The Reticular Activator and Reverse Paranoia

May 10, 2023

I always laugh when I think of this conversation that I had about ugly babies with a prominent community leader. He said, “As a leader, people often introduce me to their children and grandchildren and some of those babies are, let’s just say, FLK’s—Funny Looking Kids.” Some of you might be thinking, “Oh, that’s so mean!”  Others are thinking about a specific baby right now! Either way, I loved the way this leader said he always handled this introduction by saying, “Oh, it’s a baby!”  Hard to argue with that one. By all definitions, it was a baby. Just not a cute baby. But it’s all in how you say it. If you have a lilt in your voice and make the sentence sing-songy, it sounds remarkably like a compliment! Try it! “Oh, it’s a Baby!”  See what I mean.

This story popped up in my head when I was talking to a friend about the Reticular Activator. You can easily see how my brain went from ugly babies to Reticular Activator, right? Well, for those of you who didn’t see the immediate correlation, let me explain. The Reticular Activator is part of your brain that is on constant alert. Its main job is to make you notice some things and ignore other things. I remember this well from when I was pregnant. Suddenly, everywhere I looked I noticed pregnant women. In the store. On television. In Books. It seemed like preggos were taking over the world! Alas, that wasn’t really true, it was just my Reticular Activator at work, making me notice them.

Perhaps you’ve had the same experience when you bought a new car.  You buy a Jeep and all the sudden…Jeeps, Jeeps, everywhere! Since you were focusing on Jeeps as you researched and made the purchase, your Reticular Activator kicked in and helped you notice all things Jeep. The brain’s a marvelous thing, isn’t it?

So, as I tend to do, I wondered how this remarkable Reticular Activator might work on other things, things maybe altogether different than pregnancies or cars—things like nonprofit marketing.

In the nonprofit field, we have our own narratives—you know the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell each other, and the stories we tell acquaintances. Honestly, think about it. If someone sits next to you on an airplane and asks you why you do the work you do, is your answer positive or negative? The answer here is important.

 Sidebar:  We really should skip more often.

I believe the narrative that you choose to tell has a direct link to your Reticular Activator. Just like being pregnant or buying a Jeep makes you notice those very things, jumping immediately to a negative narrative correlates directly to what you choose to focus on:  negativity. <Boom> Let that marinate for a moment, won’t you?

In fact, it’s all about your focus. This is why I recommend a Left Brain Marketing Method that I call a Blueprint to steer your communication goals. When you set a goal, your mind puts a concentrated motivation on achieving said goal. It works like auto-pilot--you set your mind to concentrate on something and your brain responds accordingly.  That focus sets off the Reticular Activator and, all the sudden, your bewildering brain is automatically conditioned to see things you may have ignored before you established your focus. It will almost feel like the world is conspiring to help you out! <Mic drop> Imagine the world conspiring to help you out!

There’s actually a term called ‘reverse paranoia’ that I simply love! People who are reverse paranoid believe everyone, everywhere is out to help you! With that attitude, your Reticular Activator is always on the lookout for people that really can help you—like-minded people, passionate donors, philanthropic friends who want to leave a charitable legacy! These are you people! They have both an Affinity for what you do and the Capacity to do something about it. This is not brain surgery or rocket science…it’s brain science! You can’t make this stuff up!

So, as Dr. Seuss says, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”  So, use your head. Let the brain do what the brain can do. Change your lens, if needed, and re-focus. Concentrate on all that’s right with the world and what’s great about your job, specifically. And walk through the door each day believing that people are out to help you achieve your goals!

If you wish that your donors were more generous, then focus on that and all the positive ways that their time, talent, and treasure can be invested with your organization. Have you been a Negative Nelly with a severe lack of Right Brain Marketing Moxie, content as dry as a mouth full of cinnamon, and a message so boring it needs a C-Pap Machine? Well, you can change your narrative and thus your results! Set a goal to be more positive, lively, vivid with your message and all that your organization has to offer. Inspire your donors to give! And prepare yourself to answer that question more positively if an acquaintance, a visitor, and whoever sits next to you on the airplane asks what you do, by following these three steps:

Step 1:  Admit that you’ve been lacking a positive focus.

Step 2:  Commit to focus on a new and improved narrative about your organization and your job.

Step 3:  Let your Reticular Activator do its thang.

Let’s face it, ugly babies can’t help it if they’re ugly…being born is hard work and it’s not for the weary!  But being ‘that guy’ who struggles to ignite the passion of his donors, who fails to exude excitement for his mission in a contagious way, and who has lost that lovin’ feeling and the reason he accepted this job in the first place…well, that guy’s got some work to do. Luckily, the Reticular Activator is there to help. Put on a fresh set of lenses and rediscover why you fell in love with the work you do in the first place, friend! What have you got to win?

All My Best,

[email protected]
dawn brown creative, llc. 

P.S. Fundraising is hard, even though you make it look
oh-so easy! ♥

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