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My Highlights of Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz

“One of the most pleasant thoughts to any human being is the thought that he is needed, that he is important enough and competent enough to help and add to the happiness of some other human being.”

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When I wear a suit I feel different. My body is still the same, I am the same; the suit does not change my life’s story. But it changes how I feel. I feel more confident. Perhaps, subconsciously I know that others will perceive me as someone more worthy if I take care of my appearance.

Even a minor change in your appearance can make a big difference in your self-perception. 

But Dr. Maxwell Maltz, the author of Psycho-Cybernetics, focuses on more profound changes. He argues that we can completely rewire our brains and our “self-perception” using his methods. 

Maltz is a plastic surgeon who realized that plastic surgery would completely change his patients’ self-perception, greatly improving their lives.

“ When you change a man’s face you almost invariably change his future. Change his physical image and nearly always you change the man—his personality, his behavior—and sometimes even his basic talents and abilities.” 

But he claims these changes can be done beyond someone’s appearance. 

His techniques are hard to prove, but also hard to disprove. Many have worked for me. You have to suspend disbelief and just “try” them. Like the author writes at the beginning of the book: “This book has been designed not merely to be read but to be experienced.”

There is a lot of content to unpack, so I will post some of the best insights: 

Remember the small wins  

When things are not working, you can start perceiving yourself as a failure. But past victories will remind you of who you really are. Someone who, like everyone else, has ups and downs. And is not necessarily a “failure”. 

Back in 2023 I was trying to grow an ecomm store. 2022 was an incredible year for them, and 2023 looked very promising. But since I took over, they only sold 10-15% of what they sold the previous year. For me, it was a failure and a hard pill to swallow.  But remembering past successes gave me encouragement.  

“This one memory, this one positive experience, no matter how long ago it took place, is all you need to begin changing the course of your life in the present.” 

Also, having small victories can help you build back your confidence.  

“In short, science confirms that there is a “tattooing,” or action pattern, of engrams in your brain for every successful action you have ever performed in the past. And if you can somehow furnish the spark to bring that action pattern into life, or “replay” it, it will execute itself, and all you’ll have to do is “swing the clubs” and “let nature take its course.” 


“If we are habitually frustrated by failure, we are very apt to acquire habitual “feelings of failure,” which color all new undertakings. But by arranging things so that we can succeed in little things, we can build an atmosphere of success that will carry over into larger undertakings. We can gradually undertake more difficult tasks and, after succeeding in them, be in a position to undertake something even more challenging. Success is literally built upon success, and there is much truth in the saying “Nothing succeeds like success.”I suggest you have a yearly list of victories (small and big) that you can refer to whenever you need.   


“One sermon has helped me overcome pressure better than the advice of any coach. It’s substance was that, like a squirrel hoarding chestnuts, we should store up our moments of happiness and triumph so that in a crisis we can draw upon these memories for help and inspiration.”


“Confidence is built upon an experience of success. When we first begin any undertaking, we are likely to have little confidence, because we have not learned from experience that we can succeed. This is true of learning to ride a bicycle, speak in public, or perform surgery. It is literally true that success breeds success. Even a small success can be used as a stepping-stone to a greater one. ”


How to get the job you want 


“William Moulton Marston, psychologist, lawyer, and inventor, recommended what he called “rehearsal practice” to men and women who came to him for help in job advancement. If you have an important interview coming up, such as making an application for a job, his advice was: Plan for the interview in advance. Go over in your mind all the various questions that are likely to be asked. Think about the answers you are going to give. Then “rehearse” the interview in your mind. Even if none of the questions you have rehearsed come up, the rehearsal practice will still work wonders. It gives you confidence. And even though real life has no set lines to be recited like a stage play, rehearsal practice will help you to ad-lib and react spontaneously to whatever situation you find yourself in, because you have practiced reacting spontaneously.” 

I used this technique to get a job at Meta.  

I used Chat GPT, researched online, and used a list that the recruiter sent me to compile a list of about 40 questions that I would likely be asked during the interviews.  I wrote down the answers, and rehearsed for hours.  

