“The Alter Ego Effect” by Todd Herman

While reading this book, I wrote down the main concepts from it. They can be useful for you if just finished listening audiobook or want to refresh knowledge.

other books key concepts

The Power of the Alter Ego Effect

The Core Self is where possibility exists. It’s this deep inner core where a creative force resides waiting to be activated by the power of intention. Because human beings have this incredible ability to imagine, create, and decide, it gives you the opportunity to change something in an instant.

four layers that surround our Core Self
  1. Your Core Drivers(what motivates you at a grander scale then yourself).
  2. The Belief Layer(how you define yourself and the world around you).
  3. The Action Layer(how you show up).
  4. The Field of Play(what’s happening).

All of these layers influence and shape how you think, feel, and see yourself in relation to the different areas of your life or what we refer to as the Fields of Play.

Be more intentional about who needs to show up on that fields. This isn’t about dishonoring who you are. This is about really looking at the characteristics that will help you succeed, and bringing that part of you to life with the help of an Alter Ego.

Many of us have ambitions buried inside us that are difficult and challenging, and demand something we’re not quite sure we can fulfill, so why not use an Alter Ego?

When you become more intentional about what characteristics will show up on an important Field of Play for you, you’ll Activate a creative energy powering a new level of performance.

If you approach any activity to avoid a challenge, it’s a form of suppression. When you set the orientation, like a compass, to negative motivation and do something to avoid some pain, or avoid something altogether, it makes it more difficult to see yourself as the person who can solve your own problems. This suppressive cycle of avoiding who you are and who you want to be creates a Trapped Self.

Setting the orientation to positive emotion and being motivated to create something positive in your life, over the long term, habitually and as a routine, enhances your self-efficacy. It builds your confidence, courage, and sense of control over your ability to face life’s challenges; it creates a Heroic Self.

In the Ordinary Worlds you can find a Trapped Self, and in the Extraordinary World you can find a Heroic Self. Both of these represent the typical experience someone feels, depending on how they’re approaching and experience a Field of Play.

The Ordinary World can be summed up with two words: destructive and uninspired. It is destructive to our Core Self and uninspired through our results. So it’s import to realize that this Trapped Self, which most people feel is who they are, isn’t you. The Core Self has resources available to activate a different side of you, the Heroic Self, with the help of an Alter Ego.

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The Ordinary World

Five Bridges are pathways to allow things to come in and out of an area. For you, these Five Bridges can either help or hurt the quality of your professional, athletic, or personal life.

  • Stopping
  • Starting
  • Continuing
  • Less of
  • More of

In the context of your Ordinary World and the Field of Play you’ve chosen, we’re going to use the Five Bridges framework throughout the book to help you get clear about what’s working and not working and power up your Alter Ego. Because we’re specifically talking about the results or outcomes you’d like to change, we’ll only be using two of the “bridges” to help define your Ordinary World on the specific Field of Play you’ve chosen. Make a list for each category below, and ask yourself, “What do I want to . . .”

  • Stop experiencing/stop getting as a result or outcome
  • Experience less of/get less of

Finding Your Moments of Impact

Target mapping is defining your final outcome or goal and then working backward from that target to build a strategy and plan to reach the goal. If you ever find yourself feeling like you’re walking a bit aimlessly, it’s most likely because you haven’t defined a destination, goal, or outcome and you’re just “doing”.

None of us gets every single resource to succeed; however, it’s what you do with what you’ve got that will be the difference in whether you find yourself in an Ordinary or Extraordinary World.

Your Moment of Impact comes down to knowing what outcomes you’re supposed to create on your Field of Play. What are the traits, capabilities, skills, attitudes, beliefs, values, and all the other bits and pieces that you need to succeed?

The Hidden Forces of the Enemy

The Enemy is a force creating inner conflict and stopping you from showing up as your Heroic Self.

The Enemy is stealing your moment from you, and keeping you tucked away, safe and sound, in the Ordinary World.

The Common Forces that can hold us back from achieving our goals are things like:

  • Not controlling our emotions
  • Lacking self-confidence
  • Worrying about what others may think of us
  • Doubting our abilities
  • Taking more risks in life
  • Not being intentional
  • A bad attitude

There are Hidden Forces that are harder to detect and can control your life like strings on a puppet. They come in the form of:

  • Imposter syndrome. If you don’t take yourself seriously on any Field of Play, you most likely won’t be getting the results you want.
  • Personal trauma. People have things happen to them all the time that they would never want, but they use them to fuel their success.
  • Narratives. Almost every one of us is looking for approval from our peers, from the people we see and believe are our tribe.

