Richard Bandler
The Ultimate Introduction to NLP: How to build a successful life


Imagine what life would be if the future could only be a repetition of what you have already experienced in the past: what a sad, sad world this would be. Not to mention the fact that we would still be living in caves and feeding off raw meat and bitter roots.

Luckily there’s an evolutionary drive in the universe, a force so strong that it defies chaos, and that force is what animates human beings.

Joe felt a sense of lightness as he came to a realization. In his journal, he wrote: ‘It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s not about what’s “true”, either. A good map is a map that gets you to see things from different perspectives and that helps you feel as resourceful as possible about your situation.’

Richard was getting down to what was most important:

Now, NLP isn’t something that you can learn just by reading about it or talking about it. You learn NLP through practice! That’s why today’s programme is rich in techniques and exercises.

I want you to know that even though this is a short workshop, I’m going to put lots of stuff inside your mind that is going to come out later. You might not understand all of it now, but remember, your unconscious is also listening.

This all started with a simple idea: I would go out and find people who had done something successfully, and I would discover the unconscious process that they used.

Joe heard Emily whispering to Teresa. ‘What does he mean by “unconscious process”?’

Teresa responded quietly, ‘Unconscious processes are the recipes that you follow to produce thoughts, feelings and behaviour. By becoming aware of these processes, you can then deliberately improve them or change them.’

Emily nodded as she thought this through.

I would then teach people to consciously engage in these processes, so that their problems would get solved or they could acquire specific skills.

What people say they do, or believe they do – well, it’s often far removed from what they actually do.

The thing that, for me, makes NLP revolutionary is this: it’s the first time that we have been able to deliberately reshape the inside of our minds. We have the tools to find out where the crap we don’t want is and to replace it with things we actually do want.

Joe wasn’t convinced. Although his life had changed quite radically since his first seminar experience with Richard, the idea that you could reshape the inside of your mind seemed a bit far-fetched to him.

Richard, however, was moving forward:

You weren’t born with your bad habits. You weren’t born with your skills. You weren’t born with your beliefs. The vast majority of the things that you do, you learned – just like you learned to walk or to shake hands automatically.

Even fears are learned! Do you know there are only two natural fears? The fear of loud noises and the fear of falling – that’s it. All the rest are learned. Now, some of them are useful, like being afraid of rattlesnakes, and some of them are less useful. You don’t want to get rid of fear altogether; you just want to learn to be afraid of the appropriate thing at the appropriate time. Like having a phobia about cheating on your partner! That’s a phobia worth having.

When I started out, people kept telling me things like, ‘You don’t understand, Richard. Change is slow and painful.’

But I’m not an understanding person – I refuse to accept limiting beliefs just because I’m told to. I believe that most often people change rapidly without any of this nonsense. I mean, all kind of things happen. You watch a movie or read a book, you talk to a friend, or even to a stranger on the bus, and your life is transformed by it. Instantly. You don’t need to read the same sentence for 13 years – you just read it once and you go, ‘Wow! That makes a lot of sense!’

You can’t argue with the man’s logic, Joe thought to himself.

And here’s another of those things people still tell me: they come to me and go, ‘You have to discover who you really are and to accept yourself.’ Well, I’m here to tell you you don’t. You don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be. Because you’ve acted like a shy person up till now doesn’t mean you’re doomed to play shy for the rest of your life. The fact that you might have acted lazy or reckless doesn’t make you so – it’s a behavioural pattern, not who you are. You can be whoever you choose to be.

Change happens all the time – it’s the only constant in life. The point is, are you going to choose the direction your life will take and the kind of person you will become, or will you just sit back and wait for life to happen to you?

With NLP, you get to change how you think, feel and behave. You get to take what you are doing – both inside your head and in the real world – and reprogram yourself so that you can make powerful changes in your mind. So, you see, here you have the chance to take control of your life, but it only works if you do it – if you actually commit to doing what it takes to change things around, and then go and make it happen.

I want to share with you how you can not only feel as good as you have in the past, but even better than that. It’s about being able to pimp up your brain!

