If you’re like me, you spent years of your life being guided by ‘invisible scripts’. These are scripts that dictate your behaviour, habits and life choices. These are cultural narratives that are passed down by your parents, society, friends and culture. There are stories you are either dead sure about yourself or are ‘invisible’ to your life.
There are interesting invisible scripts that guide your lives. I pick out from hearing friends and family talk about relationships, money and success:
‘If I did X, what if my friends no longer hang out with me?’
‘What if I’m being unrealistic in my goals?’
‘To be successful at business, I need to attend networking events and connections’.
‘I need seed capital to start a business’.
These are the scripts that guide your life and my life.
In life, your biggest weaknesses are almost always going to you your biggest results. Your weakest links are also often guided by invisible scripts.
In my own dating life, I got competent at face to face interactions but almost always sucked at texting a girl. That’s because I had an invisible script telling me that I had to be someone different when texting her.
In my blog, writing is of my key strengths. It’s easy for me. However, content promotion was my weakness. I was uncomfortable with my articles getting rejected or criticized, hence I never promoted it. I had an invisible script telling me that it’s the end of the world if someone didn’t like my writing.
In fitness, I got proficient at martial arts, however, I didn’t go to the gym or lift weights consistently. I had an invisible script telling me the gym is only for meatheads.
In my personal productivity system, I’ve always been more creative and willing to go with the flow. I had an invisible script telling myself ‘I’m not disciplined or structured’. However, through the years, I found out I also can be disciplined and structured.
Through the years, I had really painful invisible scripts that dictated the majority of my life, caused a lot of emotional unrest and self-doubt. Here they are:
Invisible Script 1: You Just Can’t Focus
I used to be the Asian kid did well in school till I got disinterested and then sucked at school completely. Through the years, I got disinterested in school and sucked at school.
Over the years, I started believing certain labels that family, teachers and friends told me about myself:
‘You just can’t focus in school’
‘You’re just not good at academics’
‘You just suck at authority’
Over the years, I learned that I’m actually pretty OKAY at focusing, I CAN quiet the world outside of me, focus on the job at hand, whether be it publishing an article, a sales page and not procrastinate and find excuses around it. I also found out that I don’t suck at school, I just sucked at it at a period of time due to certain circumstances.
Invisible Script 2: You Need a Degree to be Successful in Business
How many times do you hear that you NEED a degree to succeed financially in life? Even worst: a business related degree to succeed in business.
Some time ago, I was going to pause my accounting degree and make that leap of faith to take up a psychology degree, a subject I was much more interested in.
I asked friends and family for feedback and almost everyone said:
‘Marcus, you should just finish your accounting degree that has 6 more modules.’
There were also other fears at the back in my head. I was following what society expected of me. To graduate with a practical accounting degree and get a job in the financial industry. The typical Singaporean route.
I used the same excuse a thousand times over: ‘I’m going to do accounting and join some financial firm and make millions as a fund manager ‘
I actually hated my accounting modules, wasn’t really good at them and I was quite certain what they teach in finance is hogwash. Read: I did read extensively on finance outside of University.
Through the years, I also hear from friends saying that they apply close to nothing they learnt in University in their jobs.
Secondly, you can always get a sales job and earn as much as someone with good academic records. There’s a little correlation between academic performance and financial success.
Over the last couple of years, I made my first dollar in business as an SEO freelancer and then dating and life coaching programs as an entrepreneur. I also negotiated thousand dollar deals that are my own products and services. I made more money out of my own name than the majority of my friends that studied or graduated from business school.
Invisible Script 3: ‘I’m just not a numbers guy’
Initially, I was afraid of tracking numbers. You know, key performance indicators and all of that. I never really measured results in most areas of my life:
- Counting calories
- Being time specific in my schedule
- Digital marketing key performance indicators such as conversions and SEO rankings
- Investment results
- Business income results
Underneath all of it, I was afraid of failure and being objective. I just told myself: I’m just not the numbers guy. In fact, I’m quite the numbers guy. For example, I make decisions based on the statistic that index funds outperform the majority of fund managers and mutual funds.
Invisible Script 4: ‘You Need to be Practical to Make Money’
I started my first business as an SEO consulting business. I also taught a couple of SEO courses to small medium enterprises. However, in the long run, I don’t see myself as an SEO agency owner. The best SEO in the world dives deep into link building strategies, creating linkable assets, broken link building and etc. Yes, I got the fundamentals, however, I’m not extra passionate about it.