My manager told me that I was, by far, the strongest of all the candidates. I had rehearsed 9 of the 10 questions I got asked during the interviews. 

Role-playing and practicing the interviews over and over helped me immensely. 

“Successful men and women have, since the beginning of time, used “mental pictures,” and “rehearsal practice,” to achieve success. Napoléon, for example, “practiced” soldiering in his imagination for many years before he ever went on an actual battlefield. Webb and Morgan in their book Making the Most of Your Life tell us that “the notes Napoléon made from his readings during these years of study filled, when printed, four hundred pages. He imagined himself as a commander, and drew maps of the island of Corsica showing where he would place various defenses, making all his calculations with mathematical precision.” Conrad Hilton imagined himself operating a hotel long before he ever bought one. When a boy, he used to play that he was a hotel operator.”

You can use the same technique to become better at sales:  

“It is something called role-playing, and you should know about it, because if you will let it, it may help you to double your sales.” “One is created every time you talk to a customer. He says something or asks a question or raises an objection. If you always know how to counter what he says or answer his question or handle the objection, you make sales. A role-playing salesman, at night when he is alone, will create these situations. He will imagine the prospect throwing the widest kind of curves at him. Then he will work out the best answer to them.”


Don’t try too hard

If someone told you, “you have to come up with a genius idea today”. You most likely would come up with nothing.  

You would be trying too hard and jam your “creative mechanism”. 

The best ideas, performance, and interactions, come when you are relaxed and not thinking of the outcome.  

“Who are the scholars who get ‘rattled’ in the recitation room?” asked William James. “Those who think of the possibilities of failure and feel the great importance of the act. Who are those who do recite well? Often those who are most indifferent. Their ideas reel themselves out of their memories of their own accord.” 


“You must learn to trust your Creative Mechanism to do its work and not “jam it” by becoming too concerned or too anxious as to whether it will work or not, or by attempting to force it by too much conscious effort. You must “let it” work, rather than “make it” work.” 


“Conscious effort inhibits and jams the automatic Creative Mechanism. The reason some people are self-conscious and awkward in social situations is simply that they are too consciously concerned, too anxious, about doing the right thing. They are painfully conscious of every move they make. Every action is “thought out.” Every word spoken is calculated for its effect. We speak of such persons as “inhibited,” and rightly so. But it would be more true were we to say that the person is not inhibited, but that the person has inhibited his own Creative Mechanism. ” 


“The way to make a good impression on other people is: Never consciously “try” to make a good impression on them. Never act, or fail to act, purely for consciously contrived effect. Never “wonder” consciously what the other person is thinking of you, how he is judging you. 


“Because modern man does depend almost entirely on his forebrain, he becomes too careful, too anxious, and too fearful of “results,” and the advice of Jesus to “take no thought for the morrow,” or of St. Paul to be “careful in nothing,” is regarded as impractical nonsense.”

Live according to yourself 

Modern society is obsessed with habits, goals, and self-improvement. Sure, striving is a superior state than just vegetating. But pursuing goals you don’t care about doesn’t work. 

This is why so many people sign up to the gym in January and quit in March. It’s not that they have less discipline than the others, or that they didn’t read Atomic Habits, it’s just that the gym is not for them. But maybe hiking, tennis, or Taekwondo is for them. 

Only by pursuing undertakings that are profoundly aligned with ourselves can we muster the strength to complete them. 

“Dr. Norton L. Williams, a psychiatrist, addressing a medical convention, said that modern man’s anxiety and insecurity stemmed from a lack of self-realization, and that inner security can only be found “in finding in oneself an individuality, uniqueness, and distinctiveness that is akin to the idea of being created in the image of God.”


“Noah Webster defined success as “the satisfactory accomplishment of a goal sought for.” Creative striving for a goal that is important to you as a result of your own deep-felt needs, aspirations, and talents (and not the symbols which the “Joneses” expect you to display) brings happiness as well as success because you will be functioning as you were meant to function.”


