You might have taken a personality test at some point in your life. You might have consigned yourself to a certain personality label such as “introvert” or “extrovert” based on the results of a study. That label might be a big part of how you know and understand yourself. It’s just the way it goes. In fact, most employers would require applicants to submit personality test results. But what if you were told that what you knew about your personality was total garbage? This is exactly what organizational psychologist and bestselling author Dr. Benjamin Hardy says in his newest book, Personality Isn’t Permanent, to the consternation of the whole industry of personality test peddlers. Backed by amazing stories and cutting-edge science, Dr. Benjamin argues that personality changes, and we have the power to control that change. It is a strong message that empowers everyone to take control of how they define themselves and present themselves to the world. Listen in as he shares that message with Steve Sims on the podcast.
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Breaking Away From The Fixed Personality Mindset With Dr. Benjamin Hardy
I have a cool guy by the name of Dr. Benjamin Hardy. You may have heard of him from his other past bestsellers, but he’s got a brilliant book, Personality Isn’t Permanent. This pissed a lot of people off within the mindset game of how to label yourself and how to get these personality tests because they suddenly realize that they are in charge of their own personality. Ben is going to sort it out for you and he’s going to tell you why it works and why should we pay attention to it within this moment of being awake, being confronted with our old mindsets, which are out of date and also how to define who you want to be rather than who you told you were. Ben is truly a smart guy. Introducing, Ben Hardy here. Ben, welcome to the show.
I don’t know if many people heard or come across you, but you’ve got a few books that were successful. We’ve known each other for many years, but I want to jump in at the deep end. You are Dr. Benjamin Hardy and you are a completely lovable guy. Everyone likes you. If you speak to people about Steve Sims, you’re going to get people saying rude things, but I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about you. I’m lining it up like that because you’re kicking ass in a moment and you’re pissing people off. You don’t seem to be too bold about it. You’ve got your latest book coming out, Personality Isn’t Permanent, and you’re pissing off billion-dollar industry people. Are people yelling at you about this new book?
I’ve had some angry YouTube videos and emails.
I never would have thought that you would have been the guy that would have been out there to aggravate people. Let’s jump into it because we’ve all got personalities and we’re all trying to develop brands, what we stand for and who we are. You come out saying, “When you focus on these labels of your personalities, you’re doing yourself an injustice. You shouldn’t be focusing on that.” Give us an overview of what you’ve discovered that you put eloquently in this book.
First off, I love being with you. I’m a huge Steve Sims fan and I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing about you either. When I was getting my PhD in Organizational Psychology, one of the things that surprised me was when I learned all of my professors over and over would tell me that type-based personality tests like the Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, DISC and all of those are essentially junk science. That surprised me because they were such popular tests and I had taken a lot of those tests, but they explained to me over time what personality is and how you measure things in psychology. It became obvious to me that putting people into categories and labels like that is an inaccurate way of viewing people. It assumes that whatever score you get, let’s say you’re D on the DISC, it assumes that you’re always a D on the DISC rather than in certain situations, moments and roles. You may reflect that, but that’s not who you’re always going to be.
Context is a lot more important than content when it comes to psychology. Those tests overly simplify people when they put them into a category, but then when you take a label on, it becomes a part of your identity. Your identity is the way you see yourself and the way you describe yourself. If I were to tell you I’m a D on the DISC, that’s more a statement of my identity than my personality. That’s how I see myself and that’s how I explain myself, but your identity shapes your behavior and your behavior over time becomes your personality. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The key thing here is you don’t want labels because they create tunnel vision and they ultimately stop you from imagining a future self that’s different than who you are now. You want to imagine your future self being who you want to be, but if you’ve overly adopted a label, then what you do is you imagine that your future self is exactly the same person you are now, which unfortunately is what most people do. That is why they don’t change as much as they could.
That is confrontational to a lot of these personality tests. It’s also controversial and confrontational to the way we, as normal people, try to be because we don’t like confusion. I’ve always been a great person. Joe Polish told me this, “There’s a difference between being hard to understand and impossible to misunderstand.” We all strive for this definition. You’re saying that looking for that in a personality test is wrong. I understand how it changes, but it’s against what we’re trying to do, especially in a moment of quite a lot of chaos and confusion where we want to be able to go, “At least I can rely on this is who I am,” but you’re confronted and going, “It doesn’t have to be.”
The truth is thinking about yourself, Steve. Do you think you’re the exact same guy you were ten years ago?
