paint-brush
Do Not Open This Articleby@benoitmalige
385 reads
385 reads

Do Not Open This Article

by BenoitMaligeMay 8th, 2024
Read on Terminal Reader
Read this story w/o Javascript

Too Long; Didn't Read

Do not read this story summary.
featured image - Do Not Open This Article
BenoitMalige HackerNoon profile picture


Really? So you're just going to open anyway?


I really wanted you to skip this one. I was busy travelling, and I had nothing to write.


Came back from an 18 hour flight and kept thinking of what to write, but I couldn’t.


So I figured I would ask for a favor and have you pass this one. Yet here we are..


So thanks for that.. What I am supposed to do now?


Let me think. Oh— You know what? I have a quick story to tell.


I was visiting my brother on a small and (very) remote island of French Polynesia called Nuku Hiva.


So small, in fact, that it doesn’t even appear on the map unless you zoom wayyy in.


Don’t believe me?


The point is, it’s a small airport, and you have to walk yourself to the terminal.


They have cones that tell you where to walk, but most importantly, where they don’t want you to walk past.


On the way in, I was tired from my long journey there. I just followed the line.


On the way out, I was feeling a little more like myself. I saw these cones again.


And they saw me.



They were lined up like soldiers, proudly wearing bright orange. Probably to show off, and also form a contrast to the tarmac.


The cones seemed to stare back at me with a challenge.


I am pretty sure they were whispering “Go ahead, step over. We dare you.”


Wait. What?


I looked at them. My pulse quickened immediately. I was being challenged.


“What do you mean you dare me to step over? Do you even know me? I can do whatever I want.”


I glance around. Everyone else is obediently tracing the path to the plane.


Not me.


The impulse takes over. I step over the cone barrier, and my foot lands on the other side.. I suddenly feel like a moonwalker claiming uncharted territory.


The hot Polynesian air crackled with tension. I could feel the cones' silent outrage at my audacity.


The thrill of the forbidden surges through me. My heart thumps in exhilaration.


I am euphoric.


But then, as if on cue, “Excuse me, sir, please return to the path,” a voice cut through my daydream. A staff member waved her hands with a mix of fear and anger.


And just like that—I was caught. My quest was over. I had to wave my white flag, and step back over.


Although they reclaimed my newly acquired territory, they did not take away my victory.


I stepped back into line, but I had a smirk on my lips. The thrill of defiance had sent a jolt of excitement through my veins.


It was a potent mixture of satisfaction and adrenaline. A simple act of rebellion that felt disproportionately exhilarating.


Anyway.. I make my way to my seat on the plane. And then I start thinking..


Why do these feelings emerge so strongly when we push against boundaries?


You see, it wasn't about the cones or the airport—it was a snapshot of a deeper, almost instinctual drive within us all.


This urge to defy the norm. The urge to resist restrictions. It taps into something fundamental about human nature.


The intrinsic desire for autonomy and freedom.


This instinct inspired today's letter. It's about the allure of the forbidden and the resistance to being told what not to do.


As it turns out, it plays in various facets of our lives.


  • The small acts of rebellion when we pick the road less traveled
  • The significant decisions that define our individuality
  • The way we make decisions in general
  • How we are influenced by people, companies, and marketing

1. Why We Chase the Forbidden

Reflecting on that moment of rebellion at the airport. It’s clear this isn't just personal. It's universal.


This instinct to challenge the boundaries is deeply embedded in us all.


Just look at how Apple used this trait with their "Think Different" campaign.


Apple didn’t sell products—they sold an idea.


You know how? They aligned their brand with Einstein, Dylan, and MLK.


Apple celebrated those who defy norms. They joined those who tap our desire to be part of something different.


The Genius of "Think Different"


Apple's strategy was a cultural statement more than it was pure marketing. These icons weren’t just talented; they were revolutionaries.


Their simple message? It's cool to be different; and it's powerful to think outside the box.


This strategy wasn't about selling; it was about igniting a cultural shift.


Think about it—how often do we gravitate towards things just because they offer us a taste of defiance?


That’s what Apple mastered. It’s almost like they marketed a rebellion.

2. The Neuroscience Behind the Temptation

When we're told not to do something, our brain's instinct isn't just to listen—it's often to rebel. This rebellion is powered by our brain's


reward system. Neurotransmitters, like dopamine, play a crucial role in it.


We often pair dopamine with pleasure. But it's also about motivation, learning, and seeking rewards.


When faced with a prohibition, our brain perceives it as a challenge.


Engaging in the forbidden act and succeeding triggers a release of dopamine, which feels rewarding.


Then there’s the prefrontal cortex—our brain’s rational part that tries to keep us in check.


Dopamine signals pleasure and potential reward. The prefrontal cortex calculates the consequences.


It tries to apply the brakes, weighing long-term outcomes against immediate gratification.


Fun fact. This part of the brain is still developing in young adults. This explains why teenagers often take more risks. And boy was mine still developing during my teenage years.


When you and I were barely walking on two feet and had hair to make Chewbacca jealous, our survival relied on curiosity and exploration.


Survival depended on exploring the unknown and overcoming obstacles. This required questioning and testing the environment all the time.


It was not about liking to try new things; it's about the neurological reward systems that encouraged those traits.


It was necessary for survival, and it was neural, too.


I was necessary for things like discovering what to eat.


Imagine our ancestors venturing into new territories in search of something to eat.


They come across a mushroom, bright red with white spots—pretty much screaming, "Don't touch me bro".


But, curiosity and defiance? It's built-in.


So, someone had to take the first bite, right?


And you can bet they regretted it right after. That’s the kind of trial and error that taught everyone else to steer clear of the fancy fungi.


But not all explorations ended badly. Sometimes, they found new, nourishing foods. These foods became staples in their diet.