However, I found myself going back to psychology, relationships, communicating and working with people. I hesitated for YEARS on starting my dating consulting business because I told myself ‘you need to be practical to make money, SEO is practical’.
This is similar to another invisible script: you need to graduate from an accounting degree! That guided me for years.
How to Overcome Your Invisible Scripts
Sometimes, invisible scripts are easy to pick out, and some of them remain unconscious for years. They can range from simple behaviours to more complex behaviours from:
- Talking to a stranger at a bar, approaching a girl you like
- Finally deciding to track your calories
- Putting in the hours to perform well for examinations
- Start investing in a low-cost index fund
Through the years, I figured that there are similarities in overcoming your invisible scripts:
Solution 1: View Failure Differently
The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid doing it. Why you don’t do what you need to do is rooted in an underlying fear of both failure and success.
The raise that you never ask for. The girl you never ask out. The brother you never dare confront. Saying no to friends. That business you don’t bother to start. The degree you procrastinated for half a decade.
Tactics are easy, our identities are the hardest to navigate:
- I don’t ask a girl out that I was unsure about because that’ll challenge my identity of someone that was inherently good at girls.
- I took a practical degree because I identified myself as a ‘practical’ person.
This also entails giving up grand ideas about ourselves and our pursuits. Perhaps, I wasn’t a pragmatist as much as I thought. Maybe I wasn’t that attractive and still had a lot to improve. Maybe I didn’t suck at school that much, I was just afraid of failing.
If you saw failure differently, as something that is a key component to mastery in any aspect of life. You’re free to act again. It’s only when you let go of your stories of failure or success. In fact, life works in a backwards way where your comfort with failure is going to determine a lot of your success.
Some important questions:
- If you succeed or fail, what would success or failure say about you?
- What did failure and rejection mean for you
If you saw yourself as someone is measured through your failures or successes, you’re going to take success or failure too seriously. Every small failure or potential success is going to threaten your identity. Hence, you avoid failure or success at all costs.
However, if you saw failure differently, and defined yourself in the simplest and most mundane form: as someone who simply fails and succeeds at things, you’re now free to act.
Solution 2: Create the Environment for Inevitable Success
If all your friends know you as the fat guy, you’ll always stay the fat guy. If all your friends know you as the martial artist, you’ll always stay the martial artist. Your environment matters.
There are decades of psychological research saying that willpower is not enough. Hard work and pushing through is not enough. People that get good at any area of life use leverage for optimal results. You need to create an environment that pushes you for inevitable success.
Something I did last year was to stop providing my freelance services under a certain price. I told myself: you’re now officially an entrepreneur. That tiny decision changed my approach towards my business, systems and how I allocate time to clients and projects. I needed to figure out a smarter marketing angle, paid strategies to get more clients and position my business better so I can price my services more competitively.
If I didn’t make that change in environment, I’ll continue underselling my services and keep at that routine.
Solution 3: Strategize and Structure Your Fears
In the past, how I’ll learn a skill is to obsess on it for hours, consume all the angles, tutorials on it and overcompensate. This approach helped me pick up skills quickly, get results quickly, however, it also meant that I got distracted easily and I don’t stick to my projects.
I often get bored quickly and it wasn’t sustainable.
There’s also a lack of strategy to this approach. The best mix martial artists to boxers don’t just work hard and smart, they strategize, and plot every single step of their way.
You cannot get over your invisible scripts by doing more or working harder. It rarely works that way. You need to sit back and strategize:
In my business, I overworked myself by testing out too many platforms at once. Instead of wasting time on trying to get more clients by using too many marketing channels at a go, it’s much smarter to sit down and ask yourself: how can you position yourself in a manner that justifies a higher price that you want to charge?
It’s the same for dating. Let’s say if you failed in your last relationship. Instead of chasing a rebound, you should step back and ask: how can I improve myself to become generally more attractive to women?
There’s absolutely no shame in ‘not hustling’ and taking a step back to see what how you’re using your time and productivity. Your strategy is one of the most important aspects of all areas of life you need to look into on a daily basis.
That’s how you get over your invisible scripts, by sitting back, questioning them and finding ways about it.