Mood: The Ultimate Productivity Hack

In mid-1997, I found myself nearly naked treading water in the San Diego Bay somewhere around 2am. I wasn’t alone, though. Around me were about 60 of my closest buddies, also treading water, complete with their shivering limbs and chattering teeth. We were the young men of BUD/S Class 214, doing our best to get through the 6-month ordeal of Navy SEAL training. We couldn’t think that far ahead though, as we were just doing our best not to quit on this most agonizing of nights of our 6-day “hell week”.

This, you see, was the dreaded “steel pier” night of hell week. We all knew this was the night when most guys quit and the instructors pulled out all the cards to make life miserable for us. We’d already been fully awake since Sunday morning, some three days earlier. The class morale was at it’s lowest too. Instructor G. had been for hours yelling on the megaphone: “In the water, out of the water. Pain for you, fun for me!” And I do mean hours. I have no idea how he kept it up.

Incredibly, between Instructor G.’s banter and other instructors holding out hot cocoa and blankets for the “next guy to quit”, it was doing the job. It worked so well that in the last couple of hours we’d lost about 15-20 guys! To top it all off, our class senior enlisted leader (LPO) just quit. This is the most seasoned guy in the class and he was in charge of keeping tabs on everyone and taking care of the men. This was a very hard kick in the teeth of our class morale.

As was the practice, the instructors got together to figure out who is next in the chain of command and generally mess with the class morale even more before they announced the next senior enlisted leader. That’s when they turned and looked at me…

“Get out of the water, Kelley! Line up your men and get a muster! No, not your boat crew! The whole #@$% class! You’re the LPO, now son! Hurrrrrrry up!”

Ugh, talk about a paradigm shift. Up till now I’d been the class cadence caller but otherwise kept my mouth shut. You don’t want any extra attention going through BUD/S. Now I was in charge of a class of severely demoralized classmates, totally exhausted, and just trying to figure out how many were left.

“Sixty-seven, Instructor S!” was my attempt.

“Hell no, son, you’re down to sixty-two!” said the instructor. “Now get your sorry butts back in the water!”

Getting back in that water was the low point for the class. Really low. We could feel it. There was going to be a mass quitting real soon. That’s when I made a choice. Knowing I had only one powerful tool at my disposal, I decided to change the mood.

“Was one dark and stormy night. When your boy is called to fight…” I started singing. It’s an old “frogman” song that gets the blood going.

“Shut up, Kelley!” yelled the instructors. They knew what I was doing.“Better pray hard as you can…” others started joining in.

“He’ll come marching home again”, the class was getting louder.

Then it all came together. The tide shifted. The bonds of individuality lifted and we jointly donned the bonds of Brotherhood. While treading water and shivering in the bay at “o’dark thirty”.

“Woah-u oooh, o-u oh! Woah-u ooh, o-u oh!” The whole class was signing the chorus. Talk about a mood change…

Moods are one of those funny things that are discussed in psychology, philosophy, productivity, and bio/mind hackers among other disciplines. Have you ever stopped to thing about them? Let’s name some first:

Passion, Resignation, Wonder, Skeptical

Patient, Impatient, Generous, Cynical

Flexible, Rigid, Resolute, Panicky

Appreciative, Small-minded, Grateful, Opportunistic

Seductive, Closed, Cooperative, Petty

Becoming Arrogant, Happy, Sad

Loving, Fearful

Let’s play a game. Pick just one of the moods above and just think on it for a little bit. Where do you feel it? What does it cause to you want to do? What do you sense? Who do you think of?

According to most psychology definitions, moods are a longer term, more subdued emotion that can be assessed and categorized in a subjective way. Emotions, on the other hand, are an acute reaction to stimuli that may lead to mental, physical and sometimes bio-chemical triggering. Most professionals agree that emotions are shorter-term triggers that may often influence moods and vice versa. Outside stimuli, for example, could cause a biological reaction to our emotion and steering of our moods. Duh.

Let’s use a super simple example of complementing your wife on her figure or dress before going out to dinner. Not expecting one, she immediately feels “valued” which may lead to her being in a happy, or grateful or even seductive mood the rest of the evening. We can go many different ways with this but I just want to go through the biological process of stimuli–> emotion–> mood. This is the basic cause and effect sequence though there are many variations!

Can you control the stimuli? Of course. We learn that in bachelorhood 101, right? Candles? Check. Music? Check. And on it goes. Does it work? Yep. Then why do we forget to use it if this is the known sequence and it works on every human? I’m specifically not talking about with others either. I’m talking about you!

Warning. Paradigm shift ahead:

Moods can be created and produced in order to affect a desired outcome. Even though moods can and do happen (like burps), the more powerful way to think of them is as a tool that helps achieve objectives. We do not have to be held hostage by random moods, even if the cause is chemical. We can choose to alter the mood according to what is most needed at this time. This is mastery-level stuff though, and yet, there are plenty of masters.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a New York entrepreneur who has mastered social media, but has inadvertently become a master or producing a mood of dissatisfaction with laziness and one of incredible ambition. He does this with language, both written and spoken, through his social media channels and books. He continuously pushes specific words like hustle, among the backdrop of the busy NYC streets, at all hours, every day! Every component of his life, language and message are used to build a mood of highly driven ambition! It’s no accident.

There are definitely Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) components to crafting a mood. NLP components are often specific language that triggers these effective moods for you. They are usually short-term tactics, but if it is in support of ultimate objectives that are truly derived from the heart, they can work very well. If I, as an introvert, wanted to be outgoing at a very important dinner party, then I could use every tool to create that mood. I would tell myself “Everyone at this party is already my best friend”. I use specific questions to start a discussion “What are you most excited about these days?” I could wear clothing that starts a conversation. If my real objective were to have deep and impactful conversations with as many people as I could, then I would use every tool to the max. In strategy this is called “massing resources” to a single objective. It works well in warfare and when accomplishing any objective.

Moods also just happen. Sometimes for no reason that you can think of. Ask yourself if that’s the right one for today. There’s nothing wrong with giving in to melancholy on a lazy Sunday afternoon, if that’s appropriate. Yet for most of our week, that is not the most appropriate mood. Have you seen the mood chart that asks how are you feeling today? I used to have one in my office that was a little different. It listed POWERFUL moods that I could CHOOSE from. I thought about the next meeting and purposefully set the mood (both internally and externally) to produce the result that I needed most. Take the challenge, become a mood master, first for yourself and then for others. See for yourself how simple cause and effect really work!

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