You’re already not the same guy you were ten years ago, so you shouldn’t assume that in the future, you’re going to be the same guy either. Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, said that human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. I love that statement. Most people think that who they are now is who they’re always going to be. Even if they can look back to the past and say, “No, I’m not the same guy I was ten years ago.” For some reason we think that who we are now is who we always going to be, it stunts our potential for the future. Where the research is going in psychology is thinking about your future, thinking about the person you’d like to be, thinking about the circumstances you’d like to have, and using that as your new script, new narrative which is your new identity. That’s the thing that should be driving your behavior, whereas most people, their behavior is being driven by a very limiting narrative.
I’m one of those rare breeds that have never done a personality test.
Good for you. I wouldn’t categorize you either way because you’re too complex. I love that about you.Type-based personality tests are junk science. Putting people into categories is an inaccurate way of viewing people. Click To Tweet
We’ve already shouted out to Joe, which we should also bring attention to Genius Network, which we’re both a part of. Joe, for some weird reason, is in charge of that damn thing, but I remember him offering me the chance of having a personality test. Part of it scared me that I didn’t want to become identified and I didn’t want to be stuck in a rut by suddenly being labeled as an AB, 44, a yellow, a green and all these other things that as far as I’m concerned, don’t matter. When did you start writing this book?
I started writing this book in 2018.
I’ve got my own opinion on this, which as you can be sure, I’m going to share. Do you think having this book coming out in the middle of this confusion and distraction is good for the book? Is it good for our mentality to be reading it or bad for our mentality? Would you pick another time when you release this book?
No. One of the concepts in the book is the mindset that everything happens for you and not to you. That has a lot to do with trauma because it is one of the biggest things that shape people’s personalities. Former traumas that are unresolved and the way to reframe traumas to view the event that it happened for you, not to you. Look at all of the benefits and to ultimately frame it in a positive way versus continuing to frame it in a negative way. Life is about the meaning you give to things. It’s not about the things that happen. It’s about the meaning you give. What’s cool about memories is that you can change the meaning of even former experiences. When it relates to COVID-19 and all this stuff, I’m genuinely choosing to believe it happened for me because if I don’t, then my own psychology is going to suck. Whether it’s true or not, it doesn’t matter. It is how I feel about it. I’m choosing to believe that it all happened perfect for me and that I can ultimately use this to move my career forward. Otherwise, I’m going to be upset and frustrated, and that’s ultimately going to limit my future self.
Shawn Stevenson, a mutual friend of ours, always used to say that to me and it stopped it. It was the first time I had heard it. My opinion is that I don’t think this book could have come at a better time. In fact, I agree. I’ve got a bunch of copies of this book. When we promote this, the first ten people to say something cool to share, I’m going to send a copy to. Not only I am a great fan of you and your past works as well, but I’m also a great fan of the fact that this book is needed now because there are way too many people bitching and whining. Let’s be blunt, that’s never helped anyone. You need to get in control and your book is telling us here that, “We can be in control.” How would we suddenly start to recognize that maybe we’ve been mislabeled?
A good way of looking at how you’ve been mislabeled is how you see your future. Your future projection of yourself is based on your identity. What is the thing you’re seeking? I’ll give you one example. Carol Dweck, she’s a famous researcher in psychology. Her works pretty popular at this point. She’s the one who termed the words, fixed mindset, and growth mindset. Wherever you have a fixed mindset about yourself, there’s a negative label. For me, I don’t see myself as someone who’s good at mechanics so I’ve got a fixed mindset about that because of former experiences and maybe a label that I either gave to myself or that other people gave to me.
In the book, I show people how traumatic experiences are. Trauma is big and small. It doesn’t have to be that you got hit by a car or that you got sexually abused. Trauma could be being told you’re not good at math as an example and ultimately, believing it. Trauma is any negative event that shaped how you see yourself and ultimately limits your future. Any area of your life where you don’t see a bigger future, there’s probably a negative label in that area. I’m not saying that every area of your life should have a massive future, but wherever you see limitations, whether it’s in relationships, in money or whatever it is, if you don’t see much of a future in that area, you probably already adopted a negative association or a negative label. Your identity is completely stunted there so your behavior is going to be stunted as well.
I’m wondering if there’s a correlation between searching for a label and being too smart for your own good. As you openly say, we’re faster to grab a label of, “I can’t do that because I was told I couldn’t do that.” We are then to go and challenge it, “I can’t do that. Let me put a bit more effort into it.” Dan Sullivan says that if you focus on your weaknesses, you end up with some strong weaknesses. There is a point in time where you go, “That’s not for me,” “More intelligently, somebody else can do that better, faster and cheaper for me.” That’s the intelligent option on that. The labeling seems to be one of these kinds of getting out, “I can’t do that because I never could.” As you say, that label becomes your identity and then it can bleed over into your brain, which is what we are adapting to in this new business world. If we’ve got those labels, I’m worried about how sometimes you’re too smart for your own good, where you search for one of these. What should you be saying yourself to almost be confrontational to that label? How would you challenge it?
