Teleology: Can We Change Easier Than We Think?

The Courage to Be Disliked is by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga is a book on individual psychology, a school of thought made famous by Alfred Adler. Adler was a lesser known contemporary of Sigmund Freud and opposed many of his views. One of the most interesting differences is Freud’s view of etiology compared to Adler’s view of teleology.

Much like most of the general population, Freud believed that events early on in childhood had an effect on how the child would grow into adulthood. We see this all the time in documentaries about people that explained how they grew up and how it made them to be who they were: Michael Jordan grew up with two brothers that used to beat him all the time in basketball, so now Michael Jordan is extremely competitive.

Adler, however, believed that human beings choose specific narratives or goals, and use past events that match up with it: Michael Jordan chose to be competitive at some point in time, and we are just using the fact that he had two brothers to generate a plausible explanation (but in reality it makes no difference).

If you think about it, if Michael Jordan turned out to be uncompetitive, the etiological model would say that he was uncompetitive because his brothers beat him at basketball too much and it made him dislike competition. It’s argued that Freud’s etiological stance is deterministic, and it builds up an identity attachment that can be difficult to overcome in mental illnesses.

Adler’s teleological model explains that human beings can choose to change their narrative or goal whenever they want to, and can start living whatever kind of life that they choose. One of my friends once told me that she had a quiet, timid personality when she grew up in Europe, and when moving to USA she decided that she would be outgoing, charismatic and confident. And then she simply just did it! This is an example that people aren’t just a product of their environment over time, and it is possible to change through an instantaneous, powerful decision.

Of course it seems unbelievable to think that people suffering from negative emotions or illnesses are choosing to do so, and this is probably the reason why Adler’s theory is less accepted than Freud’s theory. It could be that the person chooses to suffer because the idea of suffering is attached to their identity, and they won’t change their narrative through fear of uncertainty. They end up choosing the more familiar option of staying stuck.

In summary, teleology can be a useful way of taking control of our lives, and through choosing a empowering goal we can begin a fulfilling journey instead of carrying on with a self-defeating one.

Relentless: The Mindset You Need to Consistently Win

I recently read Tim Grover’s Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable. Grover was the physical coach of the biggest basketball stars in the world such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The book explains the mentality these unstoppable athletes had, and what separated them from all the other competitors. It’s a fascinating read, and is much more hard-hitting than a typical self-improvement book, similar to David Goggin’s no-bullshit style in Can’t Hurt Me.

Grover outlines three character archetypes – coolers, closers and cleaners. He describes in detail the different responses of these archetypes in different situations throughout the book, allowing the reader to identify with at least one of the archetypes, and maybe to strive towards the rare, ultimate title of ‘Cleaner’.

Coolers let others decide whether they’re successful; they do the job and wait to see if you approve. Closers feel successful when they get the job done. Cleaners never feel as if they’ve achieved success because there is always more to do.

Here’s the 13 characteristics of a cleaner:

You keep pushing yourself harder when everyone else has had enough.

You get into the Zone, shut out everything else, and control the uncontrollable.

You know exactly who you are.

You have a dark side that refuses to be taught to be good.

You’re not intimidated by pressure, you thrive on it.

When everyone is hitting the “In Case of Emergency” button, they’re all looking for you.

You don’t compete with anyone, you find your opponent’s weakness and you attack.

You make decisions, not suggestions; you know the answer while everyone else is still asking questions.

You don’t have to love the work, but you’re addicted to the results.

You’d rather be feared than liked.

You trust very few people, and those you trust better not let you down.

You don’t recognize failure; you know there’s more than one way to get what you want.

You don’t celebrate your achievements because you always want more.

As I read the book, names of cleaners would pop into my head, mainly from the world of professional football – Roy Keane, Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Bruno Fernandes, Steven Gerrard. The media typically describes these types of people as ‘natural-born leaders’ or ‘serial winners’. Roy Keane literally got fired from Manchester United because he was so ruthless when analyzing his teammates after a drop in standards; Sir Alex Ferguson would play mind games with his rival managers and referees to get the edge needed to win; Mourinho infamously poked a rival manager in the eye during a big game; Bruno Fernandes can be seen instructing his teammates what to do all game; Steven Gerrard dragged his less-than-fantastic Liverpool side to win multiple trophies in his career.

While reading Relentless, I realized that cleaners are few and far between – it’s tough to have a mindset like that. In the end it could be summarized by saying a cleaner is someone that is 100% secure in themselves, is never satisfied, and isn’t afraid to upset their teammates or anyone else in order to get what they want.

Do you think you can be a cleaner? If so, would you? If you could, would you hire a cleaner in your team?

Let me know in the comments below!