How Entrepreneurs Get Duped with a Single Word: A Language Hack that Can Work For You or Against You

How Entrepreneurs Get Duped with a Single Word: A Language Hack that Can Work For You or Against You


Let’s jump right in and talk about some brain science, shall we?

In the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, he shares an experiment that was one of the catalysts for my unquenchable interest in the power of language and influence.

Here’s an excerpt from Gladwell’s book:

Imagine that I’m a professor, and I’ve asked you to come and see me in my office. You walk down a long corridor, come through the doorway, and sit down at a table. In front of you is a sheet of paper with a list of five-word sets. I want you to make a grammatical four-word sentence as quickly as possible out of each set. It’s called a scrambled-sentence test. Ready?

  1. him was worried she always
  2. from are Florida oranges temperature
  3. ball the throw toss silently
  4. shoes give replace old the
  5. he observes occasionally people watches
  6. be will sweat lonely they
  7. sky the seamless gray is
  8. should now withdraw forgetful we
  9. us bingo sing play let
  10. sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisins

That seemed straightforward, right? Actually it wasn’t. After you finished that test—believe it or not—you would have walked out of my office and back down the hall more slowly than you walked in. With that test, I affected the way you behaved. How? Well, look back at the list. Scattered throughout it are certain words, such as “worried,” “Florida,” “old,” “lonely,” “gray,” “bingo,” and “wrinkle.” You thought that I was just making you take a language test. But, in fact, what I was also doing was making the big computer in your brain—your adaptive unconscious—think about the state of being old. It didn’t inform the rest of your brain about its sudden obsession.

This test was devised by a very clever psychologist named John Bargh. It’s an example of what is called a priming experiment.

So, let’s break that down. By seeing a string of words that held an association with a certain concept (in this case: old), your subconscious mind then pieced them together without you realizing it in such a strong way that your motor skills were affected so much so that you slowed down as you walk away.


We experience this phenomenon daily. Sometimes realizing it – usually not.

Here’s how it works.

Your brain is constantly working on be being as efficient as possible. It looks for shortcuts to reach conclusions. Your brain is constantly filling in the gaps between the information it has available.

We do this visually all the time. It is most easily identified with optical illusions.

Take a look at the photograph below….


Do you see anything other than a woman standing underneath the Eiffel Tower? The first thing I noticed was a face in the image…long before I saw the picture for its components of a woman, trees, and shadows on the rain-soaked ground.

Why do we see a face? Answer: survival.

Our brains are always on the lookout for faces because faces can mean danger/predator. Our primal mind knows that predators (i.e. what can kill us) usually has a face. Our ancestors needed to be able to see faces camouflaged in high grasses or thick forests.  So we are hardwired to see them.

Even though we are no longer consciously on high alert, our primal brain still is.

It’s called face pareidolia. This is why Jesus keeps popping up in toast.

Ok, so now that we have a basic understand as to how the brain looks for shortcuts to process and understand things, let’s talk about that super creepy thing that happened when you read those words associated with “old.”

Your Brain’s File Folders

Let’s play another game. Tell me what comes to mind when you read these words.

  • Fireworks.
  • BBQ.
  • America.
  • 1812 Overture.

Chances are your mind brought up the concept or memory associated with the 4th of July.

(Of course, some associations are cultural, like this one. And as an influencer, you need to be aware of that.)

Look at those words again. By themselves, do any of them singularly ignite the image of 4th of July? Probably not. Do they directly describe the 4th of July? No, they do not. They are just words put together. Because the associations are so strong, it’s almost impossible for your mind to not fill in the blank with the glue that holds all those ideas together, which is the 4th of July.

Your brain has grouped associated words with one another and put them into one file folder that connects all those ideas together.

This is known as a schema.

How You Can Use Schemas to Influence

There are great benefits to understanding this human coding system.

If you would like to subtly plant an idea in the mind of another without directly saying it, then understanding schemas is a powerful tool.

You can prime the person you want to influence by weaving in words that are strongly associated to your desired outcome.

Ask yourself…

  • What emotion do I want to evoke from my source?
  • What action do I want to elicit?

Then, brainstorm word associations that could make up a solid schema for that concept. Next, plan out your conversation for opportunities when you can use those associations.

(There is a full step by step process for this that I cover in my upcoming course Persuasive Profits.)

Here’s The REAL Reason Why I Bring This Up…To Protect You

There is a dangerous side to these schemas. If you’re not aware of them, then your mind can make leaps that you aren’t controlling.

And here’s the biggest and most dangerous leap I see entrepreneurs making:

Associating the word SIMPLE with EASY.

