Success Templates

Success Templates for Confident Living

We’ve heard it over and over – our thoughts control what happens in our life. So we buy books and tapes on positive thinking or mental programming. We attend seminars and workshops on hypnosis, NLP, positive thinking, affirmations, or some other system to help us live better. We do this in an attempt to retrain and redirect our thoughts into more positive channels.

This is pretty common. Many of us, over the years, have put tremendous effort into bettering ourselves – or trying to.

But the results from all that effort, money and time are… well, a few people claim fabulous successes. Most people don’t. That’s the sad but honest truth.

What we usually don’t know is why – just why is it that most people never quite get the results that are so lavishly promised? After all, we do all the stuff they SAY to do.

But let’s be straight here, the results, in the vast majority of cases, just don’t come.

Rather than tap dance around this, let’s dive straight in. Here it is – one of the most common reasons for the shortage of results is this – few people even know whether they’re thinking negative or positive thoughts. To state it simply, many folks may be barely aware of their own stream of everyday thinking, let alone the effect those particular thoughts are having on them.

I’m not talking about our daily sessions of “positive thinking” or our “affirmations.” I don’t mean the meditations and prayers and visualizations we do. For most people, those are not actually very important. If they were, the results would be far more impressive.

No, I’m talking about your plain old ordinary thoughts about yourself. The thoughts that go on all the time in the back of your mind, under the radar of your conscious awareness.

An Example

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in “Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” about an experiment that astounded even the researchers doing the project. Here’s what he says.

“Two Dutch researchers did a study in which they had groups of students answer forty-two fairly demanding questions from the board game Trivial Pursuit. Half were asked to take five minutes beforehand to think about what it would mean to be a professor and write down everything that came to mind. Those students got 55.6 percent of the questions right.

The other half of the students were asked to first sit and think about soccer hooligans. They ended up getting 42.6 percent of the Trivial Pursuit questions right. The “professor” group didn’t know more than the “soccer hooligan” group. They weren’t smarter or more focused or more serious. They were simply in a “smart” frame of mind, and, clearly, associating themselves with the idea of something smart, like a professor, made it a lot easier to blurt out the right answer. The difference between 55.6 and 42.6 percent, it should be pointed out, is enormous. That (13%) can be the difference between passing and failing.”

I hope you’ll take a moment and think about the implications of this. Just five brief minutes of thinking about either a professor or a hooligan – just five measly minutes. There was no conventional “positive thinking” involved; no affirmations; only an image of a “smart” or “dumb” type of person. And doing that one simple thing changes how intelligently you can function in a real-world situation.

The most amazing thing is, the people who were primed with those few minutes of exposure to a mental influence are almost never aware that they’ve been influenced in any way.

A second study from the same book:

Psychologists Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson performed a more extreme version of this test. They asked a group of black college students just 20 questions. These questions were lifted from the Graduate Record Examination, which is the standard test for graduate school entry.

They divided the students into two groups and had both groups take the identical test. There was absolutely no difference in how the test was administered except for one seemingly minor detail.

One group was asked to identify their race on a pretest questionnaire. And that one extra detail, that one tiny difference, was enough to cut in half the test scores of those who had identified their race.


Remember that all the students tested were the same race. But the researchers found that this subtle reminder alone was enough to plant in their minds a stereotype associated with African Americans with respect to academic achievement.

Please note that nobody TOLD them anything, nobody insulted them, and nobody did anything to influence them from the outside. Their response came entirely from within their own minds – their own mental stereotypes, not somebody else’s.

Gladwell continues:

“In yet another study, researchers tested non-students for their ability to unscramble sets of words and make sentences from them. They had ten sets of five words each, and each set of five words could be unscrambled to make at least one sensible sentence.

Most people were able to go through the ten sets in about 30 seconds, or about three seconds per line.

What the researchers didn’t tell the test subjects was this: in each line, one of the five words had something to do with old age. Words like worried, forgetful, old, gray. It seemed so incidental that not one single subject noticed anything.

However, the researchers found that those who took their test moved differently afterwards.

When they walked down the hall to leave the building, they moved more slowly, like an older person.”

You see, the real point of the study was to see if just ten words buried among fifty would have any effect on a person’s actions and self image.

They emphatically did.

But amazingly, nobody noticed. Not a single subject knew it was happening.