“Real success never hurt anyone. It is healthy to strive for goals that are important to you, not as status symbols, but because they are consistent with your own deep inner wants. Striving for real success—for your success—through creative accomplishment, brings a deep inner satisfaction. Striving for a phony success to please others brings a phony satisfaction.”


“Chronic frustration usually means that the goals we have set for ourselves are unrealistic, or the image we have of ourselves is inadequate, or both.” 


“A person who has the capacity to enjoy still alive within him finds enjoyment in many ordinary and simple things in life. He also enjoys whatever success in a material way he has achieved. The person in whom the capacity to enjoy is dead can find enjoyment in nothing. No goal is worth working for. Life is a terrible bore. Nothing is worthwhile. You can see these people by the hundreds night after night knocking themselves out in nightclubs trying to convince themselves they are enjoying it. They travel from place to place, become entangled in a whirl of parties, hoping to find enjoyment, always finding an empty shell. The truth is that joy is an accompaniment of creative function, of creative goal-striving. It is possible to win a fake “success,” but when you do you are penalized with an empty joy.”


“No real success or genuine happiness is possible until a person gains some degree of self-acceptance. The most miserable and tortured people in the world are those who are continually straining and striving to convince themselves and others that they are something other than what they basically are. And there is no relief and satisfaction like that which comes when one finally gives up the shams and pretenses and is willing to be himself. Success, which comes from self-expression, often eludes those who strive and strain to be somebody, and often comes, almost of its own accord, when a person becomes willing to relax and be himself.”

“When we say, “I had a feeling in my bones that I could do it,” we are not far from wrong.” 

Hard to explain, like many of the techniques in this book. 

But sometimes you just know you can “do” something. Last year, I ran a half-marathon without training. I ran 13k a few weeks before, felt quite good, and just felt that I could run a half. 

I had the same experience when I started writing a novel. I had never written a novel and it seemed like an extraordinary task, but I just felt like it’s something I can do. And I wrote it.

Very often, when you quiet down the noise and listen to your instincts carefully, you will accurately know if you can do something.

Benefit from anger

If you get in debt to buy a house, that’s ok. If you get in debt to buy Balenciaga, that’s bad. 

The same can be said about anger. If properly channeled, it can be very beneficial.  

“Properly directed and controlled, anger is an important element of courage.”


“Aggressiveness itself is not an abnormal behavior pattern as some psychiatrists once believed. Aggressiveness—along with emotional steam—is very necessary in reaching a goal. We must go out after what we want in an aggressive rather than in a defensive or tentative manner. We must grapple with problems aggressively. The mere fact of having an important goal is enough to create emotional steam in our boiler and bring aggressive tendencies into play. ”


“An old farmer said he quit tobacco for good one day when he discovered he had left his tobacco home and started to walk the two miles for it. On the way, he “saw” that he was being “used” in a humiliating way by a habit. He got mad, turned around, went back to the field, and never smoked again.”


“The failure-type personality does not direct his aggressiveness toward the accomplishment of a worthwhile goal. Instead it is used in such self-destructive channels as ulcers, high blood pressure, worry, excessive smoking, and compulsive overwork;”


“The best channel of all for aggression is to use it up as it was intended to be used—in working toward some goal. Work remains one of the best therapies, and one of the best tranquilizers for a troubled spirit.”

How to overcome addiction?

I used to smoke a pack of Marlboro Reds a day. What helped me quit, was not thinking “I will never smoke again”. It was “I will not smoke today”, or “I will not leave my apartment to go buy cigarettes today”. 

Sometimes you have to just get over the day, and face the next day, and the next day.

“Alcoholics Anonymous uses the same principle when they say, “Don’t try to stop drinking forever—merely say, ‘I will not drink today.’”


“Dr. William Osler, author of A Way of Life, said that one simple habit, which could be formed like any other habit, was the sole secret of his happiness and success in life. Live life in “day-tight compartments,” he advised his students. Look neither forward nor backward beyond a 24-hour cycle. Live today as best you can. By living today well you do the most within your power to make tomorrow better.”