It makes me wonder about the first person who discovered fire—what an intense moment that must have been. Anyway, just some food for thought on your own terms.


Fast forward to today. This system still urges us to push boundaries and explore new possibilities. This is true even when we’re safe from saber-toothed tigers.


This legacy influences everything. It affects how we approach challenges. It explains why a simple "Do not push" button becomes almost irresistible.


It explains why you felt compelled to open this letter even when explicitly told not to.


Understanding these impulses allows us to channel them well. We can use them to motivate ourselves, manage others, and craft messages that resonate on a gut level.


By acknowledging and embracing this innate curiosity, we can turn a simple urge into a powerful tool for engagement.

3. Defying Conventions: My Path to Independence

Thinking back on where I am today, a lot of it came from just not fitting the mold.


I wanted to go to an architecture school, but never could. Why? Well, I just didn't vibe with the whole school scene.


My grades weren't great—not because I couldn't handle the work of because or below average intelligence. It was because I couldn't stand the way they taught things. So, I'd end up doodling and distracting others instead of paying attention.


My jobs? I've always had a bit of a tough time with authority.


Starting my company was my way out.



I did not like having to obey my superiors at work simply because they were my superiors. When they were wrong, I made sure they knew.


They did not like it, and I rarely kept a job for more than 6 months.


Looking back, each of those defiant steps led me right here, to doing my own thing my own way.


This journey isn't just mine. It's a testament to the power of questioning norms. This power can redefine personal paths and how we approach marketing and social engagement.


Speaking of Marketing..

4. Impact on Marketing and Social Behavior

My journey away from traditional roles mirrors the tactics businesses use to captivate consumers.


Here's the thing about marketing—it thrives on our natural urge to reach for the forbidden.


Take "limited edition" products or "members-only" sales. This is about scarcity, but not only. It’s makes us feel like we're part of an exclusive club, stepping past the rope where others can't go.


In video games, they hide Easter eggs you can only find by not following the usual paths. It turns players into insiders, sharing secrets that feel almost rebellious.


Fashion plays with this, too. Look at those unannounced drops—they create a buzz by being elusive, sparking a mad dash to grab something unique before it disappears.


This marketing savvy taps directly into our love for the elusive and the exclusive, turning simple buying decisions into moments of personal triumph against the norm.


After stepping back into line at the airport, smirking from my small act of rebellion, I realized something crucial: the same thrill of defiance that fuels our personal choices can powerfully drive our business strategies.


This realization isn't just about me—it's about how any business can tap into these universal instincts to craft compelling marketing strategies and create unforgettable customer experiences.


Let's explore how this instinct for defiance can be strategically harnessed in your business to captivate and engage your audience.

5. How to Use This in Your Business - Framework and ideas

Understanding Reactance in Marketing

Let's talk about using reactance in a way that really resonates with people.


How about we make our marketing a bit rebellious?


Imagine you own a boutique coffee shop that prides itself on unique, ethically sourced beans.


To use reactance, you could launch a campaign called "Not your grandma’s Bustelo." It would say that your coffee is for those who dare to taste the unique and bold.


This resonates with consumers' desire to rebel. Each purchase is an act of defiance.

Scarcity and Exclusivity

Ever noticed how a 'limited-time offer' makes us want to buy something right now? That's scarcity at work. It's like telling people, "Hey, these gems won’t last." It makes whatever you're selling seem more valuable. It has everyone rushing to make sure they don’t miss out.


Imagine this. You are a business coach. You're offering an elite retreat named "Figure It Out, or Die" to your top-tier clients.


It starts with a tough, three-day jungle trek. The trek pushes clients to their physical and mental limits.


This adventure sets the stage for the climax. It's a coaching session in total darkness, deep in a secluded jungle cabin. There are no distractions. This compels clients to rely only on their sharp instincts and introspective insights.


Limit it to just three clients annually. This exclusive setup not only ensures a transformative experience but also plays on the scarcity effect. How much would a thrill-seeking CEO pay for such a unique challenge if marketed just right?


We offer products for a limited time. This taps into a consumer's urge to defy the fear of missing out. It turns the purchase into a rebellion against the market's scarcity.

Storytelling Techniques

Craft your brand's story to resonate with the spirit of independence. Narratives that highlight overcoming adversity or defying odds can inspire customers to align with your brand as a statement of their values.


You are the founder and can’t find a story? Call the business coach above and attend his retreat. You’ll have one 🙂


Such stories can inspire customers. They show them how to align with your brand as a statement of their values.

Contrarian Content:

Engage your audience with content that challenges mainstream ideas. This could be through thought leadership pieces. They take a new stance on common issues. This attracts those who appreciate a fresh perspective.


Do you run a financial advisory firm? Do you want to challenge normal retirement planning? You could create a series of blog posts or videos titled “You Might Lose It All, But Your Grandkids Will Be Proud”.


Ok, that might be a little bold. But you get the idea. And you’ll certainly get their attention.


Our content challenges mainstream thoughts. It appeals to those who pride themselves on questioning the norm and valuing independent thought.


In the end, whether it's stepping over a line of cones at a Polynesian airport or defying conventional marketing tactics, the allure of the forbidden runs deep within us.


We have primal instincts for survival.


They drive our decisions and actions. From them to the strategies of modern businesses, the urge to challenge boundaries shapes us.

As you reflect on this newsletter (that you were kindly asked not to open), remember this. The most intriguing adventures start with a simple act of defiance.


Embracing the spirit of rebellion can lead to unexpected discoveries and transformative experiences.


As you navigate your own journey, may you find joy in pushing boundaries.


Until next time, keep defying expectations and embracing the thrill of the forbidden.


Strategizingly yours,


Ben