Deborah Hill Cone
Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: Crouch, touch, disengage

Sometimes, the best option is to put the brain in neutral, and just believe in yourself. Illustration / Anna Crichton
Sometimes, the best option is to put the brain in neutral, and just believe in yourself. Illustration / Anna Crichton

You can find business lessons in the most unlikely places, and I think everyone could learn a thing or two from New Zealand's Next Top Model. Be polite! Stand up straight! Always wear flesh-coloured underwear!

Of course, the whole show is beyond bogus. Successful models are not successful because they go to bed early and have a cheerful disposition; they are usually sulky children who just look freakishly au courant, yet with a play-doh-like quality that makes them blandly malleable.

What can we possibly learn from them? Quite a bit, actually. When the contestants are going to a photo shoot, host Sara Tetro often talks about them walking on set and bringing total commitment. She has also practically garrotted girls for second-guessing and over-thinking. Models just have to believe they are beautiful or smouldering or whatever; they can't stop every two seconds to question whether they are really doing okay. The commitment and confidence just have to be there.

Although to this end, it may help to be a bit dim. For a model, there is nothing really to base your confidence on. It is all in your head that you're beautiful and not just actually a borderline skinny, ugly freak - with, surprisingly often, bad teeth.

This confidence trick seems to be the secret to success in pretty much any endeavour. This week's genius or dupe has to be artist Akiko Diegel, who just won a major art award for her Perspex box of old aspirin packets.

"Gripping," according to NBR. "Load of old bollocks," according to my Facebook friends, except for one who said "LHOOQ", which is the name of conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp's famous defacing of the Mona Lisa. People said his work was rubbish too.

But I bet Akiko could teach the All Blacks a thing or two about self-belief. When they run on to the pitch, the All Blacks know they have been the best rugby players in the world. Although they might be better off forgetting that. In his book Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, Gerd Gigerenzer (the academic who kindly provided much of the material for Malcolm Gladwell's best-seller Blink - bet he's buried that in his subconscious) writes about the importance of forgetting. You can put off an elite tennis player simply by asking them how they are going to play their brilliant forehand today.

In an experiment, novice and expert golfers had only three seconds to make a shot, or alternatively as much time as they wanted. The experts hit the target more often when they had less time than when they had no time limit. Gigerenzer says expert motor skills are executed by unconscious parts of our brains and conscious thinking about the sequence of behaviours becomes detrimental.

I am sure the All Blacks have whole teams of shrinks helping them with this, but we could also do our bit. We can forget the All Blacks' past successes. We can let them be like Top Models who have to "bring" their attitude to the task at hand, that day, without thinking about anything else.

The paradox is that even us non-modelling, non-rugger playing, non art-making ordinary punters might also do better if today, just once, we believed in ourselves for no reason whatsoever.

Illustration by Anna Crichton. Email Anna:

- NZ Herald

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