Joe laughed. He loved the idea that you could make changes to your mind just like that TV show where they took rusty old wrecks and transformed them into shining supercars! He remembered how sceptical he had felt when his sister had suggested that he go on the first seminar. Up to that moment he had been feeling stuck, out of options, and the idea that he could choose who he wanted to be – well, that had sounded just like wishful thinking. Now, he felt different. He listened attentively as Richard continued:

One day, the guy who owned the house I was living in called me and told me that Virginia Satir was going to be staying in the area, so I should keep an eye on her and make sure she was comfortable. Now, Virginia was the reason why I got sidetracked from mathematics and science and ended up co-creating NLP: she was a very talented psychotherapist who could actually produce consistent results.

The first time I saw her, I was outside working on my car, changing an oil filter, and suddenly this woman walked up the driveway. She was a vision: very tall and wearing a Day-Glo green dress, bright red high heels and big horn-rimmed glasses. She was staring at me with a big smile, so I got up, looked at her, and went, ‘Can I help you?’

And she said, ‘I certainly hope so. I’ve never used a wood-burning stove and I wouldn’t want to set the house on fire.’

As we walked towards her place, I said, ‘So, you’re Virginia. Everybody says you’re a great psychotherapist. What exactly do you do?’

‘Well,’ she said, ‘I don’t really do what other people do. I try to get my clients to be happy.’

Now that made a lot of sense to me, so I asked, ‘Does it work?’

And she said, ‘I’ve been very fortunate, because I’ve been able to help many people whom no one else could help.’

‘Like who?’ I asked.

‘Well, I work a lot with schizophrenics who are hospitalized, and I discovered that if you bring their whole family in, some of them don’t seem so crazy anymore.’

Being someone who studied systems, I found this very interesting.

So, Virginia offered to take me with her. She was doing some training with the staff in a mental hospital and when I watched her work, everything she did seemed to make perfect sense to me. The questions that she asked were very effective and very systematic, but all I could hear from the staff were things like ‘Oh, she’s a miracle worker! Isn’t she so intuitive?’ Translation into human: ‘It’s not my responsibility to learn these skills, because they’re based on who she is, not what she does.’

Virginia understood that the map wasn’t the territory and she took that concept to a level that, to me, was a revelation. Of course, she did a whole lot of things – some of which you’ll get to learn later today – but basically what she did was, instead of interpreting what people said in a metaphorical sense, she took it literally. When someone told her things didn’t ‘look’ good, she assumed they were talking about a picture inside their head. And if they said something about the ‘sound’ of things, she knew they were referring to an internal sound. Most importantly, she understood that people needed someone who could ‘speak their language’, ‘see things their way’ or, if you prefer, ‘grasp their inner world’.

Joe was confused. What did Richard mean by this?

Now, let me give you an example that will make things clearer to you. One day Virginia is working with a couple because they are fighting so much their marriage is nearly wrecked.

‘He never does anything at home,’ the wife begins. ‘It looks as if he doesn’t even live there. I run around all day trying to make the place look decent and he just makes a mess out of it.’

And Virginia goes, ‘I see what you mean, Lucy.’

Guys, this woman keeps describing her pictures, and Virginia acknowledges this.

Then Virginia looks at the husband and goes, ‘How about you, Bob?’

Bob says, ‘She just screams all the time. It’s impossible to have a conversation with her. One minute everything’s quiet, then the next thing I know, she’s wailing about something I don’t even know about.’

The husband tends to use lots of auditory or sound words. Do you hear that?

Good. So Virginia goes, ‘I hear you, Bob. Now, Lucy, have you tried telling him these things without getting angry first?’

‘It’s impossible,’ Lucy says. ‘Look, I put the trash next to the door so that he sees it when he goes out. Will he take it out? No. Then I wait to see if he’ll take it out when he comes back. In the morning it’s still there. Then I see to it myself and when he shows up, I’m already fuming.’

‘OK,’ says Virginia, ‘let me see if I can give him a clearer picture. Bob, you heard your wife out. What’s your story?’

‘It’s like I told you, like she’s tuned me out or something. How am I supposed to know what’s going on if she doesn’t talk to me? It’s not that I enjoy the regular screaming and shouting.’

After a brief negotiation, always matching her words to those of the person she’s addressing, Virginia gets Lucy to agree to try telling Bob what he’s supposed to see. In exchange, Lucy gets her way on another hot issue.