What motivates us?
Sure, there’s the good, the true, the beautiful.
We’re motivated because we believe a better world is possible, and we want to make it real.
We’re motivated to create the best life for ourselves, our loved ones, our community, our country, our planet.
But also, we have deep, dark desires.
We want things that society has told us is wrong, and that we shamefully hide as a result.
We have hidden, shadow desires for things that are — from some perspectives — considered immoral or unethical.
It doesn’t mean we don’t feel them.
It doesn’t make them go away.
If anything, all the shame and fear and repression only makes these desires stronger — and us, more conflicted.
(Which is exactly how we end up with, for example, the male politician who vocally bashes gay rights getting caught picking up men in public.)
Our deepest, darkest desires may not be something we’re ready and willing to admit in public. But in private, they have an alluring pull that’s hard to resist.
This is important to know in the field of persuasion.
Because while your prospect may not openly admit to their dark desires in public, they may privately respond to persuasive messages that even hint or suggest those desires will be fulfilled.
Sex is cliche, but for a reason…
As much as your personal politics may want to fight the objectification of women (or humans in general — men, too)… Sex does sell.
A simple visit to Yahoo.com — not the most titillating of websites — I was quickly presented with not one but two articles about celebrity women posing nude for magazines. And if I were to open those same magazines, the ads would be chock-full of the use of sex to sell. And these were women’s magazines. Men’s magazines are just the same.
As much as American culture is full of sexual repression and shame, we’re also happy to make it front page, headline news.
We both repress and are obsessed with sex.
Now I’m not saying this telling you that you should necessarily go out and put pictures of scantily-clad women in your ad to sell an investment newsletter.
Heck, I’m not even saying it’s good to use pictures of scantily-clad women in any ads.
And I know there are huge issues with distorted body images, eating disorders, and major issues people face because our media is so full of mixed messages about our bodies and sex.
But the pull, the drive, the desire is real.
The seven deadly sins are such a cultural obsession for a reason…
Lust — intense desire, usually for sex but also for money, power, and other objects of desire.
Gluttony — overindulgence and overconsumption to the point of waste.
Greed — desire and wanton pursuit of material possessions.
Sloth — the desire to have without earning, to fail to do what should be done in life.
Wrath — anger, rage, and hatred toward others, seeking vengeance, and being violent.
Envy — to covet what others have.
Pride — corrupt selfishness, believing we are more important or better than we are, and putting ourselves before the welfare of others.
We have all of these within us…
This list, in particular, is from Christian teaching. Every major religious and moral system has their own version.
Even most atheists believe there should be laws in place preventing the expression of many of these “sins” — although they’d never call them that.
And probably fairly so — because if we let these qualities go unchecked, we would likely be far more terrible toward each other than we already are.
There is some place inside all of us, deep down, where these desires originate.
And in that place, they are neither moral nor immoral. They are simply an expression of our humanness — as wonderful and terrible as that can be to the moralists among us.
Those deep human drives come from our biology — and likely predate culture by millions of years, arising in us long before we had the language to describe them.
It’s only recently — in the long scale of human history — that we’ve tried to shut them down completely, to stifle these drives.
And so we end up feeling like there’s a part of us the world could never know — or we would be left rejected and alone.
That doesn’t mean it’s not there.
We wish to be seen, recognized, and accepted — even for our darkest desires…
When we feel recognized — even in a marketing message where the person never speaks with us personally — we are suddenly, radically open.
And with that, we are persuaded.
Even if we’ll regret it in the morning.
I’m not saying you should use this to get people to make decisions they’ll regret. In fact, if you’re selling something your buyers regret buying, you should stop immediately.
But the same core principles that sell things that are destructive and harmful can also sell things that are productive and helpful.
Could you use someone’s inner hell to help them find heaven?
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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