intends to be.

When you hone in on a target, you ask yourself, “Where am I, where am I, where am I?” And the question is “Where am I in relation to where I want to go?”

Still, in spite of having a good scanning and guidance mechanism and receiving accurate sensory feedback, keeping on track is no easy task, primarily because we become experts at denying objective feedback. For example, you may look at a photo and say, “That doesn’t look like me.” Your friend then tells you, “Oh, it looks exactly like you.” You then say, “No, it can’t look like me because in this photo, I look too fat.”

If you don’t like the picture, you deny the feedback . . . unless you want the feedback to help you grow. Diane is like an angel on my shoulder. If it weren’t for her, and for others who give me feedback, I’d miss a lot. And so will you, if you don’t set up your own board of advisors. I have advisors from 20 years ago, and some new ones. But I don’t even tell them they’re on my board; that way I can let them go when I outgrow them. I select people whom I respect and admire when I know they have my best interests at heart. They tell me what I need to hear because they care for me. They see greatness in me, and they want me to do well. I also select people who are different than I am. They can see my scotomas. They have different filters than I have. People who are like me, can’t see. They have the same scotomas. They’re conditioned the same way.

You will welcome objective feedback, even seek it, when you understand that receiving and accepting accurate feedback greatly helps you to keep moving toward the target. You need this feedback to progress. Your senses are constantly scanning the environment for information to tell you how you are doing in relation to your target goals.

For example, once you become accustomed to receiving feedback as a driver, you feel uneasy driving a car without it. Try driving your car down the road without allowing your head to move to the left or right. You’ll feel a tremendous urgency to turn it left or right because of your subconscious need to constantly orient yourself in relation to changing traffic and road conditions. Or, try looking only a few feet over the hood of your car and see how fast you can go. You need feedback to keep on the road, up to speed, and safe from accidents.

A missile doesn’t move in a straight line. It pitches and yaws from side to side and up and down. If the target moves, the missile must track. So when the missile is off target, its sensory impulses and scanning devices send feedback to the guidance system: “We’re too high! We’re too low! We’re a mile wide!” And the guidance system immediately adjusts the course.

We need feedback to adjust direction on the way to our goals. We get the feedback from our senses. Once we target a goal in our mind, our senses alert us to where we are in relation to the goal: “Where am I? How am I doing?” If we are off target, we get negative feedback in the form of tension or dissonance: “It doesn’t look right.” “It doesn’t smell right.” “It doesn’t taste right.” “It doesn’t sound right.” “It doesn’t feel right.” In other words, “You’re off course in relation to what you have planned.” You can then make adjustments.

Try this exercise. Get a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and empty the pieces in front of you. Throw away the box cover with the picture of the completed puzzle. Now try to put the puzzle together. You can probably do the perimeter, but the rest will be very difficult. Why? Because the picture is your feedback. Without it, you can’t accurately gauge: “Where am I? How am I doing?” You need the picture the target to adjust your progress: “Am I too high? Am I too low? Am I too wide?”

Receiving feedback isn’t enough. To reach a target or goal, you must also accept the feedback. If you don’t get objective feedback and correct course, you’ll never get from here to there.

People with low self-esteem don’t want to set goals because when they veer off course, the feedback stings too much. So they build scotomas to it. If you want to lose 20 pounds, you must step on the scale and accept the feedback. That triggers the creative dissonance to make corrections: “I’ll add exercise to my diet and make sure I lose the weight.” Otherwise, your subconscious will blind you to the numbers, and maintain your present picture of yourself as 20 pounds overweight.

Once you target, in your mind, the way you want things to be the business merger that you want, the income that you want, the respect that you want, the environment that you want allow yourself to look at the way things are: “We said we were going to deliver quality in our product, and we aren’t delivering it.” “We said the project would be completed by now, and it isn’t finished.” “I said I would stop yelling at home, and I haven’t stopped.” ”How are we doing in our family relationships?” “How are we doing as a team?” “How is our marriage doing?” “Hey, you’re out of line! You’re off the target!” When you feel the anxiety and tension of being “off target,” that triggers your subconscious creativity: “Line it up! Line it up! Line it up!”