To spy is to observe. The trick to observing is to build up your ability to see clearly and recall what you have seen with unerring accuracy. Here’s how to learn to do this.
Start with the room you are in. Look around at it slowly. Let everything impress upon your eyeballs. Let the room seep into your vision. Okay now close your eyes. Try and keep the image of the room, see the room there on the dark screen of the inside of your eyelids or your mind. When the vision fades, open your eyes for a few seconds and check the details again. Close your eyes and see it inside again. Do this a few times. With your eyes still closed, describe the room in as much detail as you can manage. List the blue things that are in the room – then open your eyes and check. Close your eyes and try and recall all the round things in the room. And so on.
This will be easier when you are in a room you are familiar with – but you will be amazed at the number of things you haven’t noticed before. The real test is to do this in a room or place that is unfamiliar to you. Go in, look around, take mental snap shots. Close your eyes, see the room in your mind, open your eyes, check the details and store the info.
You can ask yourself a series of questions to trigger your observation. Where are the exits? How many windows? How many people are in the room? What are they doing? What is the layout of the room? Etc Get good at this. You must also play this game with people. Like an actor, learning a role, you must study people’s faces, their expressions, their mannerisms, their clothes, and way of talking. Observe everything and keep mental notes. You are a spy. Feed your mind with information.
The first ‘brain’ book I ever got was Edward de Bono’s “Lateral Thinking”. I think it was the only book of his that I ever ‘got’. I suspect that lateral thinking is something that gels with me, whereas some of his other works just sail past without leaving much impression. The guy’s a total genius, though, so you should check out his huge library of brain boosting books if you haven’t already done so.
The beauty of lateral thinking is that whatever point you are at, there are an infinite number of alternative directions you could possibly go in. This is pure freedom.
Unfortunately, we train ourselves in rut-thinking. There’s always an entrance and an exit. We just follow the arrows tattooed on the floor. But as a secret agent, you’ve got to be mentally agile. You will find yourself in situations where you will be trapped by rut-thinking. It will kill you unless you are willing to break out and think of alternative actions.
How do you do this? It’s quite simple. Just begin to mentally list alternatives. Alternative ways of doing things, alternative ways of saying things, just keep asking the lateral thinker’s questions:
What else could it be used for?
Is there another way of doing / saying / writing / thinking / playing this?
What is it like?
How would X do this? (Where X = James Bond, Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan, Jesus, Bruce Lee, you name them)
What if I reversed that / turned it inside out / turned it upside down?
If I yield rather than resist?
If I made it bigger / smaller, louder / quieter, brighter / darker, harder / softer?
How would it look in yellow? Green? Made of porridge? From outer space?
Lateral thinking literally means to branch out in a new direction from the direction you were taking. Creativity is like following the path of roots that spread out and explore new nooks and crannies. Always searching for a new angle, a new direction, never quite doing what you expect.
Charisma is one of the greatest tools for success and high impact thinking. When you think of charisma, people like Cary Grant, George Clooney, Bill Clinton or Tony Robbins might come to mind. Perhaps you marvel at the charisma of Oprah or the regal wisdom of Maya Angelou. Charisma is the charm, warmth, and personal magic. It is not dependent on physical attractiveness. Charisma is about fire and inner spirit and the ability to connect with others.
Charismatic people are hard to dislike and hard to harm. That is why it is such a wonderful weapon in the secret agent’s mental armory. They seem powerful; this gives them an edge. They seem disarmingly warm and friendly; it’s so much harder to be nasty to someone you actually like. So they have this psychic shield around them.
A healthy self-concept gives you the “bottle” to take action, to stand your own against the richest / smartest / most powerful people. With a winning attitude and the charisma that goes with it, you can get into places and into minds that would otherwise be sealed.
How do you get this charismatic high self-concept? It starts with liking and loving you.
The simplest ideas are often the most effective.
Every day repeat to yourself, “I like myself. I love and accept myself as I am. I am highly pleased with myself in the presence of other people.”
Begin to count your blessings. What do you like about yourself? Appreciate those things. Account for them regularly. What are you good at? What are you getting better at? How are you improving? Who loves you and whom do you love?