If you’re not clear about what or who needs to be showing up on your Field of Play, you can end up carrying a Trapped Self onto that fields that won’t serve you.

If you think about any of the Common or Hidden Forces, you could apply the “stop” or “less of” framework to any of them.

Having a clear vision created from a deep desire for what you want in an Extraordinary World Activates a Heroic Self, something you feel truly represents who you are and what you’re capable of achieving or creating.

Pulling the Enemy from the Shadows

Merry-go-round effect” — a conversation that goes nowhere, beats yourself up, and only spirals you into more self-defeating chatter. However, because our minds love to create story and make us the hero of it, the solution is to give yourself an Enemy to talk to when those seeds of negative self-talk show up.

Naming your Enemy creates a compelling distinction between the two worlds living inside of us. The Ordinary and the Extraordinary. It allows your Heroic Self to talk back to the Enemy trying to trap you.

The more something remains in the shadows, in the dark, unseen and untouched, the scarier it becomes.

The Power of Your Story

For a moment in time, just a few minutes even, anyone can suspend the stories they’ve been carrying with them on the Field of Play and in a Moment of Impact. Anyone can overcome whatever Hidden Force is holding them back or change whatever story they’ve been living out. All it takes is your willingness to suspend your disbelief.

Choosing Your Extraordinary World

You can use the Alter Ego to shield your Core Self and absorb the arrows, barbs, or worries you’ve imagined in your mind will happen if you act in any way different from your personal narrative and story you’ve told yourself of who you are.

Whatever Field of Play or Moment of Impact you’re creating an Alter Ego for you want to imagine how your Alter Ego will act, behave, think, speak, feel, and perform on that Field of Play. Then, when it’s time for your “phone booth moment,” you’ll intuitively know how to perform. And the likelihood of kicking open the metal gate to the zone, flow state, or Extraordinary World will have just improved.

To begin the process of getting clear about your goals, outcomes, or results we’l start with your Field of Play, what would you like to:

  • Continue experiencing/continue getting as a result/continue achieving
  • Experience more of/get more of/achieve more of
  • Start experiencing/start achieving/start getting

As you move to the Action Layer, you want to think about the actions, behaviors, and skills your Alter Ego will use to help make those outcomes happen. The questions to ask yourself are, what do you want to:

  • Start doing/start responding/start behaving/start choosing/start saying/start thinking/start attempting
  • Do more of/choose more of/behave more like/say more of/think more
    of/attempt more of
  • Continue doing/continue choosing/continue thinking/continue behaving/continue saying/continue attempting

The Action Layer contains your actions, reactions, behaviors, skills, and knowledge. It’s all the capabilities that you’re bringing to your Field of Play.

Once you move through this layer, you want to apply this same framework to your Belief Layer to reveal the new emotions, feelings, qualities, and expectations you’ll possess, which makes those actions much easier to execute.

  • Start believing/start expecting/start feeling/start valuing
  • Believe more of/expect more of/feel more of/value more of
  • Continue believing/continue expecting/continue feeling/continue valuing

The Power of a Mission

The great characters in movies and literature, they all seem to be fighting for something bigger than themselves. And even the ones that start out doing good deeds for selfish reasons end up finding deeper meaning in their labors. It gives the effort, struggle, and challenge a higher purpose.

People who pursued activities only for personal pleasure lacked a sense of meaning in their lives.

If you want to chase your goals, finding deeper meaning in your efforts will make you stronger, literally.

Our emotions drive our actions. It’s almost impossible for you to take action toward something you’re indifferent to.

You have to find that motivation within, and very often that motivation comes from feeling so emotionally connected to what we want that nothing else matters. It’s the core purpose of our being. We have to go on this quest. We have to enter our Extraordinary World, no matter the cost, no matter the odds, no matter the outcome.

When you break down the motivations of all the great heroes and heroines in
comic books, movies, or literature, you find there are mostly four core motivators, and there can often be a blending of two or more:

  1. Trauma
  2. Destiny
  3. Altruism
  4. Self-expression

In all of these situations, their real purpose was eventually transformed by
the Core Drivers outlined in the Field of Play Model:

  1. Family
  2. Community
  3. Nation
  4. Religion
  5. Race
  6. Gender
  7. Identifiable Group
  8. Idea
  9. Cause

When you begin to attach what you’re trying to achieve to something larger that yourself, it delivers a deeper purpose to you mission.

Whatever gets you onto the fields and gets you moving is all matters.

Defining Your Superpowers and Crafting the Name

The Superpowers you select for your Alter Ego will be the ones you need the most to ensure you show up as your Heroic Self on your Field of Play or during a Moment of Impact.

