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Reality Distortion Field

In my first blog post on the theme of being entrepreneurial, I listed as many entrepreneurial traits as I could, and then I espoused the notion that being entrepreneurial in whatever you do will improve your chances at being successful.  I’m now coming to understand that there is another, more unique trait (psychological phenomenon?) that lives right at the intersection of vision, drive and leadership.  It’s hard to describe.  But when you see someone exhibiting it, it’s unmistakable, and perhaps the most powerful indicator of success of all.  Let’s call it the Reality Distortion Field trait for now.

The term Reality Distortion Field (RDF) was coined by Bud Tribble as he and Andy Hertzfield were describing Steve Jobs’ “charismatic rhetorical style, indomitable will, and eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand.”  The Wikipedia entry on RDF says “the psychological phenomenon of RDF is both familiar and well researched. It simply represents the amalgamation of certain qualities in people that are often in leadership positions that are related to their ability to inspire, motivate, influence, manipulate, control or even brainwash others with their personality, charisma, rhetoric, authority or other similar attributes. …In fact, great leadership is impossible without possessing those qualities and some degree of reality distortion in the form of reality misrepresentation is necessary by a leader in order to make a person start acting toward a particular cause that the leader is espousing.”

Pretty interesting.  And I’ve seen it in action.  Then this week I was reading a blog post on WSJ.com about a new study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology exploring the differences between “low power” and “high power” individuals.  Now, while I’m not exactly sure what criteria they used to determine what makes someone a high power vs. low power individual, the findings from this study were fascinating.   The “high-power individuals” in the study had more trouble recalling information that would get in the way of a goal.  And the post went on to quote Katie Liljenquist, an assistant professor who co-wrote the study as saying, “Constraints simply aren’t on the minds of people in power,”  and “People in positions of power have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish. Not only are they not aware of potential constraints, they don’t want to know about them.”

I think these two things are related, if not the exact same thing; that is, RDF and what the WSJ.com post was describing.

I’m aware that the WSJ post was mostly making the point that this type of behavior can be dangerous, and if unchecked and in the wrong hands, can lead to corrupt and reckless behavior.  I agree with that point.  And also, I’m sure that RDF behavior can at times be frustrating and confusing to deal with if you are on the receiving end of it.  But I’m just pointing out a fact: there is tremendous magic around what this trait can do in the right hands, used in the right way, at the right time.  It’s what makes the most successful entrepreneurs and world leaders able to bring out the best in their team, their company and even their country.  It goes back to the psychological phenomenon of mind over matter, and how important your mental state is to your success.  Remember the blog post on “acting as if”?

We are capable of so much more than we realize.  And when you activate that realization in both yourself as a leader entrepreneur, as well as those you work with, you can achieve whatever vision your are passionate about achieving.  No matter what the obstacles, challenges and risks.



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