That takes care of half of charisma. The other half comes from asking yourself: “What’s interesting / fascinating / sexy about this person? What do I really like about him / her? How can I be of service to this person? How can I make this person feel better right now than they did before they met me?” Taking a sincere interest in other people is a habit that can be learned as easily as the habit of ignoring or disliking other people was learned. Switch them.
To grease the wheels of charisma further, you can also look at the presentation, personal grooming, posture, health and above all quality of your speaking voice. All those are covered and freely available on the web. A quick Google search should reveal all!
And now the flip side.
The real genius of attitude is being able to adjust it to meet the circumstances. There are times in a secret agent’s life when it pays NOT to be a tall poppy. Then one has to play with the inner psychology, to temper one’s persona like a chameleon to become invisible, unnoticed, so that one might observe more closely or escape without being caught.
Your mind is a marvelous machine. And you can adjust your moods, emotions, and the level of projected energy with consummate ease. Simply put yourself into the physiological state of the emotion or feeling that you wish to elicit. Stand and breathe and think as you would if you were having that emotion. Bestride the decks like a giant, a colossus of confidence. Then switch to being a shy, quiet, small man in the corner. Switch between these states. Switch between happy and sad, between joyful and angry, between passionate and bored. Keep doing it until you realize that you do indeed control your emotional states. You do not need outer circumstances to change for you to feel better. You change the inner circumstances and make the emotions you want. E-motions are energy in motion. You set them in motion.
Play with taking your emotions to higher and higher levels. Turn up the joy-dial. Turn up the feelings of bliss. Adjust your attitude from poor me to lucky me, from bad me to wonderful me. You set the tone. You control the deck.
Logic: If – then.
The secret agent has to know and understand cause and effects so that he can make accurate predictions about what is likely to happen and act accordingly. I sometimes think of logic as karmic awareness thinking – if I do this, then this will happen.
This can be applied to your advantage.
I eat healthily = I will increase my potential for living longer.
If I eat less and exercise more= I will get slimmer and fitter.
I learn about finances and save a portion of my income and invest it regularly =I will be richer when I retire than someone who just spends all their money and gives no thought to tomorrow.
Logic involves facts and rules. But because of the sequential nature of logic, it can sometimes trick you. For example, if I tell you, “a man ran into the bank today brandishing a gun”, the logical conclusion might be that he was a robber. The lateral thinker though would allow for the possibility that he might have been the security cop responding to an alarm test. Or it might be a decorator who is late for work and burst into the bank with a spray gun.
Maybe I am doing logic a disservice. After all, the logical thing to do in any situation is to gather all the facts. When you have all the facts, you are in a better position to draw a conclusion to If – Then. Let’s not mistake presumption for logic.
5.Intuition: Knowledge plus experience plus effort = intuition
Gut feelings. Where do they come from? How do you learn to use them, trust them or rely on them?
The secret agent finds himself in lots of situations, as we all do, where he does not have all the facts and he does not have the time or resources to gather them. He has to make a decision. His life, or the lives of others, may depend upon it. So he goes with his gut feeling. He asks himself, “How do I feel about this?”
Intuition arises from the combination of:
- the factual knowledge you have been exposed to over a lifetime
- mixed with your lifetime of personal experiences
- plus the intensity of your current efforts to find an answer
- add the X factor –- the Universal Unconscious / Higher Self / Universal Intelligence / Collective Memes
Intuition operates at two distinct levels:
- Gut-feelings –- usually about small things
- Heart-felt apperceptions –- usually as an understanding of large concepts
Practice using your intuition by asking yourself, “How do I feel about this…” Check inside and feel for how you are responding to it at the non-verbal feeling level. Secret agents love a good feel!
Take a leaf out of James Bond’s book of spying and sleep around to learn what you need to know. Keep a wicked sense of humor and “charm the pants off” the subject that you want to learn about. If there are people with the specialized knowledge that you want, you need to know how to woo and romance them so that they will reveal everything to you!
The balding college professor who is a whiz at nuclear fusion might not be your type, however, you still need to romance the old devil so you can “get into bed” with him, at least metaphorically! If you want to get on the inside track with powerful people you have to befriend, impress and somehow enter their special inner circle. Either, directly through them, or indirectly through their close associates.