We need goals

“It has been pointed out earlier that since man is a goal-striving being, he is functioning naturally and normally when he is oriented toward some positive goal and striving toward some desirable goal. Happiness is a symptom of normal, natural functioning, and when man is functioning as a goal-striver, he tends to feel fairly happy, regardless of circumstances. ”


“Psychologist H. L. Hollingworth said that happiness requires problems, plus a mental attitude that is ready to meet distress with action toward a solution.”


“I have found one of the most effective means of helping people achieve an adequate or successful personality is to first of all give them a graphic picture of what the successful personality looks like. Remember, the creative guidance mechanism within you is a goal-striving mechanism, and the first requisite for using it is to have a clear-cut goal or target to shoot for. A great many people want to improve themselves, and long for a better personality, but have no clear-cut idea of the direction in which improvement lies, or what constitutes a good personality. A good personality is one that enables you to deal effectively and appropriately with the environment and reality, and to gain satisfaction from reaching goals that are important to you.”


“Time and again, I have seen confused and unhappy people straighten themselves out when they were given a goal to shoot for and a straight course to follow.” ”


“We are engineered as goal-seeking mechanisms. We are built that way. When we have no personal goal that we are interested in and that “means something” to us, we are apt to “go around in circles,” feel “lost,” and find life itself “aimless” and “purposeless.” We are built to conquer environment, solve problems, achieve goals, and we find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve. People who say that life is not worthwhile are really saying that they themselves have no personal goals that are worthwhile.”

…but take the pressure away from goals


“Throughout his work, Dr. Maltz used two terms that some people find more beneficial than the word “goal.” The word “goal” causes a negative reaction or feeling of tension in some people. But if they use the word “project” or “cause,” they understand what they need to do. For example, Bob Bly, a successful writer and marketing master, insists he’s never set a goal in his life, but he always has “projects” on his desk—always has something he’s working on achieving. And, in the same vein, when I asked my young daughter, [Faith], what she wanted to accomplish, she replied, “I don’t know.” So I changed my question to “What would you like to do?” She instantly began telling me what she wanted to get “good at”—not just do. If the word “goal” is not to your liking, use another word to help rather than hinder you on your journey.”


How to have more friends? 


“Loneliness is a way of self-protection. Lines of communication with other people—and especially any emotional ties—are cut down. It is a way to protect our idealized self against exposure, hurt, humiliation. The lonely personality is afraid of other people. The lonely person often complains that he has no friends, and there are no people to mix with. In most cases, he unwittingly arranges things in this manner because of his passive attitude, that it is up to other people to come to him, to make the first move, to see that he is entertained. It never occurs to him that he should contribute something to any social situation.”


“Regardless of your feelings, force yourself to mix and mingle with other people. After the first cold plunge, you will find yourself warming up and enjoying it if you persist. Develop some social skill that will add to the happiness of other people: dancing, bridge, playing the piano, tennis, conversation. It is an old psychological axiom that constant exposure to the object of fear immunizes against the fear. “As the lonely person continues to force himself into social relations with other human beings—not in a passive way, but as an active contributor—he will gradually find that most people are friendly, and that he is accepted. His shyness and timidity begin to disappear. He feels more comfortable in the presence of other people and with himself. The experience of their acceptance of him enables him to accept himself.” 


“Develop a more self-reliant attitude. Assume responsibility for your own life and emotional needs. Try giving affection, love, approval, acceptance, understanding to other people, and you will find them coming back to you as a sort of reflex action.”


“An oyster is never “hurt.” He has a thick shell that protects him from everything. He is isolated. An oyster is secure, but not creative. He cannot “go after” what he wants—he must wait for it to come to him. An oyster knows none of the “hurts” of emotional communication with his environment—but neither can an oyster know the joys.”


Courage in little things 


“Nothing in this world is ever absolutely certain or guaranteed. Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk—and to act. We often think of courage in terms of heroic deeds on the battlefield, in a shipwreck or similar crisis. But everyday living requires courage, too, if it is to be effective.” 


