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March 29, 2022


Superlearning - now that sounds like a nice way to polish your skills. Lie back, get a massage, relax and allow the soft whispering in your ear to improve your performance, without any effort at all.

Only over time, too much superlearning might have unforeseen consequences, and turn you from a pleasant coworker into a raging sociopath. And then who knows what might happen? 

Music and sound effects: JuliusH and Pixabay

Picture: Rawpixel


I lied to the two men that visited this morning. I said I had no idea what they were talking about. I couldn’t tell them where it was. They might take it away from me.

I’ll tell you how I found it. The date was Thursday, May 3rd 2011 and I was with a group being interviewed for the job of head of the audit team at my company’s Leadership Center. The HR department gave us tests – problem solving, managing difficult employees, social skills - all the usual stuff. Our last task was to make a five-minute sales pitch to the company CEO about why we deserved the job. I knew I was going to fail.

At that time I hated presentations. My hands and voice would shake, my throat dry up and my brain go blank. I was so nervous I couldn’t eat any lunch, so I wandered around the building waiting for my appointment. It was then that I found it.

It was an ordinary looking armchair, hidden away in a small room with a desk, some cheap novels and old copies of National Geographic. The only unusual thing was the electrical cable going to a socket in the wall. On the seat were some headphones, a remote control and a notice:

Brain Wave Activator: sit down, put on headphones, press start button.

I looked around. There was nobody there and I still had half-an-hour to wait. I put on the headphones

‘Welcome to the Brain Wave Activator,’ said a voice. ‘The unique combination of music, gentle suggestions and automatic back massage will stimulate your brain waves. Listen to the menu, chose a program and improve your life! Number 1 – Career Planning. 2 – Decision Making. 3 – Dynamic Presentations. 4 …’

I pressed number three and the program started. The strange thing with the chair is that afterwards you can’t remember anything specific. There’s a massage, and the voice and music make you feel sleepy and when it ends you wake up feeling incredible. Anyway, I went to my appointment with the CEO, gave the best five-minute presentation she’d ever heard and got the job. I’ve never had presentation problems since then.

A couple of months later I was back at the Center. This time I was supporting the CEO in a negotiation with another company that we wanted to buy. Things were going badly. Their CEO was being difficult about our price-per-share offer, claiming it wasn’t enough. We took a time-out and while everybody else was on their phones talking to consultants and banks, I found myself sitting in the chair again.

‘You’ve chosen Program 14 – Power Negotiating. Sit back and visualize your goal …’

A short time later I went back to the negotiation room and sat next to my boss.

‘Listen you dope,’ somebody said to their CEO. ‘Take the offer on the table. With the shares you already own in your company you’ll make a personal profit of $20 million. Turn this down and you won’t get another cent out of us and we’ll use every trick in the book – legal or illegal – to bankrupt you. The choice is yours - $20 million in your pocket now, or nothing!’

Everybody turned to look at the speaker and to my horror I realized that the words had come from my mouth. But forty-five minutes later the deal was done and I was a company hero.

That evening I asked the Center supervisor about the chair.

‘It’s from a Silicon Valley company that specializes in super learning,’ he said. ‘They sent us this beta version of a new product to test a few months ago. Nobody showed any interest so I was thinking of sending it back…’

We did a deal and the following Monday the chair was delivered to my home. I wanted it just for me.

My career took off after that and within five years I was not only CEO of the company, I was the darling of Wall Street with my face on the cover of all the big business magazines. I didn’t use the chair all the time, only when I couldn’t solve a problem myself. There was always something to help me. Falling profits? Program 54 – Downsize your Company. Stress symptoms? Program 126 – Work hard, Play harder.

There was a cost of course. My marriage ended and I have no real friends. Even my dog chose my wife rather than me. But the power! That made everything worthwhile.

Which is why I couldn’t tell those men this morning that I had the chair. They claim they’re from the original manufacturers and that there is a fault with it which they need to repair. But I don’t believe them, I think they’re from a competitor. This is why I’m going to try Program 145 – Eliminate your Rivals tonight. Then I’ll know just what to do.


Ring … ring


‘Tony – it’s Jack. I hear your customer is extending your project funding.’

‘Yes, there is still a lot of work to do on the chair. Our test subject has become very successful, but the constant brain wave programming has turned him into a sociopath. He doesn’t care what he has to do to get what he wants. That needs to be fixed.’

‘Is the programming reversible?’

‘Not properly.’


‘Well, the customer made us include a brain wave reset program which they can launch in an emergency. It makes the subject so mentally unstable he can be locked up. When the test subject refused to return the chair we had to warn the customer. If they activate the reset, his brain waves will explode the next time he uses any program.’

‘Do you think they’ll do that? Activate it I mean.’

‘The CIA? I don’t think they’ll have any problems about doing that…’