This is not a path of deceit, however. Remember James Bond was never insincere in the pleasure he took in wooing the ladies. Nor was he selfish in his willingness to give pleasure.
When you are studying a subject, be it Maths, Art History, Web Design or the Life Cycle of the May Fly, you must approach it like a lover. Woo, the subject. Tease it. Get to know it. Sleep with it. And become initimate with it.
To spy, and gather intelligence freely, you have to be accepted by the people you want to get intelligence from. You have to become the enemy in order to steal information from the enemy. That necessitates a profound mental flexibility, and the willingness to think as they do.
In their commitment to going deep inside the opposition’s mindset, many agents founder, as the nature of the mind is that we become what we think about.
Outside the cloak and dagger world of secret agents, this ability to “walk in another’s moccasins” has long been heralded as the path to greater understanding of human relationships. Through this, we can learn to appreciate the experiences of our clients and customers. We can respond with ability rather than react with fear when faced with tragedies, atrocities, crimes, famines or the homeless.
Stretch your mind. Dare to explore the thoughts of another. You will be a bigger person and a better thinker for it.
We discussed the multi-fit moccasin mind. Learning to think like another helps us to understand and act like them, so they will accept us into their fold. This gives us access to all kinds of juicy insights.
To further this pursuit, the secret agent frequently resorts to disguise. A disguise is a mask that covers up what you are and makes you appear to be completely different. The foremost mask that you wear is your personality. Persona means mask in the root languages. So your personality mask is made up of your distinctive characteristics and qualities. To appear different to someone, you must change those personality traits.
Most of us have some practice in this. Going for job interviews and pretend to be far more accomplished and resourceful than we actually feel. “Putting on a brave face” when challenged, even though we may be quaking inside.
We use disguise to become something that we are not. Read that twice.
What personality traits do you feel you are lacking right now? Do you want to be sunnier? More optimistic? More dynamic? A go-getter? Charming?
There is a legend from the Far East of a wicked king. He was so fierce and nasty that his subjects were all afraid of him. His face was ugly with cruelty. A beautiful princess ruled a nearby land. She was so sweet, kind and innocent; everything about her was good and that greatly attracted the king. He ordered his army to go and conquer this land and bring the princess back to him so that he could make her his wife.
When they brought her back, the King approached the girl to ask her to be his bride but she quailed at the sight of his terrible face. The King was mightily pissed off. He wanted the girl to love him as he loved her.
He called for his most trusted advisors and sought their counsel. After much deliberation, the wise elders returned to the King and said. “Let us make you a magic mask to wear your majesty, and on it, we shall engrave the qualities of kindliness, goodness, joy and love. When the princess looks upon you, she will see these qualities rather than the fierce qualities of your own face. As long as you wear the mask, no one will suspect what a horrible git you are!” (They probably whispered the last sentence!)
So the old Magi went off and made the magic mask out of fine wax, painting into it all the wonderful qualities that they wanted the King to appear to have. They took it to the king and molded it to his face. The King was very pleased as he gazed at his new face in the mirror. “Now the Princess will love me!” he told them. But inside he was thinking how cute she’d look spread-eagled on his bed!
Seeing his lecherous look, the Wise Men hastily added, “Hold on your Majesty, stall your Kingly ardor for just a moment. We must warn you of something. For this magic to work, you must hold in your mind all the noble qualities we have molded into the mask of love, peacefulness, joy, kindliness, compassion, and beauty. If not, the mask will shatter and our deception will be undone.”
After a few days of practicing with his new mask, the king sorts out the princess. She was astounded by the change in him. He romanced her like a true gentle man and won her heart, and she soon became his queen. Score!
A few weeks into the marriage, the king sort his counselors again in a much-vexed state. “I can’t keep deceiving the woman I love like this; remove the magic mask and let her see me as I am. Better have someone behind her to catch her if she faints!”
Well, with some trepidation the Wise Men removed the mask and were astonished to see that the king’s face now bore all the positive, magical qualities that had been painted into the magic mask.
The king’s face now reflected all the wonderful qualities that he had held in his mind. He and the queen lived happily ever after.
And this all goes to show, as Stuart Wilde says, that you can “Fake it till you make it!”
