Jonah Berger: The Hidden Forces Shaping (and Destroying) Your Life

Jonah Berger at The James Altucher Show Talking about The Hidden Forces That Shape Your Life

Episode 178

There was a time when the only word I said was “no.” I think that was the best time of my life.

But I can’t remember it. My memory sucks.

It was “the terrible twos.” A defining age. You tell your truth. But everyone says you’re a terrible person. And somewhere along the way you start listening to them.

They make up rules. And send you to school, where girls wear white gloves and can’t blow their noses in public anymore. I guess that’s why they think it’s cute when babies snot on themselves.


I went to Cornell, studied computer science, got a job at HBO, went back for remedial school because my degree wasn’t up to industry standards. Then I tried another job. And another job. I ended up on Wall Street. I lived there.

But that didn’t stop me from losing everything. I had millions of dollars in debt.

Not one million.


I thought my only option was to kill myself. Because I knew this for sure: I couldn’t obey any longer…

Imagine talking to someone for years. And everything you say gets ignored. You’re going to hate that person.

I ignored myself.

So that’s who I hated…

I ignored my gut. For 20 years.

Your gut reveals itself every time you say how tired you are or some BS like “Happy Friday.” It’s asking you to sleep, quit your job, be creative… to say “no.”

Information is power.

So even if you make decisions off influences, don’t you want to know what the components of your decision are?

I did.  

So I asked an expert…

  1. What are the forces that influence me?
  2. And how I can cleanse myself of the negative ones?

I interviewed Jonah Berger about his book, “Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior.”

He’s a Wharton School professor, a New York Times bestselling author and social influence expert. Google is one of his clients.

We talked about:

  • Mirror neurons
  • “The power of mimicry”
  • Why I won’t let my daughters win at checkers, chess or any game at all. Ever.
  • How to predict upcoming trends
  • What influences could be holding you back
  • And what steps you can take to be “one of the lucky ones…”

I was picturing businessmen who ignore themselves everyday. Who don’t drink water when they’re thirsty. Who just do the same routine. They have no idea they’re on autopilot. And it’s killing them. They’ll get a heart attack one day and never know what hit them.

That was me. Until I chose myself. 

Here’s 3 steps for uncovering the invisible influences in your life. And how to change them:

1. Find your influences
What’s your day, week, year look like? And why? My friend doesn’t do outdoor activities. Her husband doesn’t either. But he used to. That’s the invisible influence of love.

Jonah gives 20, 30, 40 more examples in this podcast. He helps you figure out the positive and negative influences impacting your life. Things you’ve never considered.

2. Check your gut
Picture your insides. Your meaty heart. And the stream of blood keeping you alive.

It already knows the answers to your questions …

But you have to check-in. Because sometimes it’s so quiet. It’s used to being ignored. Listen (in the shower, on a walk. Wherever.) And notice.

3. Then lean into it
Start with small changes. Go to the bathroom when you need to. Stop eating when you’re full. Linger a little longer. Give yourself space.

When your gut knows you’re listening, it gets louder. And more powerful.

I’m still learning to choose myself everyday. And sometimes my gut disappears.

But at least I know where to find it again.


Listen to my podcast with Jonah Berger here.


Links and Resources:

Also Mentioned:

Ideas for a world out of balance… sent straight to your inbox!

My goal is to deliver to you a fresh perspective…

Something to help you make sense of the chaos.

Sign up below for Altucher Confidential, my tell-all FREE weekday e-letter.

By submitting your email address, you will receive a free subscription to Altucher Confidential. This daily investment newsletter delivers free independent financial forecasting and commentary along with carefully selected products and services that we think might interest you. We will not share your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Statement.

  • I like your writing authentic.

  • Sandra Murphey

    Thank you for your continued efforts to empower people. I really hope it’s paying off for you. What you do is important, and changes lives for the better. I’m hoping that at 73, it’s not too late for me.

    • Hey Sandra – think of it this way: don’t assume anything, and put yourself in the mind set that you’re going to live to, say, 110 years old. Looking back from that perspective, what would you have rather done with those extra 37 YEARS? In other words, never too late, always second and third and fourth acts – you’ll enjoy today if you just move forward today. I like the (rough) quote, “the only thing keeping you from doing what you want is Doing it” It’s that simple – get on it! And cheers!

      • Sandra Murphey

        Thanks Larry. I know that you’re right. I’m feeling trapped in a tough situation, and the only thing that’s going to get me out of it is to step up my activist writing. I’ve looked for books on my topic of interest, and haven’t found any, so that’s encouraging me to go further.

  • Konstantin Georgiev

    James this has got to be one of your best posts. Although, I think I’m only saying that because the content really resonates with where I am in life. Also, please look up a man named “Wim Hof” (there’s 40min documentary on youtube by VICE). If you enjoy finding and learning about interesting, unique, out-there people this guy is a must.

    P.S. I have absolutely no connection to him. I just see too many similarities between you both to not have heard of each other.

  • Loved this podcast, James! Jonah’s work is fantastic – I enjoy his books.

  • Bob Lyle

    GREAT interview but the jacket thing was bad tasting. Funny that James called out “con artist” because that’s the same thing I was thinking.

    I think being honestly unique is always better than being the same but just a little different.