You see the word simple used in pretty much EVERY SINGLE PIECE of marketing that sells to entrepreneurs. Go ahead. Read someone’s copy right now and tell me if you don’t see this word pop up a few times.

So, what is this debilitating mental shortcut? … It’s when you associate the word simple with easy.

Every marketer in the world will sell you a…

  • Simple Process
  • Simple Formula
  • Simple Steps

Hey, I’m not demonizing these marketers. They’re doing their job. And I’ve used the word simple in TONS of my promotional materials, and will continue to do so. Because my steps, processes, formulas, etc. – as well as those of other coaches, experts, marketers – ARE simple. They are straightforward simple clearly outlined steps.

But again, simple does not equal easy.

You know what is simple? Sushi.

Every tried to make sushi? I have. That shit ain’t easy. Just a few ingredients – rice, seaweed, fish – and yet I can never get it to taste or look as beautiful as the ones I get from a restaurant. If you want to see how un-easy sushi is, watch the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Ain’t nothin’ easy about any of that!


Why Simple/Easy is Dangerous for Entrepreneurs

When an entrepreneur thinks about investing in a course and sees the word simple over and over again, the entrepreneur unconsciously makes the leap to “Oh, it’ll will be easy to make $100k in 24 hours. The sales page says the process is so simple!” That’s when disaster strikes.

You have then triggered yourself into a coasting, passive frame of mind. And then you are befuddled and frustrated when course of program doesn’t work or it’s so much harder than you thought it would be.

And please don’t assume that price point is a differentiator here! I have seen people fall into this trap on products that are $197 all the way up to programs that are $20,000.

How You Can Guard Against the Simple/Easy Problem

By being aware of this association, you’ve already started breaking its bonds.

In the future, whenever you see the word simple and notice that you’ve made the leap to ease, ask yourself if your assumption on the level of ease seems to match the outcome that you are reaching for.

Let’s go back to the scenario of making $100k in 24 hours.In no way has that copywriter who has promised the $100k in 24 hours lying. I am in no way saying that it’s not possible to accomplish that. It can be done. Many people have. And I’m sure its components are very simple. But, that doesn’t mean that it will be easy. Depending on where your starting point is, the level of ease to reach that goal will be relative.

Where I get most concerned is when I see entrepreneurs who are starting out and making the leap from simple to ease.

It likely means that you will have to be awake for those 24 hour. It means that you will need to manage a team. It means that you will have to learn and deploy skills and strategies that you’ve never used before. Still simple. But not easy.

Does that mean that you should walk away from something because you realize that it won’t be easy. Oh hell no!

It means that you need to dig a little deeper and make sure that you will get the support that you need while you’re learning and using the simple strategies.

Ask yourself…

  • Will I be able to ask questions and get personalized feedback?
  • Will I be able to access a community of varying levels of experience to support one another?
  • Will I receive help? Or will I have to figure it all out on my own as I go along?

Because the roadblocks are rarely in the understanding. Roadblocks appear during the IMPLEMENTATION. Always. (This is why my most popular speech packages include a follow up webinar after the speech. Because I know that the REAL questions always show up less than 2 weeks after the event.)

If you don’t think that you’ll have the support that you need during the implementation, that’s when I would question whether or not it’s a good idea to invest in a product or service.

And if you see that you will have those support channels while you are putting to practice what you are learning, then those simple processes will become easIER.

Rewire Your Brain for Success

successful mindset

Don’t be duped by the sneaky nature of the notion of simple. It just means straightforward. Its components are clear-cut. Your effort is still needed. The road will still have challenges. You will have questions. You won’t be perfect the first time. Make sure that you have checked in and are prepared for that.

Because if you leave it up to your subconscious mind, you will be tricked. You will fall into the oh-so-common trap of false frustrated thinking at the first sign of trouble. Thoughts like, “This is difficult for me. I must be an idiot because it was so easy for everyone else. Maybe I’m not meant to do this. Maybe I’m just not good enough. Maybe there’s something wrong with me because I’m struggling where it was so simple for others.”

Stop it! Right now!

If you have had (or are having) those thoughts, shake it off. Your brain was just trying to help you out and in doing so, it created a shortcut association. But it was an inaccurate one. Now you know better. Calibrate and set a better more proactive expectation of effort and focus.

Now that you’ve learned this simple lesson, it will be easier for you to break those associations (see what I did there 😉 ) and you can prime yourself for successful effort! So, go forth and conquer!

Are there other schemas that you can think of that are sneaky and potentially stunting the success of entrepreneurs? If so, I’d love to hear them! Please leave a your thoughts in the comments HERE.



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