Join David Tian on the “DTPHD Podcast” as we explore deep questions of meaning, success, truth, love, and the good life.
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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfillment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behavior, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him on the “DTPHD Podcast” as he explores deep questions of meaning, success, truth, love, and the good life. Subscribe now.
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HENRY CHONG is our special guest speaker on this episode. Henry is Director of Fusang Capital, a fund management company that manages the assets of multi-family offices. He is also a Director at the Portcullis Group, Asia’s biggest independent group of trust companies, providing comprehensive wealth administration to high-net-worth individuals, providing a one-stop shop for corporate, trustee, and fund administration services to individuals, family offices, philanthropies, private banks, and investment managers. Henry is a graduate of Oxford University with a B.A. (Hons) in Philosophy Politics & Economics and is a founder of the Oxford Economics Society. He also holds a M.Sc. in Behavioral Science from the London School of Economics and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSC). He will be sharing with us from his deep insights in behavioral economics, finance, health, and psychology.
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Episode 9 Show Notes
0:57 This powerful tool helps you get your goals
4:59 This is how great athletes win the game
10:36 How to get what you really want
13:22 What people are really after
18:46 The importance of self-awareness
22:26 The two emotions that define a good visualization
The right way to think about your goals
Truth, love, and the good. Here we go.
David Tian: Welcome to the DTPHD podcast! I’m David Tian, Ph.D. and for over the past 10 — 11 years — I’ve been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success, happiness, and fulfillment in life and love. I used to be a university professor before going into dating coach and life coach now. I’m joined by my very good friend Henry Chong. I’ll allow him to introduce himself.
Henry Chong: My name is Henry Chong. I am the CEO of The Fusang Group. We’re a private investment office. But when I’m not doing that, I am talking with you, David, about life, love, the universe, and many other things besides.
David Tian: Yes. We had just finished Unleash the Power Within led by Tony Robbins and just shot another podcast. We’re about to pack up and then we’re like — let’s do another one! So, here we are. You had a specific topic you wanted to talk about, so please introduce.
Henry Chong: One thing that I was thinking about during the event was about the difference between a lot of people when they set goals. Everyone tells you, “Okay, not only do you want to have a clear, specific goal; you want to visualize the outcome.” Visualization is very powerful. All athletes do it. That’s what everyone says. Yet, there’s a lot of behavioral science research to show that fantasizing about having achieved a goal dramatically decreases the motivation you have towards achieving the goal and also dramatically reduces the likelihood that you’ll achieve that goal.
I was wondering about this: How do you square the academic research with what anecdotally is a very powerful tool? And then what I realized is that a lot of people — and we talked about this in the past about the difference between goals and processes, how why thinking about enjoying the process is so important. I think this is exactly the same when you visualize your goal. Let me give you an example. Let’s say, for example, you want to climb Mt. Everest.
A lot of people say, “Okay, I have a specific goal, a smart goal, a specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-bound. I want to climb Mt. Everest. I will do it by December 2nd and I will –” All that kind of stuff. And then they say, “Alright. I’m going to sit here and I’m going to picture me being on top of Mt. Everest. It’s going to be great.” And then my thoughts are going to come back. “I’m going to climb Mt. Everest. It’ll be so great and everyone will give me significance and life will be good.” And then they don’t do it. That’s exactly what the research shows: By thinking about having achieved your goal, you just have no more motivation to do it.
And I think the reason why is that, why bother to actually do the goal for real if I can just sit here and dream about what it would be like to have done the goal? So what’s easier for me to imagine all the nice things that I imagine will happen as a result of having climbed Everest than actually climbing Everest? The difference with doing visualizations properly or affirmations the way that people like Tony Robbins talks about, the difference between doing the kind of exercises that he brings people through, visualization exercises, is that what you should be thinking about is the process, not the outcome.
To do it right — for example, one very powerful thing I found even for myself would be, in this case, if I wanted to climb Mt. Everest would be to sit and say, “Okay, I am proud, excited, and grateful having climbed Mt. Everest that I went – I had to train for 12 months and it was hard, and then I went and finally did it. It took me four days from base camp. It was hard. There were snow storms but I persevered through all of that, and I finally got to the top, and I achieved my goal. Now, I’m thinking about how great that feels.
Because now, I’m not thinking about the outcome, I’m thinking about the process and I’m saying, “That is going to be a great process.” That provides a very powerful pull anchor to now draw you into the process and to power you through what is, quite frankly, a very, very painful process, each step, climbing up that mountain. Likewise, pro athletes, right? When runners visualize running a race, they don’t sit there and go, “Okay, I want to win the gold medal, the 400-meter sprint,” and then sit there, imagining themselves on the podium. Right? There’s no use.
