Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 3

Something that is counterintuitive does not happen the way you’d expect it. Steering a sailboat is counterintuitive – you push the tiller the opposite way to the way you want to go.

Welcome to installment three of a periodic series that presents some powerful, life-changing counterintuitive principles that when put to use, can lead to breakthrough results.  I’m not guaranteeing success, but they sure worked wonders for me throughout my career.

Four Counterintuitive Principles We’ve Covered So Far

In the first installment of the series we defined how breakthroughs often happen when we go in the opposite direction from what seems to be true.  We examined these counterintuitive principles that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with if you haven’t already:

  • Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principle #1: You Must Go Slow In Order To Go Fast. Your life literally depends on this principle, yet we’re so often in a hurry that we skip over the go slow part, only to have to do things over again. 
  • Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principle #2: Limit Hiring People Just Like You. If you’re tasked with hiring people, then you’ve been successful in what you do.  Yet when we hire people who are just like us, trouble happens.  Find out why!

In the second installment we took a deep dive into two more life-changing principles:

  • Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principle #3: If it Ain’t Broke, Break It On Purpose. Conventional wisdom tells us to focus on the things that are broken and leave things alone when they’re working well.  Yet intentionally breaking something to reinvent it enables vast improvements.
  • Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principle #4: Let Go of Control to Gain Control. Learn why you are usually the small end of the funnel and that restricts radical growth.  You gain much, much more when you give control to the folks doing the actual work. 

Now, let’s take a look at two additional counterintuitive life-changing principles.


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principle #5:  The Golden Rule is Not Golden

We all know the Golden Rule from our childhood days: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  The Golden Rule works perfectly as long as what is good for me is also good for you.  I’d like to be treated with courtesy and respect; it is likely you also value courtesy and respect from others.   

What happens when what is good for me is NOT good for you?  Consider this example of being thanked and appreciated for completing an important assignment. Your supervisor, thinking about what he or she would most appreciate when being recognized for his or her contributions, decides that the best way to recognize you for doing a great job on the assignment would be to publicly acknowledge the great job you did at the next quarterly all-hands meeting.  So, he invites you up on stage, tells the entire organization about your achievement and how it positively impacted the organization and customers, and then concludes by leading a rousing round of applause from the audience. 

If you’re someone who shuns the limelight, you might be embarrassed by this approach…you might even think about calling in sick that day.  On the other hand, if you prefer recognition to be done in a public way, you likely love your supervisor’s approach.  However, if you preferred public recognition, you might feel let down if your supervisor approached you privately and thanked you for doing a fine job.  What works best is for your supervisor to learn your preferences and match them with his or her actions. 

Bottom line: Take the time to get to really know the people you work with, and instead of treating them the way you’d prefer to be treated, treat each person the way he or she would prefer to be treated.  Let’s call this the Platinum Rule!

Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principle #6: Failing Fast is Better Than Failing Slowly

No one likes to fail, and few ever set out with the express purpose of failing.  Often, we set out in endeavors to try to prevent failure, closely examining our plans to find where failures are most likely to occur, and the best actions to take should a failure occur. 

Yet failure is an inevitable part of life. We are captivated by stories of how often famous people failed before they had their breakthrough… Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, just to name a few famous “failures.”  Persistence in the face of adversity is a wonderful thing.  Yet even Albert Einstein observed that “doing the same things over and over again while expecting different outcomes was, indeed, insanity.”

Underlying the Failing Fast principle is the recognition that some degree of failure should be anticipated, even embraced. You cannot simply bubble-wrap life. 

Applying the lessons of today’s failure is essential to unlocking tomorrow’s successes.   Failing Fast requires one to be vigilant of the warning signs when failing is occurring and stopping the failure quickly to minimize its damage.  It also requires that a post-mortem be done to determine the reasons for failure, and what to do differently next time.     

Bottom line: Accept that some degree of failure will happen.  And when it does, fail fast so you can figure out why, fix it, and limit the damage of failing slowly.


Stay tuned for installment four in this series in a month or so.

Bottom Line

I’m not advocating you wholly abandon conventional thinking in favor of replacing everything you do with a counter-intuitive approach.  What I am suggesting is that becoming a slave to conventional thinking will hold you back in life, whenever you should have zigged when convention says, “zag.”

This post is taken from the best practices taught in our internationally acclaimed leadership and sales training programs, Leading Through People™ 30, Counterintuitive Principles to Ignite Passion & Effectiveness.

I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness! Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

  • Improving your (or your team s) management and leadership skills: Leading Through People . This acclaimed program equips participants in thousands of current and emerging best practices of leadership, hiring, and talent development.
  • Raising your (or your team s) selling and sales management effectiveness: B2B Sales Essentials (among the 30-plus courses we offer are ones on selling with emotional intelligence and storyselling!)
  • Conducting a more effective job search: Get a Better Job Faster

For the past 25 years I’ve worked with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. Thanks to our clients, the company I founded in 1998, Boyer Management Group, was recognized by CEO Monthly Magazine for its “Most Influential CEO Award, 2023” in the executive coaching field.  Our coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time.  Our extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new and developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive.  BMG boasts one of the most extensive sales and sales management curriculums anywhere, with behavioral assessments to help develop talent. I also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982. 


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