In my efforts to satisfy my need to always learn new things, I read and listen to audio information (books on tape, classes, webinars, etc.) And mostly I find out something useful from all of it. From reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and the Daniel Ariely books about the choices we make, to ongoing studies of Neuro Linguistic Programming, and lots of study and reading about the stock market, real estate markets, to Brian Greene’s books about the universe and stuff about quantum physics and how the big atom smasher might destroy the earth, and even stuff about relationships and how to raise children, fish, and other things — I get lots of info.

One of the most useful things I have studied is in the area of NLP — Neuro Linguistic Programming. Because it (along with another obscure field called Spiral Dynamics) is a study of why we do the things we do, and how we can predict what someone else is likely to do in a given situation.

One of the “discoveries”  of NLP — or at least one of the things that is a tenet — is that the conscious mind can only remember 5-7 things at a time. So if you (by yourself!) write down, in 1 minute, the name of every breakfast cereal you can think of, most people will write down 5-7 items. Why is this important?

Because if we can only think of 5-7 ways to do something, 5-7 ways to solve a problem, 5-7 people to call who might have an answer we need, then we are limited by that. Napoleon Hill, in “Think and Grow Rich”, says that Mastermind sessions are one of the ways that successful people operate. It is because in these sessions, you can get MORE than 5-7 ways, because the breakfast cereals I think of will be different than the ones you think of.  So a group of people will be able to find better solutions than one by themselves.

This is similarly the basis for the “right” solution to the famous “desert island” problem, where there are a bunch of survivors of a shipwreck on a deserted island, and the problems to solve involve allocation of resources (water, matches, blankets) and what to do to signal for help. Each participant in the game comes up with their answers, and turns them in, then the group comes up with their consensus answers, and that solution is almost always better than any of the individual answers.

Another useful piece of information from NLP is useful in determining whether someone is remembering something or making up a story. There are specific, involuntary things we all do, depending on what part of our minds we are accessing — and let me tell you, this is an invaluable piece of knowledge to have in your pocket during a job interview — whether you are the hiring manager or the candidate.

So how many cereals can you think of?