I really liked this idea– I think by Robin Sharma [1], but by many thinkers, really– that your subconscious is way smarter than you (where you = your conscious, thinking self. The spotlight of your mind). It has more bandwidth than you. It processes a lot more information than you.

Many, many great athletes, musicians, thinkers, etc– (there’s a quote by Plato in Plato’s Republic where he talks about how while you can create conditions for people to learn, the actual learning is a sort of madness) describe how their performance is something almost out of their control. They control the practice schedules, they do the hard training. The actual performance is something they surrender to.

So in life, generally speaking, if you want to “live fully” (harnessing all your abilities, perceptions, judgements, ‘power’), you need to get your subconscious involved.

Dan and Chip Heath used an elephant-and-rider analogy [2]. You are the elephant rider. Your subconscious is the elephant. If you want to achieve great things, you have to enlist the elephant. To do that you need to get acquainted with it. Understand what it likes, dislikes, what it wants, etc.

And a very humbling and inspiring realization (for me, at least) is that the subconscious is harder to bullshit. If you’re spouting bullshit, it doesn’t get involved. It shuts off and stays quiet. For you to get your subconscious involved (and now I’m thinking about Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk [3] about the muse, the genius, inspiration), you have to earn its respect.

You have to do the work, show up every day (also read– Stephen Pressfield’s The War Of Art [4]). Winning over your subconscious is just as hard– if not way harder– than winning over other people.

There is really an endless amount of material about this. Charles Duhigg alludes to it [5] when he talks about the power of habit– we make very few decisions everyday, and mostly defer to our encoded behaviors.


If you want to do anything substantial, you’re going to have to get your subconscious involved. And this is a very humbling process that the usual chest-beating motivational bravado tends to overlook.

Also recommended: Paul Graham’s essay the Top Idea In Your Mind [6]







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