Bending Reality: The Strange Connection Between Breakthroughs and Belief

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Chris Dima

Founder and CEO

Dec 12, 2013

Belief is a powerful biological weapon of disruption.

It has initiated the rise of religions, contributed to the fall of empires, taken humanity to the moon and back, and can completely change how we perceive the world around us.

The enormous role that this somewhat mystical force plays in the success of a new product or business cannot be overstated.

One of the biggest misconceptions about entrepreneurship is that you need to have a crazy high risk tolerance or be oblivious to the almost impossible odds of success.

Most successful entrepreneurs are aware that the deck is almost always stacked in the house’s favor. However, by using belief as a catalyst, they are able to produce the cards needed to win (breakthrough ideas, talent, money) – seemingly at random.

Except the results are not random – and the powerful effect that belief has on those involved with the project essentially allows you to count cards by altering your perception of reality.

Why Reality Might Be an Illusion

We all perceive the world in a slightly different way. One could even say that the subjective reality we live in is a lot like a fingerprint (the CIA is apparently very interested in this) because no two people experience the world in exactly the same way – but why is this?

This may seem odd at first, but when you think about it, the human body is really like a giant mobile device. Since we aren’t plugged into a wall our body and brain operate on a finite energy supply so energy efficiency is key.

The brain is constantly processing an incredible amount of information. Over time we have developed ways to construct the world around us more efficiently, conserving power and increasing our odds of survival when times get tough.

In computing, one way to cut down on processing power is to create and utilize a cache of frequently accessed data.

It turns out that the brain uses this technique as well by subconsciously filling gaps of missing information. This means that what you see or how you see things can be limited or altered by this existing cache of information.

Fascinating side note: In addition to building a cache of data, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently discovered that the brain even has special cells that geotag certain memories.

Essentially, the brain uses shortcuts to display much of what see and consider to be “reality”. Many optical illusions exploit this principle to create some extremely cleaver tricks that at first appear to be impossible or defy the laws of physics.

The two optical illusions in the video above appear to be impossible until the camera is rotated. This changes our viewpoint which alters perspective, effectively rebuilding our stored cache of information.

If you watch this video for a second or third time, the effect or illusion becomes much less pronounced. This is because your perspective or cache of information has been forever changed.

The act of believing in something can have a similar effect on your perspective, fundamentally altering your perception of reality. This allows you to see information that is otherwise unavailable and find hidden answers to extremely difficult problems.

The Reality Distortion Field

Living in what some people refer to as a reality distortion field, Steve Jobs was a master of using belief as a catalyst to achieve breakthroughs.

Those who worked with Jobs will tell you that he was extremely skilled at convincing others that a product or service should work a certain way even if it was deemed impossible at the time.

By developing a core set of strong beliefs around how technology should work, Jobs was able to produce amazing breakthroughs and influence the mass adoption of revolutionary technologies like WiFi and touch screens. Steve never got lost figuring out how to do something – instead, he focused on building a culture that ignored perceived limitations.

What’s mind blowing is that the success of many breakthrough projects at Apple and other great companies may have been unknowingly determined before the first lines of code were even written.

Entrepreneurs and founders who find success usually embrace a set of beliefs and are relentless in their pursuit to create something better. Once you truly believe that, you will find a way to make something work – the odds of success become an irrelevant distraction.

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