I would honestly ignore the label entirely where the research is with future self. There’s a lot of cool concepts that connect with this. The major idea is that who you are now doesn’t matter. The major thing is that your future self will be different. You almost don’t even want to worry about the label. Don’t worry about how you see yourself because who you are in the present is temporary. Most people want to heavily define their current self. That’s why they take personality tests. They’re obsessed with who they are and as a result, they like to label themselves. I understand that branding, it can be good, but you also can brand about where you’re headed as well.
Hopefully, you can pivot and the brand doesn’t become the crutch. Hopefully, the brand is flexible as you can be flexible and adaptive. From a growth mindset perspective, the future that you’re seeking is more important than where you’re at. People with a fixed mindset, Carol Dweck has all sorts of research on this. For example, a young student, if they fail a test and they have a fixed mindset, then they believe that they are completely defined by who they are. They failed the test that means the future’s not any bigger because this is where they are now. Whereas people with a growth mindset, when they fail the test, they don’t care who they are now. They care more about who they’re going to be in the future.
Viktor Frankl found that exact same thing. People in the Holocaust who didn’t have a sense of purpose for their future, the presence sucked. In fact, the concentration camps became too unbearable so they died. Rather than focusing on who you are now, you may want to focus on where you want to be in the future. That should be what you’re defining, whether that’s for your brand. Think about Elon Musk, for example, he says that he wants to die on Mars. That’s part of his brand that he wants to populate Mars and make human beings an interplanetary species. His brand is focused on the future. It’s not focused on where they’re at now. It’s not focused on the current launch. Everything that they’re doing is driven by where they’re hoping to be in the future. Your brand should probably reflect where you’re going, not where you’re at because where you’re at now, doesn’t matter that much.
Do you think Elon cares about the labels? Do you think he’s imposed any labels on himself?Life isn’t about the things that happen to you. It’s about the meaning you give to those things. Click To Tweet
He probably has because we all do. We’re all humans, but I don’t think he cares about it. He’s more focused on what he wants to accomplish and he’s not worried about what other people say about him, but I’m sure that he’s got labels for himself.
We need to maybe accept the fact that those labels can change.
They already will change and they already have changed. It’s the narrative about your labels that keep them stuck. They will change in the future. That’s what the research shows over and over is that who you’re going to be in ten years now, Steve, is way different than even you may be predicting. Most people under-predict how much they’re going to change in a ten-year period of time.
You said that you had a PhD and a Doctorate in Organizational Psychology. What is that?
It’s the business version of psychology. I didn’t want to be a therapist. Organizational psychologists, they study leadership. There are people who have PhDs in my field or even Master’s. They’re like big fatty consultants, either in big organizations or externally where they’ll train the leadership. They’ll fix the culture. They’ll fix the hiring. They’ll make the employees more motivated. We study organizational psychology, how to make the most out of people, essentially how to make work awesome. I’m not a conventional organizational psychologist because I’m more of a popular press writer, but I learned all the theories on motivation and productivity and how to get people excited and how to hire effectively and stuff like that. That’s not why I wrote this book, but it’s one of the reasons why I can say definitively that those types of personality tests are junk because no real scientists or psychologists would use those for hiring. They don’t predict success. They’re ineffective ways of hiring or predicting performance.
You’ve probably pissed off most of Corporate America because how many times have we seen people go in to look for these jobs within the tick-box mentality world? The first thing that they’re stuck with is a questionnaire, which is to identify that personality type, to identify whether or not they’re going to fit within that network. You’re quite simply telling them and again, “That doesn’t work. That does junk psychology.”
At least that’s how most people do it. Most people use junk science. There are good measures that you could use. There are good even personality measures. One of them being called the Big Five, but it would never put someone into a category. The Big Five, which is the most scientific view of personality. It gives you a score on a percentile rank in a bell curve. In the bell curve, there’s a big group in the middle and there are outliers on the edges. If you took a Big Five personality test, Steve, it would give you five scores on where you’re at for your extroversion, for your conscientiousness, which is your goal focus, how good you are with people, and you’d get somewhere probably in the middle.