Like I said, research shows that it will have a negative impact. What they do is they visualize, “Okay, I’ve trained for months and months and now it’s the day of the race. I’m there at the Olympics and I’ve woken up. I get ready and I go to the race track. I imagine how everything is, every last detail, every last step. And then I’m there. I’m at the starting line. The gun goes off and I imagine running perfect race. In my mind, I can see exactly me going all the way around the track, running the perfect race, and then I win and I get the gold medal.” But what they visualize is the process, not just me standing on the podium, which is what every weekend warrior does. That, I think, is the key difference.
David Tian: Every great athlete talks a lot about visualization. GSP has written a book — ghostwritten, but mostly his stuff — Way of the Fight, which is an amazing book. He recently just won the middleweight championship in addition to welterweight, which is pretty cool. He talked about that in interviews. One thing that he did early on when he became champion was, he realized you couldn’t go five rounds and not make any mistakes. It’s just not realistic. So, he started to, in his visualizations, imagine mistakes that he would make and how he would recover from each of them. His visualizations got very — “Even in round three, I will very likely get tired, or he’s going to hit me like this and I’m going to visualize myself recovering.”
One of the things he visualized was Bisping — having his — what was the name of Manny Pacquiao’s coach? Freddie Roach. Freddie Roach saw — in Bisping’s defense. He was weak on one side of his face. I can’t remember which side it was, and that’s exactly where GSP hit him in round three. They did an elaborate way to trick him into lulling him into opening up on that side. “So, round one, we’re going to go like this. And then round two, we’re going to see what he does and then we’re going to adjust. Round three, he will be in our hands.”
He also visualized taking his back because they knew Bisping gets up on all fours instead of in a triangle way or whatever they call that, like a three-point get-up. He’s visualizing all of these weaknesses in the opponent that they expect, and with visualizing him getting hurt and how he would recover. Definitely, it’s the process. When I was in my teenage years and a little earlier too, I think around 10/11 years old, I was a very ardent Christian all the way up until early-30’s or late-20’s.
One of the things about Christianity, or the kind that I was a part of, evangelical reformed Christianity, was that they were very strict in their spiritual disciplines. In my early teens, I read about spiritual exercises and I read every single word that C.S. Lewis ever wrote back then multiple times. I was very much into this world. Ignatius Loyola is one of the first people who wrote extensively about visualization exercises.
To be a Jesuit, you had to basically look yourself in a prayer room, fast for 48 hours, and imagine you are Jesus walking down the Via Dolorosa with people spitting at you. You imagine the thorns on your head as they put the crown on you, and you’re getting nailed to the cross, and you go through this exercise. It’s a very powerful thing. I’m not sure if I’m getting it right because it was so many decades ago when I read it, but you visualize yourself going through the sacrifice or the arduousness of the sacrifice on the cross.
Weirdly, I took that as a performative thing. I was enrolled in piano lessons since the age of five and my two sisters. Everyone I knew either did piano, violin, or something like that from five or six years old. That’s the Asian-American experience, Asian-Canadian, and we had to play a lot of recitals. I learned many things about performance through those recitals, one of which is: Don’t practice the piece you’re going to perform the morning that you perform it. Because if you fuck up, all you’ll be thinking about is when you get to that bar, “Don’t mess up!” And then you’ll mess up.
Lots of performative things. But one of them was visualization. Even as an eight-year-old child, your teacher will tell you to visualize. One of the mistakes I made was earlier on in my life: visualizing winning. So, I get the certificate and everyone claps and I’m holding the certificate. That never helps. I always did really poorly whenever I was dreaming about that. And instead, I was like, “Huh, in Christianity, you don’t want to ever visualize being awesome because that would just create pride, and pride is the greatest sin, the downfall of the devil, so you never want to visualize yourself with a trophy as a Christian.”
You never want to visualize yourself in heaven as a Christian because that would just make you lazy and you can be full of yourself. Instead, you visualize doing good acts on a day-to-day basis in hard situations, like, how do you be nice when you want to be mean? You visualize that, which is actually looking back quite advanced to expect a 12-year-old child to do, but that’s what I was reading in C.S. Lewis and all of that stuff. I applied that to all of these other performative things like piano, like taekwondo matches and things like this.
