The Business Leadership Peak Performance Programme Day 15: Filing Cabinets

Hi and welcome back to Day 15. How did you go with yesterday? Is it making sense?

OK, here’s a little puzzle. Look at the picture below can you see the old woman?


In most cases, people can see the old woman quite easily. OK, what about the young woman?

OK, let’s try another puzzle.

8 x 8 =?

56, right? Eight eights are 56 right?

Imagine that your memories, experiences, information, feelings are stored in the brain like a filing cabinet.


The brain is very good at quickly retrieving information such as 8 x 8, rules about touching hot stoves and crossing busy roads … and driving cars … and filing income tax … and doing the skills you use all day etc.

It is also very automatic with less resourceful things like faulty thinking fear responses and anxiety … even when it isn’t even warranted!

The brain thinks in cluster of concepts called schemas or mental models. Those mental models are organised into strings of events called scripts. Mostly they are useful. Other times they are limiting and inhibiting. But once they are ‘filed’ rarely ever do they get reviewed for usefulness or accuracy or relevance.

For example, I am pretty sure that you still run scripts you wrote when you were seven!

For example, Jane struggles to assert herself when staff arrive to work late. Her mental model of asserting herself includes numerous times when she was yelled at, ridiculed or punished for asking for what she wanted when she was very young. So Jane associates assertiveness with conflict. And she ‘learned’ that NOT asserting herself appeared to minimise or eliminate conflict. And I do mean appeared to.

Not asserting in this case is called maladaptive behaviour. Adaptive means it is resourceful and appropriate and it works. Maladaptive means it is still resourceful – or appears to be – but it is inappropriate. And while it might work temporarily, it often is not as resourceful long term.

Jane knows she is being a softie and her behaviour is actually non-compliant. When Jane doesn’t assert herself she always feels stupid or resentful. She will say, ‘Yes’ knowing that she should have said, ‘No’. And it limits Jane’s success.You can well imagine that her superiors look at Jane as OK up to certain level but they know she can’t manage staff effectively so she is not currently suitable for higher duties. So Jane gets passed over on things like promotions.

If you ask Jane to speculate on what would be resourceful with her late arriving staff she can tell you that she needs to assert herself and insist staff arrive on time for shifts. That is what’s needed. If I ask why she then doesn’t speak up she has very good arguments for why she limits herself.

That’s why we call this arguing for limitations.

Sir Edmund Hilary was told you, “You can’t climb Mount Everest. There’s not enough oxygen up that high. Your white blood cells will implode or something.” That was the opinion of the medical community. But he didn’t argue for his limitations. He climbed Everest with Tensing Norgay and the rest is history.

Sir Roger Bannister was told it is impossible to run faster than a 4-minute mile – but he did it anyway. In 1953, they believed that it was IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to run a sub 4-minute mile.

You should note that after Bannister broke the 4-minute mile barrier, the record fell 30 times within the next 12 months, and 300 times with the second year! We argue for limitations because of social convention, certainly,  but the arguing for limitations I am talking about is self-imposed.

Peter usually buys a donut from the local coffee shop to go with his coffee. Often the donut tastes stale. But he NEVER complains or takes it back.

Darren thinks his wife’s zany hairstyle is inappropriate for her age (50+). He feels embarrassed when he is asked to attend public functions and his wife’s hairstyle looks like a theme park ride. But he can’t say anything to her.

Ron’s debtor days run out to 120 days. He won’t initiate debt collection and he argues, ‘They’re all good clients.’despite the evidence that they aren’t.

Kerry won’t ask for the business. She does the sales presentation perfectly and then won’t close. She will say, “What do you think?” and when customers say, ‘Let me think about it’ she says, “Oh … OK.”

And David needs to sort out his overeating.


Go back and reread the material on the Performance Plan (Day 1). What do these people need to start doing, stop doing or continue doing? What about you? Can you see these are all problems? ?Can they be turned into projects? And what limitations are you arguing for?
By the way, you are probably realising that I am giving you a bunch of performance tools.

Here’s a tip: they all work, but you may discover one that works best … for you.

PS: In case you were wondering 8 x 8=64 not 56. It equals 64. You’re not going mad.

Listen to the podcast

Andrew Priestley is a qualified business leadership coach with clients worldwide. He is the author of The Money Chimp, Starting and How Money Flows Through Your Business. You can contact him through or click Contact.

Please feel free to share the link and please leave feedback and constructive comments.


It goes without saying this is information only and that the The Author cannot be held responsible for any losses or damages that occur as a result of reading this material . 

© 2017 Andrew Priestley/TCE Ltd

Leave a Reply