• Ben

The Iceberg Principle

When an iceberg is floating in the water, over 90% of the iceberg’s mass is below the surface.

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Oddly enough, our brains work the same way.

Only 5% of life actually happens in the external world. The other 95% is what happens in our minds.


Every event initially occurs in the external world, and then our brains kick in and assign it meaning. If the explanation fits with our brain’s ongoing narrative, it’s accepted and becomes part of our memory. If it doesn’t fit the narrative, our brain either feels threatened or simply re-interprets the story until it does fit.

One good example is when we see a “sign.” Not stop signs or physical signs (although signage is important, I guess), but the “signs” we get from the universe.

You know, when every light is green on the way into work and we see the universe telling us it’s going to be an incredible day. Or when we hear the exact song that perfectly fits whatever is going on in our lives at the moment and tells us what we need to do next. Those signs.

The 5% of life that happens externally is a function of randomness.

Some DJ or algorithm decided that was the next song that needed to be played. Everything that happens to me – except my own decisions – is caused by the decisions that other people make. Those decisions – and the impact they have on my life – are caused by an infinite number of variables. A change in any one of those variable could shift the whole outcome.

External events are random. They happen completely outside our control without us saying a word. But, because our brains are wired to create a story (or identify the cause and effect) for each event, we internalize them. We take that song and assign it meaning.

The events, themselves, are the same. Our interpretations, explanations, and causes are all different. They’re painted by our mental biases and perspectives.

Our brains don’t just do this when creating new memories, either; it happens whenever we remember something.

Our memory is a constant game of telephone. You know telephone, right? Everyone sits in a circle. The first person thinks up a word or phrase and whispers it in the ear of the person next to them. Then, the person that hears the phrase turns to the next person and whispers it (as accurately as possible) to the next person. The cycle continues through the circle until, finally, the last person hears it. They then announce what they think was originally said to the entire group.

Yeah, our memories operate basically the same way. Rather than remembering the original event, we remember the last time we told the story. We remember our memory of the event.

Each new recollection slightly changes the memory.

Our memories are constantly altered – if we’re in a positive state of mind, the memories become a bit sweeter. If we’re in a negative state of mind, memories lose some of their luster.

Our past and present is governed by our mindset.

If we think that the world is against us, we rewrite all of our memories to reinforce it.

If we think that the world is full of opportunity, we rewrite all of our memories to reinforce it.

This is why auditing our mindset is so important – it determines how we view the world and view ourselves.

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