  1. Start with superpowers. How do you want your Alter Ego to show up during your Moment of Impact? What or who represents the adjectives you selected? Is there someone you associate confidence with?
  2. Choose someone or something you admire. What is it about this person, thing, or animal you admire? What traits(or Superpowers) do they possess?
  3. It’s right in front of you. Is there someone from your past whom you have a connection with or who feels like a kindred spirit?

The best Alter Ego is the one you have the deepest emotional connection with; emotional connection trumps everything.

The final Alter Ego you can choose is one that’s already meaningful to you, and you build creatively. Creating your own takes more mental gymnastics and imagination, but it can also result in a much richer and deeper emotional connection.

For some people, their Alter Ego’s name is obvious. If you’ve chosen a fictional character or someone from real life, then you’re going to use that person’s name most likely. If you chose an animal, or if you went into the lab to carefully construct your own Alter Ego after being inspired by the Superpowers of a few, then you’re going to need to give it a name.

The inspiration for your Alter Ego’s name can come in may forms, but here’s what I know. It typically evolves over time. So don’t concern yourself with getting it perfect.

Breathing Life into Your Alter Ego

The layers of the Alter Ego Effect model:

1. How You Show Up. (Skills, Knowledge, Behaviors, Actions, Reactions)

What are the behaviors that your Alter Ego embodies? How will it act? Will its posture change? Will it hold its head differently? Will your facial expressions change?

You can also consider other physical qualities, such as what would your Alter Ego look like?

In your world, how does your Alter Ego dress? Is there a specific article of clothing, like a hat or scarf it wears? Is there a style of dress you quickly
associate with your Alter Ego?

Think about your Alter Ego’s presence. How do they carry themselves in
a room?

2. Who You Are. (Attitudes, Beliefs, Values, Perceptions, Expectations)

What does your Alter Ego believe about themselves? Or know about themselves? What do they believe about the Field of Play they’re standing

You can also consider what thoughts your Alter Ego will have. If you aren’t sure, try this: What thoughts will your Alter Ego never have?

The Heroic Origin Story

Every hero has an Origin Story. It’s the story of how they became who they are today, how their Superpowers were bestowed upon them, and what drives them internally to defeat their Enemies — the ones in the external world and the ones inside them. And the mission they’re on to realize their Extraordinary World.

Having a story deeply rooted in your mind for why you chose or whom or what you chose helps you Activate this Heroic Self. Some people who thought they’d found their Alter Ego changed it once they found a different Alter Ego in a more resonant and meaningful story.

Most of the time, it’s the simplest Origin Stories that become the most powerful. The Origin Story fills in the blanks and explains where your Alter Ego came from. The story explains how it developed its Superpowers, why it needs those Superpowers, and what they fight against.

Without a story, you risk missing the emotional connection to your Alter Ego. Building and using an Alter Ego is more than an intellectual exercise — it is about transforming how you perform and show up during your Moment of Impact. That’s the only way you can enter your Extraordinary World. The Origin Story helps you to latch on to the Alter Ego’s identity, immerse yourself in it, and act through it.

If you’re leveraging the Origin Story of anyone or anything, be sure you have the emotional connection to it.

Creating a killer Origin Story for your Alter Ego is about knowing what will fuel its ascent.

Your Alter Ego’s Origin Story doesn’t have to be a novel or epic poem. A few short sentences will do, or if words are clumsy for you, that’s okay. As long as you can tap into the emotional pull for your Alter Ego, that’s all we care about.

Activating Your Alter Ego with a Totem or Artifact.

The Totem embodies your Alter Ego’s Superpowers, its Origin Story, and its mission. When that Totem is activated, it calls forth your Alter Ego.

Selecting and activating the Totem sets the intention of the specific traits you want to call upon in a particular Moment of Impact. It’s like you’re setting an internal compass so that you align your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. You’re being very intentional in tapping into the Heroic Self you need when you need it.

Totem gives your Alter Ego a form and a shape.It’s not just an idea floating in your head or an emotion you feel. It’s not just some vivid daydream that you distract yourself with in a meeting. Your Alter Ego is real, and it needs to be grounded in a physical presence.

Your imagination is undoubtedly powerful, but nothing compares to being able to experience it in the physical world. Your Alter Ego’s Totem or Artifact is the bridge from your imagination to the physical world. It’s the anchor.

Every time you engage with your Totem or Artifact, you’re psychologically calling forth everything your Alter Ego embodies, from the traits you’ve selected to the backstory you’ve created to the mission you’re on.