I visualized playing on stage and being nervous. My parents were there. In two levels, like third-person, see it from the outside, and then from the inside, there are my fingers. Bizarre, because I didn’t know about point of view back then. I wasn’t playing video games. It was just like because of these spiritual practices, I go back to the 1600’s, and what you start to see is — Oh, Buddhism also. They’ll lock themselves away for days just on water and visualizing their various layers of the heavens and the Bodhisattvas upon Bodhisattvas.
They go on trips. They’ll take some weird mushroom thing and go on these trips. And when you’re an ascetic 2000 years ago sitting under a tree in a kind of trance-like state and you’re visualizing these crazy things, this power visualization to create something in the here and now goes back like thousands of years. The mistake a lot of people make is, they dream about what they’ll do when they win the lottery. They’re like, “If I win that Powerball lottery, the 50 million, well, how am I going to spend it? I’m going to buy a boat. I’m going to buy — ”
Henry Chong: Exactly. All they just say, “I really, really hope that I will climb Everest.” And I sit there and I picture myself being on top of Everest, and I set my intention clearly, and I hope. And I remember James Cameron when he was filming Avatar and had these great t-shirts made. And it said, “Hope is not a strategy. Luck is not a factor. Fear is not an option.” I think the reason why doing visualizations properly, thinking about the process is so powerful, is precisely because it makes you realize that it’s a process. You’ve got to get on. You’ve got to go step-by-step and it’s a long, arduous journey, and sitting and hoping will not get you anywhere.
You will try and you will fail. It is about the long, slow climb. The power of visualizations is, it makes you realize that and it makes you realize that, “I want this thing. There will be a lot of work in-between, but because I imagine how good it’ll feel having done the work, having climbed the mountain, I go and do it.” And not only that, but we talked about this in our previous podcast about the six human needs, about the need for growth. And I think the reason why growth — I mean, it’s a long, philosophical discussion about why we as humans need growth, why I think our organisms are drived towards to have that need for growth, but that is what’s valuable.
I mean, again, everyone talks about this, but no one really takes it on board. The journey is what is valuable. It is about who you become in the process of climbing the mountain, not about being on top of the mountain. That’s what no one can ever take away from you. That is the feeling of accomplishment. That is the need for growth that you’re feeling at a deep and primal level. If you just imagine being on a mountain, feeling your need for significance, you will never have the drive that you need to actually climb the mountain in the first place.
David Tian: Right. One of the things that I learned from Tony Robbins over the years, is that he gets you pretty early on to visualize, to celebrate, to get you to celebrate as if you already got the thing that you’ve been working so hard for, or that you would like to work so hard for.
Henry Chong: That’s the key, right? The thing you’ve been working so hard for. Not like, one day you woke up, you got lucky, you celebrate. Lose, win, lose. You’ve taken a step in that process —
David Tian: Let’s take the average person who is not working hard at all. It’s more like — the thing that you really want, the million dollars, the billion dollars, whatever it is, and imagine you get it and celebrate. He’s like, “Hey, isn’t that amazing? You can celebrate right now and experience it as if you have because his argument is we’re after an emotional state. It’s not the pieces of paper. Imagine you have that state, induce the state in you and feel it, basically, delude yourself into feeling the state. In fact, it’s not a delusion anymore because you are, in fact, feeling that emotion.
And then what? So, what happens to a lot of people is, they think they want something: money, girls. What they’re really after is something deeper: an emotion. If you give them the emotion — I wish there was like a pill you could just give them the emotion when they eat it, and then they’re like, “Woah.” And then you ask them, “Okay, now that you’ve gotten that, what else do you want?” That “What else do you want?”, a lot of people have never asked that question. They’re just mindlessly chasing money or something that they think will give them the significance that they’ve been craving, and then they die having never achieved it.
On their death bed, they’re probably then, at that point, like, “Oh, shit. I could’ve been spending my days doing something else that I really enjoyed.” Because people don’t actually — many people who are striving to make money like these guys who are, nowadays, trying to do startups… I’ve met so many. Working in a co-working office, you meet a lot of wannabe startup guys who don’t really have any idea what they’re doing. They just suckered some family member into giving them a few 10,000 dollars or whatever and then they’re just squandering it.
They’re doing what’s cool and trendy, wearing a hoodie. I thought that was a joke that Gary Vee kept talking about that. But in co-working spaces, you see them so often. They’re just high on the idea that they get to sell a company for something. They’re not actually enjoying the process. They’re enjoying the process of pretending like they’re doing it. It’s just sad, because if you could give them that significance, the feeling of significance, which is what they’re doing it for, and then say, “What would you do?” Instead, they might be like, “I would just spend all my time playing video games then.”
