The Elusive Obvious (#895)

Many years ago, I was brought in to consult on an advertising campaign designed to increase the use of seat belts in the backseat of cars in the UK. The creative team proudly showed me a series of horrific photos they had assembled of people maimed and killed in accidents that could have been prevented if the passengers had only been wearing their seat belts.

After looking through all the pictures and listening to their pitch, I was struck by one simple question:

“Haw many of you either already did or have started to buckle up in the backseat since working on this campaign?”

To their chagrin, not a single hand was raised. The entire campaign was scrapped and they went back to the drawing board, ultimately coming up with something that was much less graphic but much more effective.

This was typical of something I have noticed in my work from the beginning – the most powerful interventions often involve the least amount of effort on my part. When I first began working with Dr. Richard Bandler in the early 2000’s, I shared my observation with him, asking him if he too found that the biggest shifts often came from pointing out the obvious to people who somehow were managing to overlook it, sometimes for years at a time.

He looked at me with his trademark snarl, then his face softened into a delighted smile.

“Why do you think I called my first book “The Elusive Obvious”?

Since that time, I have come to realize that lives are changed and businesses transformed most often through discrete moments of insight – the sudden seeing of something which has always been true, but had somehow gotten clouded over in the midst of people’s thinking.

This is useful to see both personally and with regard to helping others. On a personal level, your life will change not so much because you do something different as because you see something present beyond the filter of the past.

Similarly, the reason we can inevitably solve other people’s problems so much more simply than our own is because we have the luxury of viewing their lives without having to wade through the maze of personal thinking that obscures their view of the elusive obvious.

This suggests a very different path of development to the more/better/stronger goal of self-empowerment and self-esteem. Instead of trying to become a better person, we let go of the ideas of what a “better person” would be, do, and have, and see what’s actually already true about us, about others, and about life. As my mentor George Pransky once told me, “The path to a better life is more of a mining operation than a manufacturing one.”

What I’ve seen up to this point in time is that there is both good news and bad news when we see the truth about ourselves. The bad news is that when it gets right down to it, we don’t control the universe; the good news is, we are the universe, already whole within ourselves and infinite in our creative potential.

To see that for yourself, you simply need to take a fresh look at who and what you are without any attempt to fix, change, or improve what you see. In the words of Franz Kafka:

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still, and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.


With all my love,


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