Lessons From The Apprentice

As a rule, I loathe television. Or, to be more precise, people’s reliance on it as the number one harrietmorrisdirectoryleisure time activity/think-for-yourself substitute.

OK, OK…I will confess my one televisual guilty pleasure: The Apprentice.

BTW this is the British version, so we have not the glossy Trump version with added hairpiece included – no, this is Alan Sugar, Britain’s grumpiest billionaire backer. For 12 weeks, he gets to practise his favourite put downs on a load of unsuspecting twenty-somethings.

One of my favourites was “if you don’t stop nodding, I’m going to put you on the backseat of my bloody car”. Donald Trump has definitely left the building.

Turning on The Apprentice is a bit like watching Victorian circus freaks, except I don’t imagine that those particular sideshow attractions ran around Shoreditch selling gourmet hotdogs, or tried to flog a mop and bucket to London Zoo for £250. And all in a pair of killer heels (I’m secretly really, really jealous about the killer heels, by the way).

Anyway, I do love this show. I love the deflating of overblown egos. The campness mixed up with the petty machismo…all of which is nothing compared to the female bitchiness (15 on the behavioural Richter scale). Self-proclaimed ‘sales magnet’ Daniel’s posturing was nothing compared to Sarah’s prediction that her team would look ‘semi-average’ without that essential negotiating tool, a short skirt. Apparently, covering your thighs is surefire predictor of losing the task.

The whole point is for the candidates to fall flat on their face, and for us at home to laugh and point.

I must fess up here – just like everyone else, I do indeed laugh and point (my scathing indictment of TV is losing its intellectual sting a bit, I know…). However, there are some really interesting eating psychology lessons we can learn from The Apprentice.

Why? This show is a beautiful demonstration of the dynamics of failure (and, much less frequently, success). The candidates’ desperation for the limelight seems to blind them to the oh-so-obvious set up: get a load of conflicting (and often immature) personalities, move them about 3 light years outside their comfort zone, and ask them to actually create a product, sell effectively or negotiate with established corporate businesses.

This has so much to teach us about eating psychology, because this discipline looks at how we eat as a mirror of how we do life. And indeed there are areas of life where we are not so different from these game show contestants.

Take for example episode two, where the teams had to create and sell a garment with wearable technology. We had the hideously ugly solar-panels-cum-epaulettes jacket (panels attached with gaffer tape) versus the utterly creepy Christmas jumper with built in video camera (the perfect gift to give your stalker when you invite them round for dinner on 25th December).

(Sorry. I told you I do laugh and point like everyone else.)

The result: hideous beat creepy…a relief. But what was really interesting was how inflexibility was the key to failure for a few of the (why on earth are they so?) hopefuls.

We had Robert, who flat refused to be project manager – in spite of Alan Sugar basically telling him to take on this role. He works in fashion, but this was not his preferred luxury fashion task.

We had half the girls’ team, who spent most of their brainstorming session explaining why they should NOT be PM. One sold scarves, so it was a no-no for her. Another worked in branding, but she didn’t create products.

Blah blah yada yada yada.

This TV show is the twelve-week interview from hell because it demands candidates step up and get their hands dirty. Dive in and have a go, even (especially) if you’ve never sold/created/negotiated X. Develop your transferable skills, for Pete’s sake.

Dive in and have a go is exactly the spirit that I encourage my coaching clients to approach the change that they are seeing me about. Losing weight, or improving digestion, or working with fatigue – these are all problems that millions feel stuck around.

These problems are also multi-billion pound/dollar industries. Everywhere you look, some self-proclaimed expert is attempting to sell you a magic pill to surgically remove the problem. They are making mega-bucks on the back of the mass hypnosis that is people’s belief that the next wonder slimathon/digestive cure/energy pill will definitely work, in spite of the fact that none that preceded have made even a slight dent in the problem (by the way, I don’t class temporary weight loss or  12-hour digestive relief as any kind of solution).

The only way to move out of this mass-hypnosis is to start to be more flexible in your thinking. Educate yourself about solutions you may not have tried, and try them out.

Let me give you a concrete example. My life used to be ruled by my cravings. They overwhelmed me and I was a slave to their orders. Anything with loads of that magic combination – fat and sugar – just had me. There was no hope.

Or was there?

It wasn’t until I started to be more flexible in my thinking that I finally found a way to get on top of those insatiable desires. I don’t eat a saintly diet, but I am now free of the life of slavery I sentenced myself to. And that means not just pounds lost, but a massive surge in my energy levels, and improved digestion.

If you want to know more details about how I dismantled my cravings, I explain more in part 2 of my video course The 3 Mindtools of Lifelong Weight Loss. It won’t cost you a penny – just let me know where to send it, and you can have it within minutes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go out. But what to wear? Hideous jacket or creepy Christmas jumper? Decisions, decisions…

Harriet Morris

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