When the black students who had been reminded of their race were interviewed afterwards, they were asked specifically, “Did it bug you that I asked you to indicate your race?” It clearly had a huge influence on their test scores, but in every case – EVERY case – they said that no, it hadn’t influenced them at all. Then they would also say something like, “You know, I just don’t think I’m smart enough to be here.” Contrast this with the students of the same race who didn’t have that one item on the pre-test paper: they didn’t question their own intelligence.

This is disturbing stuff.

And it’s not because so many black students are being held back by their own inner thoughts about themselves and their race.

It’s Much Bigger

EVERYBODY is being held back. Every race, every culture, every person in every level of society. I’m willing to bet that everybody’s got some kind of limiting image about themselves.

No matter how highly you regard yourself, there will be some areas that are still substandard in your own mind. And you won’t even know it.

So what can you do about it?


Spend more time exposing your mind and your emotions to successful people. It’s not enough to read self-help books. They’re great, but alone they’re not sufficient. We’ve thoroughly proved that.

What we really need is a “template for living,” a template that helps us in the same way that thinking about professors helped those students answering Trivial Pursuit questions. So I recommend these four action points:

1. Read a biography.

Let your mind dwell on a person who has achieved some important things in the area you’re interested in.

This is not just something that sounds good. This is like filling your mind with the professor before answering those game questions. You’re priming your awareness with the image and personality of someone who represents high capability. You’re absorbing some of their characteristics into your own mind.

Then, when you finish that first book, go to the library or and pick out another. Every biography you read is like a transfusion for your mind. Greatness is contagious, but you have to expose your self to it to reap any benefit.

2. Start spending time with more successful people.

Yes, I know, your old drinking and bowling buddies are going to accuse you of terrible things. So what? Is their opinion worth more than yours?

Find people who are succeeding at a higher level than you are and start asking them questions. Just make sure they’re intelligent queries, and not open-ended “what should I do first” type questions.

3. Take a careful look at the entertainment you choose.

I’m not telling you to change anything. Just consider this one question: do you want to absorb the qualities of the people in those TV shows, those movies, those novels? Because they WILL act as templates for the self-image your subconscious mind maintains and updates daily, and you WILL absorb them.

4. This next step is a bit more of a challenge.

Find one thing that you know you’ll need to learn, but you just hate the idea of doing it. You may have a strong aversion to talking on the phone. Or learning to sell. Or managing your time more effectively.

Pick just this one thing and ask around among your more successful new acquaintances. Tell them frankly that this is a new step you’re trying to take, admit that it’s hard for you, and ask them how they mastered it.

You’ll probably be surprised how many of them had to fight similar battles. They’ll be impressed that you’re willing to tackle it, and they’ll gladly give you advice that – if you’ll actually follow it – can help you reach their level and beyond.


You’ll notice that I’ve given you no to-do lists here. No affirmations, no goals, no inner work at all (at least not in the usual sense).

Instead, these four steps are action-oriented. They’re intended to get your body up out of your chair and your mind up out of your rut.

Why? Because most of the time you’ll never know the inner stereotypes (the templates) that are silently controlling you. However, when you step forward and put yourself into a new and different situation, those stereotype images of yourself will rise up and try to herd you back into your old easy chair, back to watching the same old TV shows, back to hanging out with the same old unmotivated friends.

Most of the time those images succeed. Most of the time they squeeze you right back into your old territory, and you don’t put up a fight – often, you won’t even notice it’s happening. You’ll think you’re consciously choosing the things you like.

But when you start consistently spending more time around NEW stereotypes (like higher achievers, or like the successful people in biographies), the stereotypes in your mind will begin to change, and you’ll begin reacting differently.

Remember This Point:

Whether you call it a stereotype or a role model, it’s actually just a template for your behavior. We all – every one of us – automatically adopt the behavior patterns of the people we watch, whether our “watching” is in person, or via television and movies, or even through reading.

Be aware of the templates you’re feeding into your mind. Choose wisely, and your inner mind will steer your life into more successful directions.

Through the wise choice of templates, your new, success-directed reactions can actually become as automatic as the old ones were. And when that starts happening, you may notice the new successes, but it’s almost certain you still won’t see any of the image processing going on beneath the surface. After all, that’s just the way things work: out of sight and almost completely automatic.

But when you become aware that every single person you observe is actually a template, that awareness gives you the power of conscious choice. It’s true – you CAN learn to choose your templates. And you CAN use their power – whether or not you can see what’s happening in your own mind – and your life WILL change … finally.

All the best,
Charles Burke


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