You might be an outlier in some areas, but they do use those types of tests to see if you’re organized and stuff like that, but they also recognize that the role in the culture that you jump into is going to greatly change your personality. There are other measures, intelligence, grit, emotional intelligence. There are better things you could measure if you want to predict performance than giving people a type based categorical test that gives people a label. That’s got to be the stupidest way to hire a person. Essentially, what you’re doing is you’re giving someone a label. You’re stereotyping them, then you’re going to put it on their cubicle that you’re that kind of person. These are your strengths and weaknesses. That’s one of the dumbest ways to hire someone.
We’re in a world at the moment where we’re constantly trying to break stereotypes, whether it be from the #MeToo, from the Millennials to the Black Lives Matter. There are a lot of stereotypes the way we’re confronted at this moment in time. That’s why I think this book is beautiful because it’s come out knee-deep in this new woke era. It is a time when we’re looking at things and going, “Does that need to be the way it is because it’s always been that way?” It’s also good that it’s in a time where we can look at ourselves. I know COVID is a bad moment but I believe it should be paid attention. We’re in a time where not only is the world being disorientated, but so have we, and it’s a great time to evaluate what you put value in within your possessions, your home, your life, your business, but also your mentality. You’re saying, “You don’t have to stop by spring cleaning the house. You can be spring cleaning how you define yourself.” You openly say the labels are doing you an injustice.
They are. Labels create what we call tunnel vision. Any stereotype, even a stereotype of yourself creates tunnel vision, where you no longer see nuance. If you’re a racist, as an example, you assume that everyone is exactly the same in that race. You throw people into a category and you stop being mindful of context. You stop being mindful of nuance and the fact that there are differences. That same thing can happen if you call someone an introvert or if you call someone a D or if you call yourself something. There’s a lot of research on this from Ellen Langer at Harvard, where she says that labels create mindlessness. When you’ve adopted a label for yourself, or you have some form of accepted truth, then you stop being mindful or aware of all of the times that’s not true.
For example, if I were to call myself an introvert, I would be ignorant of all the times when I’m very social. I wouldn’t even notice those or pay attention to those. The label becomes tunnel vision and it stops you from being of what’s going on. What’s interesting about this is if you look at leadership theories. I’m a Millennial, but a lot of Baby Boomers as an example would be considered racist. Not because they’re bad people, but because they grew up in a culture that more emphasized traits versus viewing things as context. We live in a world that things are changing fast. You have to be adaptive, but if you look at the leadership theories from back in the 1950s and ‘40s, they were a lot more trait-based.
Honestly, the first leadership theories that were studied were called the Great Man Theory of Leadership because they assumed back then that you had to be a man, a male in order to be a good leader. You had to be tall and white. Those were the traits that you had to have and the leadership theories have changed quite a bit. Baby Boomers grew up in an environment and in a context where that was the belief system. I think that they’ve been thrown under the bus because maybe they’ve got some mindsets or maybe that there’s a culture where there’s a belief that they’re racist, but that was just the culture they grew up in.You can be in charge of your own personality. Click To Tweet
That again brings us back to the fact that you couldn’t have timed this book coming out better. I know I’m labeling on it and people are out there going, “This is a great club. It’s timely.” I have no shame in whatsoever in plugging the shit out of his book because everyone should be disrupting the way they think and disrupt the way they go forward. Personality Isn’t Permanent. Let’s be blunt and I can say this from the clients I have in the book world, myself, from having my book out there. You don’t buy a house on the ocean from selling books. I don’t want to shatter anyone’s myths out there, but you don’t become a multimillionaire by releasing a book. There’s not a lot of money in it, but you put a lot of energy in there to disrupt people’s mindset. Was there something driving you? The last book you came out with was Willpower Doesn’t Work. It was a major bestseller and successful. You then decided to get out there and shake the hornet bush. You decided to piss people off. Was that something that you thought was going to happen when you start putting pen to paper?
I knew that it would make some people upset. I knew that the majority of people that read the book would be blown away and would be super liberated and excited about their future. I’ve had a lot of people thank me and say, “Not only did you liberate my future, but you liberated a lot of my friends’ future.” I knew that ultimately the message would excite the right audience. There’s a good quote from James Clear. He wrote the book, Atomic Habits, but he said that the more sacred and ideas to us that is the more it is a part of our identity, the more we will defend it against criticism.
For a lot of people, because these personality tests are part of their process or their way of doing things where they’ve overly defined themselves by one of these tests then, I’m poking at something sacred to them. I’m poking at their identity. You’re going to defend something against criticism if you see it as a part of your identity. That’s the thing we all need because we all sometimes need to be poked and we need to be asked, “Do you need to adjust how you see things?” I’m comfortable doing that. The world had to face that. With a lot of movements lately like Lives Matter Movement, we’ve had to be poked in some ways.