Well, great, then you should’ve been doing that because you could’ve been a fucking e-sports millionaire by now. I ask myself that, too. And every year, there’s slightly different answers because every year, I’m growing. One of the things I discovered a few years ago was, if I had all the money I ever wanted, which I kinda did in terms of — if you ask me 10 years, I already have that, my goal, 10 years ago. It would’ve been like, I would’ve just been reading and talking to really smart people. Gee, I used to do that! I used to live on a university campus and that’s all I did, just walking around these libraries with tens of thousands or millions of volumes. Gee.
So then, I don’t want to go back to the university because of the political situation in them right now, but I kind of have created a lifestyle for myself where I get to talk to really smart people and spend the rest of my time reading and talking to other smart people, producing stuff that I hope contributes to people. It wasn’t about, “How do I create a better video sales letter?” or “How do I make a better landing page?” All of these other business things that people were telling me would get me this goal.
But it’s because I gave myself the thing that I thought that other business stuff would get me, and then I realized, if I already have it, then I wouldn’t doing that. I’d be doing this other thing. That’s a step towards self-awareness.
Henry Chong: But you still spend a lot of time doing things that are hard, that are —
David Tian: Well, they are, but you enjoy it, right?
Henry Chong: You enjoy it because you enjoy the process in its totality.
David Tian: That’s right.
Henry Chong: A lot of us do things that we don’t intrinsically enjoy the activity in and of itself. We enjoy it because we understand that it is a step on a very, very long road, even though it’s hard and painful. That’s exactly why, to come back to it, visualizing just an outcome is terrible because, you know, I already have the thing I want, the emotional state. Why bother with the hard work? What you need to do is visualize the process, keep talking about how you need to learn to enjoy the process, for that exact reason, precisely because it’s hard.
Joseph has this great story that he talks about about the runner, about the sprinter, and about how he was coaching this Olympic-level sprinter who had formally been really good and somehow just had this mental block. He was a 100-m sprinter. He’d get 90m and it’s like, you just hit a wall. He just couldn’t do the last 10m. He was like 4 seconds slower. That’s [INAUDIBLE00:17:20], right? It’s high-school level as opposed to being an Olympic level.
And so, I said, “Okay, no problem. I’ll coach you, but you have to do exactly what I say.” The first day, he comes up and he moves the finish line 10m to the 90m mark. This guy thinks it’s really dumb, but he’s like, “No. No. No.”
David Tian: It’s longer now.
Henry Chong: Oh, right. And he keeps getting this guy to keep going and going, and his times get worse and worse because it’s longer and longer. He’s more and more tired. But every single time that he finishes the race, he celebrates absolutely crazy as though he’s won the Olympic gold medal. By the end of it, it’s just obviously — he’s exhausted. He has no more energy. And then he moves it back to the 100-meter mark. He outperforms all of his times. Again, just in a sense, forcing him to enjoy the process no matter objectively what looks like — he says, “I’m so terrible. It doesn’t matter. I’m being forced to just run as hard as I can and enjoy.”
And then when it actually gets moved back to where it normally is, he performs. Because, quite frankly, it’s not like his muscles suddenly atrophied so much he couldn’t run, it’s just that he had, in a sense, performance anxiety. He was so focused on the outcome. He was not focused on the goal [INAUDIBLE 00:18:37] the process.
David Tian: Right, the process. And in a kind of [INAUDIBLE 00:18:40] limiting belief for himself that he couldn’t crack [INAUDIBLE 00:18:42].
Henry Chong: I’ll come to him and see. He’s a big thing. I mean, in psychological research.
David Tian: I just thought of when you’re saying that — I just realized that when I got the self-awareness around the fact that I really loved the reading, and research, and putting the research out there, and there was no end goal to visualize. There’s no end to it. There’s not like any trophy or anything at the end of it, and there’s no championship or anything, it’s just the process that was purely…
It’s like purely intrinsic enjoyment of the process. And then I remembered Connor McGregor. I don’t know if you love him or hate him. People either love him or hate him. They’re never really lukewarm, but I happen to — I think the guy is really charismatic. And one of the things I’ve learned from — one thing he said that’s really cool was, “A loss can destroy a fighter, but a win can also destroy a fighter.” And George St. Pierre in his book Way of the Fight talked about his loss to Matt Serra.
Serra was an underdog to GSP in that fight. GSP totally didn’t respect him. He came in there, thought he was just cream — destroy him — and GSP got knocked out. He learned that lesson. One way to interpret that, that the win can destroy you, is that you get lazy, and complacent, and you stop pushing it. That’s the superficial way, and that’s true. But at a deeper level, here’s the other problem.