“Another helpful suggestion is to practice acting boldly and with courage in regard to “little things.” Do not wait until you can be a big hero in some dire crisis. Daily living also requires courage—and by practicing courage in little things, we develop the power and talent to act courageously in more important matters.”  


“Jack Dempsey used to get so nervous before a fight, he couldn’t shave himself. His excitement was such that he couldn’t sit or stand still. He did not, however, interpret this excitement as fear. He did not decide that he should run away because of it. He went forward, and used the excitement to put extra dynamite into his blows.” 


“Philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell tells of a technique that he used on himself to good advantage in toning down excessive excitement: “When some misfortune threatens, consider seriously and deliberately what is the very worst that could possibly happen. Having looked this possible misfortune in the face, give yourself sound reasons for thinking that after all it would be no such very terrible disaster. Such reasons always exist, since at the worst nothing that happens to oneself has any cosmic importance. ”

You are much stronger than you think 


“Common experience teaches that, when great demands are made upon us, if only we fearlessly accept the challenge and confidently expend our strength, every danger or difficulty brings its own strength—‘As thy days so shall thy strength be.’”


“The secret lies in the attitude of fearlessly accepting the challenge, and confidently expending our strength. This means maintaining an aggressive, goal-directed attitude, rather than a defensive, evasive, negative one: No matter what happens, I can handle it, or I can see it through, rather than I hope nothing happens.” 

Do one thing at the time


“Another cause of confusion, and the resulting feelings of nervousness, hurry, and anxiety, is the absurd habit of trying to do many things at one time. When we feel jittery, or worried, or anxious in thinking of the great amount of work that lies before us, the jittery feelings are not caused by the work, but by our mental attitude—which is “I ought to be able to do this all at once.” We become nervous because we are trying to do the impossible, and thereby making futility and frustration inevitable. “The truth is: We can only do one thing at a time. Realizing this, fully convincing ourselves of this simple and obvious truth, enables us to mentally stop trying to do the things that lie next, and to concentrate all our awareness, all our responsiveness, on this one thing we are doing now. When we work with this attitude, we are relaxed, we are free from the feelings of hurry and anxiety, and we are able to concentrate and think at our best.” 


“You can have many goals, but concentrating on just one at a time will help you accomplish far more than attempting to focus on many at once. Get the fire of desire started within being single-minded about one goal and the flame will naturally spread to the others without you forcing it.”

Memorable Passages From Psycho-Cybernetics 


“The man who conceives himself to be a “failure-type person” will find some way to fail, in spite of all his good intentions, or his willpower, even if opportunity is literally dumped in his lap. The person who conceives himself to be a victim of injustice, one “who was meant to suffer,” will invariably find circumstances to verify his opinions.”


“Do the thing and you will have the power,” – Emerson. 


“It is a well-known psychological fact that the people who become offended the easiest have the lowest self-esteem. ”


“We need yearly vacations where we physically “vacate” the old scenes, the old duties, the old responsibilities, “get away from it all.”


“Most people are brave only in the dangers to which they accustom themselves, either in imagination or practice,” said Bulwer-Lytton, the English novelist.”


“It is a well-known psychological fact that the people who become offended the easiest have the lowest self-esteem. ”


“Make a habit of speaking louder than usual. Inhibited people are notoriously soft-spoken. Raise the volume of your voice. You don’t have to shout at people and use an angry tone—just consciously practice speaking louder than usual. Loud talk in itself is a powerful disinhibitor. Recent experiments have shown that you can exert up to 15 percent more strength, and lift more weight, if you shout, grunt, or groan loudly as you make the lift.” 


“Have you ever wondered why the “urge” or desire to gamble seems to be instinctive in human nature? My own theory is that this universal “urge” is an instinct, which, when used correctly, urges us to bet on ourselves, to take a chance on our own creative potentialities. When we have faith and act with courage—that is exactly what we’re doing—gambling on, and taking a chance on, our own creative God-given talents. It is also my theory that people who frustrate this natural instinct, by refusing to live creatively and act with courage, are the people who develop “gambling fever” and become addicts of gambling tables. A man who will not take a chance on himself must bet on something. And the man who will not act with courage sometimes seeks the feeling of courage from a bottle. Faith and courage are natural human instincts and we feel a need to express them—in one way or another.” 


