student of the game

Becoming A Student Of The Game

student of the gameStrategic thinking is the practice of putting logical, effective strategies into play, in order to increase your effectiveness with NLP and hypnosis.

Conscious & Unconscious Skill-Sets

There are (broadly), three different combinations of skill-sets in any complex endeavor. You have people that have a lot of natural talent. You have people that become students of the subject, and consciously learn to do it, and depend on that. And you have people with both. Most great basketball players, musicians, therapists, and orators have both good “talent” and knowledge, both. They are students of the game, as it were.

Talent Is Unconscious Strategy

Keep in mind, “talent” just means that a person has unconscious strategies, pre-installed (possibly along with inherited or developed physical or mental attributes). It’s possible to “install” much of that unconscious programming. That’s what we do.

A lot of NLP and hypnosis focuses on the unconscious programming. That’s part of what makes those the approaches in those modalities differ than other approaches. NLP and hypnosis aren’t about giving clients advice, or knowledge (in general). But a conscious knowledge, and applying logical thinking have their place in our strategies toward helping our clients!

In this article, we’ll talk about a strategic approach to developing knowledge and building strategies to use that knowledge.

Early NLP/Hypnosis Training

In 1995, I’d, I decided to go deeper into hypnosis (pun intended). I’d completed an NLP practitioner training several years earlier. And like many of us, I’d bought lots of NLP and hypnosis programs and read everything I could get my hands on.

I wanted to get as good as I could with both hypnosis and NLP. I called up an NLP/hypnosis teacher (Michael Bennett) and asked him if he was interested in starting an advanced study group. He suggested I join his students in their study group. He further suggested that, since I had practitioner training, I could sit in for the practitioner portion of his class for free. And if I liked it, I could enroll for the master practitioner segment.

I found that I was knowledgeable compared to most of the rest of the students. I could answer pretty much any question they asked. I started assisting in the exercises, and supervising the study group sessions.

Teaching And Therapy

Previous to all this, I had been teaching audio engineering at the college level. I knew from my experience teaching, that it made me a far better audio engineer. So, I decided to do two things to enhance my skills — teach, and do NLP/hypnosis professionally as a therapist. I knew those two actions would force me to gain skill.

So, I opened a practice (before I completed the master practitioner training). And I started pitching ideas to Michael for classes we could do together. I probably pitched 5 or 6 ideas to him and he turned them all down. I finally asked him a question. “Where do you want your school to be in 5 years?” He said he wanted big classes, all over the world. I asked him if he felt he could handle that alone. He said no. I asked, “Don’t you think it’s time to start building a team to help you get there?”

A short time later, he asked me to travel with him to assist at an intensive training.

The next few years I spent my time both teaching, and doing therapy professionally. This combination skyrocketed my skill level. But there was another factor that played strongly into my development . . .

Strategic Development

I watched Michael teach, and I taught. But the biggest bump in my skill level came after the teaching sessions. Often, after a twelve hour day of teaching, Michael and I would go sit in a hot tub, and talk about the day’s work. We would discuss the strategies we used, and why we did what. We would talk about various situations that had come up in the training room and how we dealt with them. We would plan for how to advance the program and the students’ skill levels and well-being. We would talk about potential metaphors and sleight of mouth patterns and embedded suggestions we could use to benefit the goals of the class.

In short, we strategized. Relentlessly.

There was feedback on what we had done, and talk about alternate techniques we could have used. There were assessments of what we had done and how we could do it better. There was talk about what didn’t work, and why. And talk about what worked and why.

A Certain Kind Of Thinking

This same strategic thinking applies when you work with clients, too. You want every communication you have with them to point in the same direction — them getting what they want. You want your metaphors, your embedded suggestions, your sleight of mouth patterns, your hypnotic suggestions, all the be working toward that goal. And that requires strategy (either conscious, or unconscious).

Strategic thinking helped me go from someone who used NLP and hypnosis techniques, to someone who develops a comprehensive, strategic approach for each client who sits across from me. I’m not saying I’m the best therapist in the world. I am saying that strategic thinking improved my skill level greatly.

How Do You Develop Greater Effectiveness?

If you’ve got the basic skills down, strategic thinking is a good step. It involves getting a broader perspective on what you’re doing. How do you do it? By reviewing your work.

  • One way, is to watch your session back from 3rd person perspective (on video, if you have it, in your imagination, if you don’t), and see if you notice anything from that perspective.
  • If you have a friend who is also skilled, you can trade session reviews (make sure to get the permission of your clients). But make sure they’re proficient in thinking about process as opposed to content, and that they have good strategic thinking skills.
  • Another option is to work with a mentor. (I’ve got a mentorship program open for the first time, and there are just a few spots available).
  • Teaching also helps build skill — you can give local workshops, talks, or group sessions. Video and critique your performance.


[thrive_testimonial name=”Anna Margolina” company=”Ph.D., Licensed Trainer of NLP, C.Ht.” image=””]This is very true. Such thing as apprenticeship exists in many professions, simply because you need someone on the outside to look at what you do, tell you what you do well and what you can improve and how to do it. No matter how wonderful is your NLP training is, there is a limit to how much personal attention a trainer can give you. Pairing up with a good friend – your NLP/hypnosis buddy – is a wonderful thing to do, but it is also important to have a feedback from someone who achieved the level of excellency that you strive for. To me such person is Keith Livingston. I highly recommend his mentoring program to anyone who wants to improve their game.[/thrive_testimonial]

About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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