It’s made us uncomfortable. Another great quote that I heard in their Genius Network is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. We all uncomfortable because we’re being brought to our attention. That’s a good and beautiful thing. Your addressing it on our mindset, which is a bit scary because it’s in our little head and we like to hide in there. Sometimes have thoughts that maybe we shouldn’t say and you’re telling us to confront that. You’re quite an evil little man. You’ve got Seth Godin, Ryan Holiday, JJ Virgin and Joe Polish. You’ve got a ton of people out there spitting facts and love about this book. Where’s the best place to go and grab your copy?
It is anywhere. If you prefer audio, Audible is a great place. The audiobook is a killer. It wasn’t even done by me. It was by a guy named Sean Pratt, who’s one of my favorite audiobook narrators. I requested him. If you like the hardcover, the hardcover is gorgeous. Go to Kindle or wherever you want to get the book hardcover, eBook or audio, just get the dang book. There’s about 150 journal prompts throughout the book because there’s a lot of research on journaling about how journaling is a method for reframing the past, but also an incredible method for designing your desired future self. The book, in a lot of ways, is a handbook on how you can let go of the past, change the meaning of the past, and also ultimately how you can set up your life to be the person you want to be. Your future self is the thing that should ultimately be driving your behavior now rather than your former self. In order to do that, you’ve got to let go of a lot of the traumas and change the meanings of the past, which is cool because on a societal level, we’re seeing that happen in real-time.
Amazon sells everything. I love Ben. He’s a great guy. When you read the book, you’re going to be happy. Don’t be lazy. Get the book and leave a review. As I say, I’m going to be given out ten copies, but I’m going to work a little competition. I haven’t fully worked out yet, but it’s going to be a case of you’ve got to show what you’ve done with it. We will work out something incentivizes, but I’m going to be giving out some copies for it. Ben, any final words that you think our people should know about how awesome you are?
I know Steve, so that’s awesome. Steve Sims is my blood pressure. I don’t have anything else to say about myself, but I am grateful to be here. I’m a big Steve Sims fan. I love your book. I love your work and I’m grateful to be with you.
I appreciate you. Ben, thank you for sharing the time. I know you’re with family. You’ve been gracious by taking time out of your day to come and speak with us. Be safe and I’ll see you on the other side of this.
I hope you enjoyed another episode. Imagine if you were in a room with these people, some of the readers, some of the guests and some of my friends. You can be if you will attend Speakeasy. Head on over to SimsSpeakeasy.com and you’ll find out all about the details of our next event, location city that we’re in, and quite simply there to make you smarter and more impactful. If that’s the kind of thing you want to do, you know where to go. I’ll see you there or speak to you soon in the next episode.
- Personality Isn’t Permanent
- Genius Network
- Willpower Doesn’t Work
- Atomic Habits
- Audible – Personality Isn’t Permanent
About Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author Willpower Doesn’t Work. From 2015-2018, he was the #1 writer in the world on Medium.com. During that time, he grew his email list from 0 to 400,000 without paid advertising. Ben and his wife Lauren adopted three children from the foster system in February 2018 and one month later, Lauren got pregnant with twins who were born in December of 2018. They live in Orlando. Ben’s blogs are read by millions monthly. Personality Isn’t Permanent Explanation
Personality Isn’t Permanent debunks the pervasive myths of personality that have captured pop culture. For example, personality tests like Myers-Briggs and Enneagram are not only psychologically destructive but are no more scientific than horoscopes. Personality Isn’t Permanent provides science-based strategies for reframing past memories, becoming the scribe of your identity narrative, upgrading your subconscious, and redesigning your environment. Science proves you are going to change throughout your life. You might as well be intentional about that change. Advanced Praise for Personality Isn’t Permanent
“Personality Isn’t Permanent is possibly the best self-help book I’ve ever read, and a book that will redefine the genre. After this book, it’s no longer good enough to talk about untested theory—Ben backs everything up with both amazing stories and cutting edge, tested science, while still making it actionable to anyone. Best part: this is the book that destroys all the useless personality test peddlers that infect the world.”—Tucker Max, New York Times bestselling author “In Personality Isn’t Permanent, Dr. Hardy crushes an outdated paradigm and gives you the process to create a bigger, bolder future.”—JJ Virgin, New York Times bestselling author “Ben Hardy is proof of what he writes about. He keeps getting better and better—and so can you.”—Ryan Holiday, New York Times bestselling author “For those looking to up their game, Personality Isn’t Permanent is more than a hopeful and fascinating read, it is utterly applicable. In the crowded genre of self-help/business, Hardy’s book is a game-changer.”—Richard Paul Evans, New York Times bestselling author Potential Questions to Discuss During Interview