The reason why a win would destroy you is if that was your outcome. If you were completely focused on just this one fight, win or lose, let’s say you win it. Actually, if you lose it, then that’s alright because then you’ll be focused on the rematch. Let’s say you win that fight. What’s next? Now, you’re lost. You’re aimless. Now, you just have to put another fight in there.
Henry Chong: GSP talks about that. Like, the problem being a champion is there’s no end. There’s always another contender, always someone coming to knock you off. And you’re already the champion. There’s no more upside, right? He had seven title defenses in a row and he lost interest. He’s like, “Again, am I going to do this forever?”
David Tian: Yeah, it never ends. And if you don’t visualize the process — So, GSP loves fighting. Even when he retired, he was in the gym every day. He just loved the process of it. You can see these champions, even when they retire, they don’t quit fighting. They don’t quit going to the gym. Some of them do, and they got fat and out of shape. You know that? Those guys were driven by something else, significance or whatever it was.
But these other guys like — we think, McGregor will be like that. I still see him in the gym even though he fights once a year or something. But GSP pretty much was done and he kept going. One of the things is, if you focus too much on a short-term or medium-term goal instead of seeing beyond it, even if you were to get that goal, your life would pretty much be over. I do want to say though that is important to visualize is actually getting the goal.
That should be out of the 10 steps that you’re going to visualize, that would be step 10. That’s not like 100% of your visualization. It would be like 10% of your visualization, because you need to feel like you’re comfortable there with the belt strapped around your waist, with your arms being lifted, with the announcer saying, “And the new” or “and still”. That’s something that you should practice because you have to mentally get comfortable with thinking of yourself as the winner, and that’s the last step.
There are a lot of people who croak right at the end because they didn’t lock that in, being comfortable with winning that. One thing that Tony Robbins says in his visualizations that he leads you through is your identity. Who are you now? You’re the type of person who, what? Who wins, or whatever it is that your goal is. You have to see yourself as somebody who could do that, not somebody who gets 90% of the way then it’s like, “Oh, this isn’t me though. This isn’t me.” And then you choke.
Henry Chong: Two emotions that I personally find very powerful, that to me define what is a good visualization or affirmation, is pride and gratitude. A lot of people use pride in a very negative sense. There’s a kind of pride like arrogance. There’s also a kind of pride that comes from actually having accomplished something. If you have genuinely climbed step-by-step up Everest with no Sherpas and no oxygen, in your boxer shorts if you [INAUDIBLE 00:22:53], I think that’s something to be proud of. And if you’re not proud after you’ve achieved the goal, then the question is, maybe, it’s luck. Maybe it wasn’t really you.
That’s the problem with Powerball winners. They’re like, “I’m not proud of being a Powerball winner.” But if you’ve done something really hard, you can’t help but be proud. You’ve gone through the journey. You’ve fought the fight, and you’ve accomplished, and you deserve to be proud. And so, to me, that’s very important. If you’re visualizing that moment, having gone through the journey, having achieved your goal, are you actually proud of yourself for having done it?
If you have that sense of gratitude, you’re like, “Look, I have done this. I have achieved my goal and I’ve got the rewards that come with it.” I say, “You know what? I’m grateful for having all of those things that come with it. I’m proud of having achieved my goal and I’m grateful for all the things that I can give. I’m grateful for the journey and I’m grateful for the rewards that come with it.” I personally find that a very powerful way of doing visualizations and affirmations.
When I think about, in 12 months’ time, when I go, I’m proud, excited, and grateful that I have achieved — come through this journey and achieved this thing. I’m so thankful for everything that it has brought me: the way I’ve grown as a person and all the gifts that come with it. To me, that is a subtle distinction, that is everything.
David Tian: Yeah, pride and gratitude. And proud is like a satisfaction with what you’ve done.
Henry Chong: And that’s the kind of thing no one can ever take away. That’s what I mean by the person you grow into, by climbing the mountain. That is a value no one can take. It’s not like money, or status, or significance. That is something you’ll have forever.
David Tian: Yeah. Very good. Great way to end it. Thanks for listening again. How do they get in touch with you?
Henry Chong: You can find me on my personal website at henrychong.com. I write a newsletter every Sunday. You can find that on my website, or you can find it at fusang.co/newsletter.
David Tian: Yes. You can find me at davidtianphd.com and more about the podcast at davidtianphd.com/dtphdpodcast. We have a private Facebook group that you can join. That’s the best way to get in touch with us and interact with us. Join the private Facebook group. Until next time, thank you very much for listening, over and out. Thank you very much, Henry.
Henry Chong: Thank you.
David Tian: Alright.
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