How to convince someone you’re not a polar bear

It was 3am and I was sat in the nurse’s station, bleeding from my head and looking for a paper towel.

“Why did you attack me?”, I asked.

The reason was one of the things I hated most about being a mental health social worker.

I’ve always been interested in mental illnesses. Take Schizophrenia for example. It’s a fascinating condition that can cause sufferers to witness and believe all manner of fantastic and impossible things. Sufferers of schizophrenia can have delusions, hallucinations and disorganised speech, to name just three.

The movies don’t come anywhere close to doing this justice. When you see it in real life, it’s mindblowing.

Anyway, I’m not here to give you a lesson in mental health, I’m here to teach you something useful that’s tenuously connected to my life in some way…

…the reason I was dabbing the gash on my head (in a masculine, action hero, type manner, obvs).

Before I tell you the reason for my brave wound, I want you to try and think of possible reasons two grown men could end up in a fight.

Try and forget about my irritating personality for a moment…

…as well as all the other bothersome features I have.

What would make YOU want to punch a man?

Let’s compare your answer with the answer my attacker gave…

“Why did you attack me?”, I asked.

“Because you’re a polar bear who was assaulting my wife, Marilyn Manson, on the football field upstairs…”

As I said, mental health is a mindblowing beast.

How do you convince someone you’re not a polar bear?

Where do you even start?

(I’m going to stop here for a second. I shouldn’t have to say this – but I am going to anyway – my intention isn’t to poke fun at people who suffer from mental health problems – or ANY problems in fact. I’m just trying to make a point that’s tenuously linked to my life in some way, remember?)

The truth is, it’s not easy to convince someone you’re not a polar bear because it’s totally irrational.

And speaking of irrationality…

I’m presently working my way through “The Laws of Human Nature” by Robert Greene.

Actually, “working my way through” implies that I’m conversant with the material and effectively processing it.

I’m not.

It’s hard going, but an amazing read.

I’m only 1/1000000th of the way into the book, but I’ve already found something relating to business and comedy.

In the first chapter, the law of irrationality, Greene details how to guard yourself against making irrational decisions:

  1. Look at the situation from many different angles,
  2. Separate yourself from the moment, and
  3. Give yourself time to process it.

Reading this, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment.

“Hang on… this is the same process comedians use when writing jokes!”

…and then I had another…

“Hang on (again)… this is also the same process businesses should use with their marketing!”

If a comedian wants to make a joke about a subject, they’ll look at it from every possible angle. They know it’s easier to get more laughs by staying on the same topic for longer (if you change topics every minute, you have to spend longer on unfunny setups).

Comedians want to bleed a subject for all it’s worth.

If you’ve got a new product to launch, or service to promote, you should do the same – look at it from every possible angle.

  • Have you found all the features and benefits?
  • What would different audiences like/love/hate about the product?
  • How many different uses could this have? (Go nuts with this)

Spend some time with this and you’ll realise that you’ve met all Greene’s criteria for protecting yourself against irrationality – a good thing in business.

It’s all too easy to rush in when we get the spark of inspiration. Our urge to “act now before someone else swoops in and steals our idea” isn’t helped by the immediacy of social media, where you can have a brain fart in the morning and be a millionaire by lunch.

Trouble is, it’s this kind of impulsive act that can also ruin us. It’s Gerald Ratner saying that his products are “total crap”, Blockbuster saying “No” to Netflix and AltaVista not taking up Google on their $1m offer.

A bit more thought, and time, and it could’ve been very different.

Next time you have an amazing idea, treat it like a comedian does his material – spend time with it, look at it from every angle and bleed it dry for all it’s worth.

You’ll make far less stupid mistakes.

(I still don’t know how to prove I’m not a polar bear though)

Have a great weekend,

John