What Young Entrepreneur Should Know?
Examine your fundamental needs. There are three you share with everyone else. Exploring them is an effective way to find yourself.
What are the three fundamental needs that we all share?
The answer is not sex, food and shelter. They’re up there in the top ten, of course, but they cannot happen unless three even more fundamental needs are satisfied: control, connection and consistency.
- Sex cannot happen without proximity between men and women and social skills, however rudimentary. This is an example of connection.
- Food cannot be found and made available all year round, year after year and in all seasons without initiative and means of conservation, however rudimentary. This is an example of control.
- Shelter cannot be found and protected without initiative, organization and social skills. This is a combination of control and connection.
- And none of the above can happen without identified and predictable links between causes and effects. This is an example of consistency.
Our needs for control, connection and consistency have been hardwired into us by evolution. They are interdependent, often overlap and have been driving everything we think, say and do for thousands of years.
Without them survival and reproduction, our two most demonstrable reasons for existing, can’t happen.
But evolution is slow. Our brains are as hardwired for survival and reproduction today as they ever were. The main difference is that 21st-century life is no longer a physical challenge for most of us. It’s a psychological one:
- threatening complexity has replaced threatening wildlife
- exposure to judgment has replaced exposure to the elements
- scarcity of meaning has replaced scarcity of food
- the tyranny of appearances has replaced the tyranny of subsistence
- contagious loneliness has replaced contagious illness
These differences have redirected our survival instinct, not appeased it. Likewise they have redirected our three fundamental needs. Control, connection and consistency still ensure sex, food and shelter, of course, but they now help achieve a lot more:
- exploiting 21st-century opportunities (where’s my start-up? Have you downloaded my app?)
- managing 21st-century threats (where’s my password? Where can I charge my smartphone? How dare you say ‘no wifi’?)
- communicating and influencing effectively (why only 1 like when I’ve got 2538 friends? Will they suspect I used Photoshop?)
- keeping up (where’s my fame? Where’s that fortune the world owes me just because I’m alive, connected, reachable and shareable? Why only 5 simultaneous tasks? Where’s my Adderall? )
- staying sane (where’s my antidepressant?)
- and, incidentally, achieving what we consider important, both for ourselves and for those we care about
Here’s a closer look at those three fundamental needs. We’re all born with them:
>>> OUR NEED TO FEEL IN CONTROL
This need explains our attraction to things like knowledge, food, shelter, freedom, choice, power, possessions, contracts, insurance, mastery and safety. But it also explains our attraction to risk taking, fortune telling and novelty, all of which are opportunities to test or improve our control.
On the other hand, losing control over our life or loss of any kind, whether real or just potential (e.g. the prospect of scarcity), is something we avoid and act on.
For better or worse, helping someone to increase their sense of control and/or avoid any kind of loss is an effective tactic to influence them.
>>>> OUR NEED FOR CONNECTION
There is very little, above all reproduction, that we can achieve alone. Evolution has hardwired us to assume we stand a better chance of surviving by collaborating with others, reciprocating and being sociable (watch how newborn babies instinctively attract attention, for instance). As groups we can produce more food, build safer shelters and defend each other.
Attraction, seduction and sexual desire are among the most obvious manifestations of our need to connect. By making them pleasurable, evolution has increased the chances that we’ll reproduce and survive.
Besides connecting with other people, we also need to feel connected to the world around us, to what we do in it, to what things mean, to who we are and to who we might become (self-actualization). This is why emotions and stories, not facts and numbers, resonate so deeply with us.
On the other hand, isolation or exclusion, whether real or potential, are forms of disconnection we instinctively fear and may go to extremes to avoid. They explain our reluctance to disobey authority and the darker sides of groupthink and conformity.
For better or worse, helping someone to enhance their connections and/or avoid disconnection in any form is an effective tactic to influence them.
>>> OUR NEED FOR CONSISTENCY
This need supports the first two. How do we spot threats to our control and connections? How do we spot opportunities to test and improve them? By constantly checking our surroundings for breaks in the consistencies we know about.
Consciously or not, we can’t refrain from filling gaps, spotting patterns, finding or inventing explanations (scientific ones, religious ones…), drawing conclusions, identifying truths, learning things and establishing rules. Our appetite for consistency is unlimited.
The world might seem to be in a turmoil of change, but most of life is consistent. We know from observation and learning that the same causes have the same effects and that reality in its millions of tiny details—including our own thoughts, actions and identity—is mostly consistent with our expectations and remains so from one timeframe to the next.
This means, crucially, that anything or anyone we know to be consistent or that we ‘like’ for some reason can be safely ignored in most cases. This in turn frees up our mind to pay attention to inconsistencies, which signal either threats to our control and connections or opportunities to improve them.
For better or worse, reassuring someone about life’s consistencies and/or helping them to spot inconsistencies is an effective tactic to influence them.
>>> BY THE WAY, WHAT ABOUT HAPPINESS?
There is little evidence that happiness is a fundamental human need. Happiness is a possible but not guaranteed consequence of our three fundamental needs being answered. Happiness might be desirable but it is secondary.
But that won’t stop me wishing you lots of happiness, however you define it. Take care.