What’s your phone booth moment?
If you watch super hero movies, chances are you well know Clark Kent going into a phone booth to transform himself into Superman. If you don’t, let me tell you Clark Kent and Superman are same alien (I shouldn’t say person because Superman’s an alien). Clark Kent, just like you and me, walks among the public and has a day job. Superman? well you know him… he protects the earth by fighting villains, monsters and stuff.
But which one is the alter ego really? Google defines ‘alter ego’ as a person’s secondary or alternative personality. Its literal Latin meaning is ‘the other I’, or better yet ‘a second self’ and a ‘trusted friend’. The author says countless times 90% of the people say superman is the alter ego. It sounds right. Because when you think of alter ego, you think superpowers and epic battles. Except it’s wrong.
Alter ego isn’t superman. It’s Clark. Superman is the real identity. He created Clark, a mild-mannered reporter to go unnoticed day-to-day on earth and blend in. In other words, Superman created his alter ego to serve a purpose, to understand humans.
Beyoncé has talked about her ‘alter ego’ in multiple interviews. In her own words:
“When I see a video of myself onstage or TV, I’m like, ‘Who’s that girl?’ I’ve created an alter ego: things I do when performing I would never do normally. I reveal things about myself that I wouldn’t do in an interview.
I have out-of-body experiences (onstage). If I cut my leg, if I fall I don’t’ even feel it. I’m so fearless. I’m not aware of my face or body.
I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m onstage. This alter ego that I’ve created that kind of protects me and who I really am.”
Four layers that surround your core self
- Your core drivers – what motivates you at a grander scale than yourself
- Your belief system – how do you define yourself and the world around you
- Your action – how you show up everyday
- Your field of play – what’s happening around you, where you show up
The core driver: “I’m doing this for my family” “I’m doing this for a greater cause…”
The belief layer: “I’m a powerful force for change” “I love the challenge…”
The action layer: “I can’t know everything, but I’ll give it my best” “I’m extremely calm under high pressure.”
The field of play: “Failure is a block I turn into a steppingstone” “I’ve got so many allies, waiting to help me.”
Therapists believe everyone has numerous selves inside us.
The idea of different personas isn’t confined to athletes or performers. As one of the therapists says, “I have not met a single client who does not have several or numerous different selves (alter egos).”. If that’s true, there’s no reason we shouldn’t use different personas to our advantage.
Researchers have started validating the idea of space and distance between our identities.
One study split kids into 3 groups. The kids were then given a set of keys to open a locked glass box with a toy inside. The catch? None of the keys are supposed to work. Each of the kid was also asked to think of themselves as a certain TV character or action hero.
The purpose of the study is to find out how they kids would unlock the box and whether they would even try again (once they find out the keys are not working). What the researchers found was that kids who worked the longest were those thinking of themselves as Batman or Dora. The power of identity – how the kids see themselves – turns out to be a deciding factor in their persistence to get their favorite toy.
The sad truth for most of us is, our real selves are trapped by some negative story.
The ordinary world where our real selves walk is most often destructive and uninspired. It’s easy to stay trapped. No one will ever know if you remain there. But you will always know.
It’s when we move onto the extra ordinary world, we see sunshine and rainbows. And your way to extraordinary world starts with activating your alter ego, your second self.
There’s no single field that we play in.
Ever wonder why Todd refers to the fourth layer as the ‘field of play’? We carry our numerous selves into many different fields in our lives, many different stages and arenas. Each one demands a different set of skills, attitudes and mindsets to be successful. This is why alter is so powerful. You’re intentionally becoming someone who dominate the field.
And don’t forget to play. Life is already hard enough with hardships and struggles. But it doesn’t mean you can’t take the same playful attitude you had when you were a kid.
2 steps to build your alter ego character
- Pick a name (use the name you admire from TV character, superhero, entertainer, public figure, animal, athlete, family member, etc.…)
- Give it superpowers (relevant to the context)
Beyoncé uses Sasha Fierce as an alter ego onstage. The name Fierce has an attitude to be bold and creative. Superstar Kobe Bryant used Black Mamba, which he got from the movie Kill Bill. The name represents agility and aggressiveness. And when Todd faces new business opportunities, he calls upon ‘Catracho Spearo’. Catracho is a nickname for Hondurans, and Spearo is the word for a spearfishing guide in Honduras.
Inspiration for you alter ego’s name and superpowers can come in many forms. And it typically evolves over time so never expect to get it perfect.
Target mapping means you work backwards from your goal.
Others call it ‘end-in-mind’. Extremely successful people set a goal, then work backwards to help themselves see all the important milestones they must attain for the end goal to happen.
No matter how successful you are, you will feel you’re underperforming.
Even elite athletes and greatest investors struggle somewhere on their playing field. The ones who succeed are the ones willing to reflect and get honest about how they’re showing up.
For there to be light, there has to be dark. For there to be up, there has to be down. For there to be the hero, there has to be the enemy. It’s the way life is. It’s about balance.
3 forces that undermine your core identity
- Imposter syndrome (feeling that you don’t belong to the greats and that your success is all about luck or genes than your hard work)
- Personal trauma
- Tribal narratives (narrative that we’ve been told for generations. “we’re not entrepreneurs”, “you can’t be an artist”, “you must be a doctor”)
Make your enemy fierce.
Give it a name. Make it sound scary. Make it intense. Pick a name of someone or something that holds you back. If you decide to pick an animal, use something like ‘wolf’. Or give the wolf a name ‘Cristobal’. Say “Hey Cristobal! This is my time. I’m not ruled by you anymore. So, back off!’
What do you think of when you see or hear the word ‘shy’?
Do you think of literal meaning as defined in Oxford dictionary? Or do you think of someone who’s shy or a memory built around that? What about fistfight, gossip, investing, cooking, flying? The point is to stop telling yourself a negative story. You aren’t shy. You just haven’t learnt to use your alter ego.
Beware of self-reflection paradox.
The idea of asking yourself challenging or difficult questions like what do you want in life? Or why do you want it? can tie you up in a psychological knot.
To fight this paradox, speak to yourself from the third-person’s viewpoint. This self-distancing technique helps you harness the power of alter ego effect even more. So, Jane may talk to herself “Why doesn’t Jane want to write best-selling novels?”, and the author would say something like “What’s the purpose of Todd’s life?”
Now it’s your turn.
Superman steps into the phone booth and tears open his shirt. Wonder Woman spins to transform into Wonder Woman. Spider-man pulls on his mask as he dashes towards the enemy.
And what are you stepping into? What’s your alter ego?
More exercises to build your alter ego character
Relax yourself. Imagine watching your character growing up from birth till now. What shaped them? What do they do differently from you? How do they look? How do they speak? What feelings do they have? What skills and attributes do they possess?
Imagine yourself in a lab coat, formulating your alter ego. What are you adding? What are you taking away?
Write a full conversation between you and your alter ego. Pretend you are stuck in an elevator together. You have no one else to talk to but each other.
6 mindsets to win
- Bring It On!
- I’m Ready for Anything!
- I’m a Creative Force!
- I Love to Play!
- I Wonder What Will Happen?!
- I Believe I Can Change!