So disguise yourself well as a dynamic creative genius with plenty of bounce!
There are foolish gamblers and there are smart gamblers. A foolish gambler trusts in lucky charms and erstwhile prayers. A smart gambler has a vision, a plan, a system and he plays the odds to win. A smart gambler gets educated. He gathers as many facts as he can before making a decision.
Often in life, we are pressed by time. There is no opportunity to do research. We have to make a decision NOW! A secret agent goes through rigorous training to be mentally prepared to meet the unexpected. They use that training to make the best possible decision at that moment.
You can do the same. Mentally rehearse how you would respond in certain situations. Think about your work. Make a list of possible scenarios, worst case, and best case. Ask yourself, “What would happen if…?” or, “what would I do if that happened?”.
When you make a decision, make it! Don’t prevaricate with maybe-this-would-be-betters. Decide the best possible course of action and then stick with it. Work with it. If it later proves to be a wrong decision then you can readjust and make another decision then. The decisive secret agent is far more effective (and stays alive longer) than one who dithers at crunch time.
If you find yourself in a situation where you really don’t know and can’t second guess the best course of action, just flip a coin!
One top executive used to keep a handful of beads in his pocket. When he had to make an “impossible decision” fast and say yes or no to a project, he would simply put his hand in his pocket grab a handful of beads and pull them out. If there were an even number of beads, he would say yes and stick to his decision. If there were an odd number of beads, he would say no and stick to that decision. This man was revered as a business genius famous for his decision-making abilities. He said the secret to success was to decide quickly and get into action.
Spy Game: The Ten Golden Commandments of a Top Secret Agent
In the spirit of hearing it direct from an agent in the field, here are some tips for you budding spy geniuses.
The First Commandment: Be Offensive
Don’t wait for someone to hit you. If they look dangerous, take appropriate action. In a business situation, you can’t be passive or your competitors will eat you for breakfast! If you just build ramparts and sit inside, you are basically inviting enemies to take pot-shots at you until your castle crumbles. Build strong defenses but also deploy strong offensive action. Test your enemies, Test the situations that are out there for you. Test the future. Go after your adversaries. Constantly look beyond where you are today, to where you might be tomorrow and make plans for where you want to be tomorrow.
Attack your business competitors constantly. Keep them in a perpetual state of reaction, using that as an opportunity to control the market with new innovations.
Attack your mental enemies. Sloth. Laziness. Habit. Keep them off guard with a barrage of creativity, stimulating activity, new input and new ways of doing things. You cannot remain static. There are no positions to defend other than the one you have conquered today.
The Second Commandment: Honor Your Skills
Praise yourself whenever you exercise creativity, or come up with a genius idea. Develop a small system of rewards, even if it’s only a little jig of delight and a “Well done me!” given whenever you do something really smart. This trains your mind to keep coming up with the good stuff.
In recruitment, the personnel officer lays out the system of rewards, what kind of recognition, bonuses, praise, respect, power or benefits a certain role will bring. More than money, it is these emotional rewards that attract people into a job.
It’s the same thing with quality thoughts. If you want to attract them in, you’ve got to lay out what they can expect to receive in return for their output. Make sure you express appreciation for your ideas. Congratulate yourself. Share your ideas with others and make sure you are in a position to acknowledge their praise and compliments. Nothing beats that moment when someone looks at you and says: You are a genius!
Give your mind lots and lots of positive feedback and encouragement. Give it treats in return for its gems!
The Third Commandment: Own the Streets
Take your genius into the market place and test yourself against the best of the best. Become what marketing guru Jay Abraham calls the strategy of pre-eminence to become the absolute best there is. Doing this takes commitment, energy, and resources. But there’s no escape from it if you want to be the best. You have to get in there with the best in your field and find ways and means to stand toe to toe and slug it out with your adversaries until you own the street. If you are not out there owning it, then you can count on the fact that your competitors are.
Inwardly, owning the streets means grabbing your brain by the lapels and giving it a good going over, kicking out all the undesirables that you can. And then setting up systems to monitor those deep-seated enemies that plot and plan your downfall, so that you are always several steps ahead of them.
