As If

Essays Introduction

Decisions Using Intuition & Creativity


No Left-out People

As If

The Crystal Structure

On Leadership

The Myth of Success

Doers & Creators

I, Committee
I began thinking of this when, last week pathetic runner, Ben Johnson, was found to be taking testosterone and was given a lifetime suspension from athletic competition. I suspect that the drug helped him to run. I also suspect that, for Ben, the real problem of removing the drugs is that he had been taught to believe that he needed the drugs to run fast. With the drugs he ran as if the drugs were helping.

Every child can grasp the concept. It was a key plot device in the Disney movie, Dumbo. The baby elephant, Dumbo, could not fly until he believed he could when he was holding the magic crow's feather. When he lost the feather, at the climax of the movie, he nearly crashed until he understood that he really could fly, and there was not magic in the feather. He could fly as if he had the magic.

In 'Mastery'*, G. Leonard teaches the concept of Ki (Japanese word) as the fundamental energy of the universe that connects all things and undergirds all creative action. He is a marshal arts instructor, and he can demonstrate that if you perform some actions as if you are directing Ki, you are much stronger and capable. He stops short of saying that Ki is a real force - this reader suspects that he believes it - but teaches that one can perform actions as if there is Ki, and enjoy the use of the power.

Christians are taught that their strength comes from the Lord. 'God grant me strength...' or wisdom, or whatever. Since this is an organized religion, to be able to enjoy these benefits, you may be asked to submit to their system, their leaders' ideas, and give some money. Faith is required, and there is no offer to access this strength as if there is a god. I am familiar with Christianity because that is my tradition, but I suspect that this is true for most religions.

At Western Electric's Hawthorne plant, Elton Mayo wanted to demonstrate that a better work environment meant better productivity. He turned up the lights, and productivity increased measurably. When eventually the experiment was in the concluding phase, the lights were restored to their former level. Surprisingly, productivity went up again. The conclusion of the research was that it was not the quality of the work environment that increased the productivity, it was the attention of the researchers. The employees worked better as if the changes in the environment were making a difference.

Because drugs, magic feathers (lucky charms or rites), Ki, and religion seem to work, does this mean that these systems are the key to finding our real inner ability? My concern is that if a real belief in objects of witchcraft is required, we may enjoy a little empowerment, but, because they are invented games, we can never go beyond the rules - set by someone else - of the game. Can we cheat by saying we are using these concepts only as if they are real, and then letting them go when we have advanced a step? I suspect not. Only in fiction could the black feather be dropped and the little elephant fly. Ben Johnson is through running.

Some sports experts feel that the physical limits of the body have been reached. Now, part of the coaching team is the psychologist. These people are helping the athlete to focus their mind on what they have to do, and how to perform. My interest is not about sports performance. I am really wondering how every individual is able to make the best of abilities. Can we do it by believing in ourselves instead of drugs, Ki, gods, or charms?

I would be interested to receive any comments you may wish to contribute. Please send me a note to


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© 1993 March 9, Robert J. Ballantyne
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* George Leonard: Mastery, The Keys to Success and Long-Term FulFillment, A Plume Book, February 1992. (A super book that describes the long and rewarding road to mastery...recommended, rjb)