There are three types of Totem or Artifacts:

  1. Something you wear.
  2. Something you carry with you.
  3. Something connected to the Field of Play.

Don’t pick eight things and call them all your Totems. Pick one. Be selective. There are a few principles I’d go so far as to say are mandatory.

1. It must symbolize something to you. It’s everything. It’s the symbol of your Alter Ego, so make sure the two connect.

2. Whatever you choose must be something you can always use on your
Field of Play.

3. It should be something you can quickly take off and put on, or put into
your pocket or take out, or step onto or off of.

The Alter Ego is simple. It’s hard to build this incorrectly, but you can get
turned around at this stage. Here’s what not to do.

  1. Don’t wear, carry, or use the Totem or Artifact all the time. Your Alter
    Ego is built for a specific Field of Play, or you use it for those
    challenging Moments of Impact.
  2. Don’t give your Totem or Artifact away. This is for you and your Alter
    Ego. Don’t lend it to someone, and I’d suggest not telling others about it.
  3. Choose something you’ll enjoy wearing or carrying or using. It should
    be something you have a positive association with. If you don’t, then
    you’ll strip it of any power.

The Activation Event is when you use the Totem or Artifact as a switch, signaling to your mind it’s time for your Alter Ego to take over. Your Activation Event can be anything that feels natural and comfortable, but it has to be a physical action.

Tests, Trials, and Delivering the Ground Punch

The Alter Ego and the Field of Play it’s operating on create a dividing line with the Enemy. And now you can talk to the Enemy when it shows up to pull you into the sidelines of life, where you become a spectator. Make no mistake, the Enemy is a part of us, and it’s never going to vanish from existence. However, now you have this potent force to combat it, the Alter Ego.

How do you put the Enemy in its place? You use one of these two methods proven to be effective over an extended period.

  1. The Curb Kick is the equivalent of kicking the Enemy to the curb or sidelines.
  2. Your Response Proclamation. And it’s our way of finding that second gear, by having a well-prepared response to the question, “Who do you think you are?” or any question in similar form to cause you to doubt yourself. This not only prevents you from getting on the “merry-go-round” of negative self-talk; it also causes you to stay rooted in your Moment of Impact as your Heroic Self or your Alter Ego.

Write out a Response Proclamation in response to the question, “Who do you think you are?” Or, “This isn’t going to work for you . . .” Or, “You can’t do this . . .”Remember, it can be from your history or your Alter Ego’s history. Have fun with it and don’t be afraid to be lethal with your response.

Chapter 15. Mindsets, Missions, Quests, and Adventures

You decide who shows up on your Field of Play. And you decide what Superpowers and characteristics you’ll bring into your world, to get the results you want.

the Alter Ego Effect helps you tap into motivation and mindset behind why you’re doing an activity, which draws you into an Extraordinary World.


  1. Bring It On! (Embrace the Challenge). Your Extraordinary World will challenge you, and if you face it with an openness and willingness to be challenged, then you’ll find yourself developing more of the next Mindset . . .
  2. I’m Ready for Anything! (Stay Flexible and Adaptable). When you have a willingness to be challenged, it opens up more of your mind so you can stay ready for anything
  3. I’m a Creative Force! (Embrace Your Imagination and Creativity). The more you embrace challenges, and stay flexible, the more you free up the mental space to be creative. Use your imagination; don’t keep it hidden. It’s a powerful tool that not only brings your Alter Ego to life, but unleashes its Superpowers, too.
  4. I Love to Play! (Keep a Playful Attitude). We can be playful with the Alter Ego concept. The more playful you are, the better your results may be. Why? Because you’ll be more likely to experiment, to take the Alter Ego you create into the field and see if it works. Then you’ll tinker with it to make it even stronger, testing the results again, then tinkering some more, until you’ve found the best Alter Ego for you.
  5. I Wonder What Will Happen?! (Appreciate Discovery and Curiosity). You’ll never know the answer unless you first answer the question, “I wonder . . . ?”
  6. I Believe I Can Change! (Know You Can Reshape Your Mind) Our personalities are malleable. We can reshape ourselves. We can change our beliefs and create new habits. We can change our identities. That’s what the Alter Ego does for us.

Believing you can change how you show up on your Field of Play is crucial to successfully using the Alter Ego. You first have to think that change is possible. You have to believe that you can reshape those Moments of Impact and achieve an entirely new result.

At the end of your life, you won’t remember the thoughts or intentions
you had. You’ll remember the actions you took. You’ll judge yourself by how
you showed up, by what you did, what you said, how you acted, and whether
you performed the way you knew you could in any of the stages of life.

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