“You do not have to answer the telephone. You do not have to obey. You can, if you choose, totally ignore the telephone bell. You can, if you choose, continue sitting quietly and relaxed—maintaining your own original state of organization, by refusing to respond to the signal. Get this mental picture clearly in your mind for it can be quite helpful in overcoming the power of external stimuli to disturb you.” 


“After thousands of experiments and many years of research Lecky concluded that poor grades in school are, in almost every case, due in some degree to the students’ “self-conception” and “self-definition.” These students had been literally hypnotized by such ideas as “I am dumb,” “I have a weak personality,” “I am poor in arithmetic,” “I am a naturally poor speller,” “I am ugly,” “I do not have a mechanical type mind,” etc. With such self-definitions, the student had to make poor grades in order to be true to himself. Unconsciously, making poor grades became a “moral issue” with him. It would be as wrong, from his own viewpoint, for him to make good grades, as it would be to steal if he defines himself as an honest person.”


“Charles William Eliot, president of Harvard (1869–1909), made a speech on what he called the “Habit of Success.” Many failures in elementary schools, he said, were due to the fact that students were not given, at the very beginning, a sufficient amount of work at which they could succeed, and thus never had an opportunity to develop the “Atmosphere of Success,” or what we call “the winning feeling.” The student, he said, who had never experienced success early in his school life, had no chance to develop the “habit of success”—the habitual feeling of faith and confidence in undertaking new work. He urged that teachers arrange work in the early grades so as to insure that the student experienced success. The work should be well within the ability of the student, yet interesting enough to arouse enthusiasm and motivation. These small successes, said Dr. Eliot, would give the student the “feel of success,” which would be a valuable ally in all future undertakings.”


“Sir Harry Lauder, the famous Scottish actor and comedian, once admitted that he had practiced a certain routine 10,000 times in private before ever giving the performance publicly. Lauder was, in effect, “shadowboxing” with an imaginary audience.”


“Stop criticizing yourself. The inhibited person indulges in self-critical analysis continually. After each action, however simple, he says to himself, “I wonder if I should have done that.” After he has gotten up courage enough to say something, he immediately says to himself, “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Maybe the other person will take it the wrong way.” Stop all this tearing yourself apart.”


“When once a decision is reached and execution is the order of the day, dismiss absolutely all responsibility and care about the outcome. Unclamp, in a word, your intellectual and practical machinery, and let it run free; and the service it will do you will be twice as good.”


“Admiral William F. Halsey’s personal motto was a quotation from Nelson, “No Captain can do very wrong if he places his Ship alongside that of an Enemy.” “‘The best defense is a strong offense,’ is a military principle,” said Halsey, “but its application is wider than war. All problems, personal, national, or combat, become smaller if you don’t dodge them, but confront them. Touch a thistle timidly, and it pricks you; grasp it boldly and its spines crumble.” 


“If you have been wrestling with a problem all day without making any apparent progress, try dismissing it from your mind, and put off making a decision until you’ve had a chance to “sleep on it.” Remember that your Creative Mechanism works best when there is not too much interference from your conscious “I.” In sleep, the Creative Mechanism has an ideal opportunity to work independently of conscious interference, if you have previously started the wheels turning.”


“Emptiness is a symptom that you are not living creatively. You either have no goal that is important enough to you, or you are not using your talents and efforts in striving toward an important goal” 


“The unhappiest of mortals is that man who insists on reliving the past, over and over in imagination—continually criticizing himself for past mistakes—continually condemning himself for past sins.”


“Another help in overcoming uncertainty is to realize the role that self-esteem, and the protection of self-esteem, play in indecisiveness. Many people are indecisive because they fear loss of self-esteem if they are proved wrong. Use self-esteem for yourself, instead of against yourself, by convincing yourself of this truth: Big men and big personalities make mistakes and admit them. It is the little man who is afraid to admit he has been wrong.”

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