The Intellectual Immune System


I have a theory. I call it the “Intellectual Immune System.” I believe our intellect has an immune system similar to our body’s immune system. Let me explain by painting a picture. I have a friend who was having significant health problems. After a series of tests, his doctor explained that he needed a new kidney. His mom stepped up to donate one of her kidneys which was a perfect match. They were able to work with one of the best transplant surgeons in the country and the procedure went off without a hitch. So though he knew he needed the transplant, had a perfect match, and the surgery went perfectly Even with all of that…what did his body naturally do to the new kidney? It rejected it. Why? Well, because it was foreign. Even though he needed it, his body’s immune system saw it as something from outside him and attacked the new kidney. I believe our intellect does the same thing with ideas. There are a number of studies which prove this, but I’m betting I can rely on your experience. Let me ask you this. Have you ever read a book on seven principles or nine new habits and you fell in love with it? It just felt like a perfect fit and the solution to many of your problems. Maybe it was on leadership, fitness or diet. You loved what the author was saying. It resonated with you. It just felt true. It was almost like they had video cameras up in your office or your home as they were writing it. The solutions just seemed like they were made for YOU! Did you commit right then and there to start implementing this newfound wisdom? You said, “I’m so doing this!”Or…“This is a solution that I can use!”Or…“This author just gets it. I’m on board with this!”But then (if you’re like me) within a week or two, you’d forgotten principles 4 through 7…or habits 3 through 8? Maybe within four weeks, you’d forgotten the title of the darn book and the author’s name? (Can I get an amen?) Why does this happen? Well…I’d suggest that it’s our Intellectual Immune System (I.I.S.).

Even though a theory or a concept may be a perfect fit, our I.I.S. can kick in and attack it because it’s from outside us. On a conscious or subconscious level, we start to say, “Well that’s great in theory, but it doesn’t fully apply to me.” Or “She has a great idea, but it starts to break down when I try it in my world.” The deep recesses of our brain push back saying, “The concept is fine but that author has never really walked in MY shoes.” Sound familiar? I sure know I’ve experienced this, and from working with hundreds of coaching clients, I’ve heard about this phenomenon time and time again. It happens to all of us and it gets in the way. The big question is…“Is there a way around the Intellectual Immune System?” The good news is that the answer is a resounding YES! And it can be wrapped up in one word. That word?…“Ownership” That’s right. When you coach someone, you help them discover solutions that they OWN. You help them put together a plan that they help to create. When a coach uses this approach, the solution doesn’t come from without, but, rather, from within. As a result… their Intellectual Immune System doesn’t attack it. They own it… from start to finish. That can make all the difference when we’re talking about implementing lifelong and life changing solutions. It’s also why one-on-one coaching can be more impactful than a weeklong seminar or a best selling book.

Why? Because as Elite Coaches, we help our coaching clients overcome their Intellectual Immune System because… If they discover it… they own it.

And if they own it, they’ll beat their Intellectual Immune System and finally break through! There is a hidden key to creating ownership and beating the I.I.S. It’s subtle, but I’m guessing you already know what I’m going to say. The secret, oftentimes, is being willing to listen. It’s being willing to shut up. Effective coaching is all about asking powerful questions and then intentionally listening.


About Al Lostracco

Steven Tyler, lead singer of the Rock group Aerosmith, co-wrote and performed one of my favorite songs, Amazing. It's about that pinnacle moment in life when you finally "get it". My favorite verse is "life's a journey not a destination". On Dec 2nd 1979 I broke my neck. It was the beginning of a most unexpected journey that would take many paths. Inspiring, motivational, insightful and humorous!