The Fourth Commandment: Know Your History
Geniuses throughout history have been voracious readers and students of the knowledge and ideas of other great minds. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants attempting to be giants ourselves. The wheel has already been invented. Don’t waste your time trying to invent it over again. Use the knowledge that is already available. And stand on that foundation to build new knowledge.
Whatever you want to do, become, learn or achieve… there is someone who has gone before you with similar dreams. Emulate them. Read the biographies of successful entrepreneurs if you want to grow rich in business. Read the Tiger Woods story if you want to become a better golfer. Use what’s available. You will make plenty of mistakes along the way, just make sure they are your own rather than mistakes someone else already made that you didn’t have to.
The Fifth Commandment: Do Not Ignore Analysis
Gather your sources of knowledge together. Get all the info you can. If it’s a business challenge, collect every bit of evidence there is. And then pour over it! (Or give it to the analysts to go over.)
Information is packed full of clues and answers to your problems, challenges or situations. Analysis lets you see those clues and answers. They are not always easy to spot. Sometimes they only arise when two separate pieces of information are brought together. Or when the many jigsaw bits come together to form a gestalt image enabling you to see the “big picture”.
Analysis means you’ve got to get in there with a fine toothcomb and a magnifying glass – like a health inspector at a nit-infested school!
The Sixth Commandment: Do Not Be Parochial
Learn to respect your peers in your industry or field of endeavor. They are skilled professionals, striving to do their best just as you are and you can learn from them. Be open to input from sources outside your specialty.
You can learn so much by exposing yourself to other fields of interest. The creative thought doesn’t work in a linear fashion, as we tend to expect. It blooms on multiple dimensions, following myriad paths, making unfathomable connections, drawing diverse themes and ideas together to form new ones.
A parochial mind is a closed narrow mind. By denying the world beyond, you deny yourself access to the greater parts of your brain. Travel a little. Sample the foods. Wear the outfits. Take tea with the natives. Share.
We get there faster together.
The Seventh Commandment: Train Your People
You’ve got to train regularly. If you want to operate at your peak potential, you have to keep your brain sharp through systemized training programs. Genius thinking is a learned skill. You get better at it, the more focus and attention you give it
Similarly, if you have anyone working for you and with you, you have to invest in their training so that they too can be the best in their field.
Use the short-cut of getting knowledge from experts. Sure you could do it yourself … eventually. But save yourself time, learn from the teachers, read the brain books and go to creative innovation seminars. Then build on that foundation knowledge – adding your own refinements and innovative systems.
The Eighth Commandment: Do Not Get Pushed Aside
Intelligent, insightful people are often resented and ignored. You represent a threat to the status quo. In business situations, you might be seen as challenging the authority of your immediate supervisor. They will try to sideline you, stifle you or get rid of you. Many times they will steal your ideas and claim them as their own.
You can’t let this happen. If you have identified and verified an idea’s worth, put it forward to the powers that be. By-pass middle management, by-pass anyone who seeks to keep you down or block progress.
Internally watch out for progress blockers and idea stealers. These are your lazy thoughts, your doubts, and fears. They want to stay safe in the comfort zone. They might try to suppress you or distract you with urgent things like TV, newspaper, or getting more ice cream. Push past those future-thieves, and march forward with your ideas.
The Ninth Commandment: Know when to get out
In any profession or situation, you will get bogged down if you stay too long. Find ways to move every so often, so that you can experience new places, new opportunities and learn new skills. Your brain needs to rest if it has been doing something too long. A change is as good as a rest. So move on or make sure you have fresh challenges that can be approached in new ways.
Stay too long in a pressured situation and your brain does two things. First, part of it goes to sleep and runs on autopilot (what you can ‘get away with’). Two, part of it goes into hyper drive, overreacting rather than being able to respond with ability.
The Tenth Commandment: Never Give Up
Whatever your mission or objective, keep at it patiently and never give up. Intelligence Agencies spend months trying to get on the inside so they can catch people red-handed. Sometimes it can seem as though nothing is working. You start to question whether you should give up. Then something suddenly breaks and you are in. You get what you were looking to achieve.
A mission may take 10 months to achieve. But if you give up after 9 months, it takes forever “cos it ain’t happening” at all!
Keep going, keep persisting and trying new angles. Don’t let anything stop you.