One of the basic NLP presuppositions states: “Feedback vs. Failure – All results and behaviors are achievements, whether they are desired results for a given task/context or not.” Or in short as it is expressed most of the time: “There is no failure, only feedback”. In NLP making mistakes and failing are good. Richard Bandler often says that he achieved so much more than most people because he was more willing to make mistakes than others.

Feedback is an integrated part of the TOTE model. If you generate a lot of feedback, meaning you make a lot of mistakes, this only indicates that the TOTE model is working. Especially if you make sure that you make a new mistake each time you fail.

Two Happy Ones. — Certainly this man, notwithstanding his youth, understands the improvisation of life, and astonishes even the acutest observers. For it seems that he never makes a mistake, although he constantly plays the most hazardous games. One is reminded of the improvising masters of the musical art, to whom even the listeners would fain ascribe a divine infallibility of the hand, notwithstanding that they now and then make a mistake, as every mortal is liable to do. But they are skilled and inventive, and always ready in a moment to arrange into the structure of the score the most accidental tone (where the jerk of a finger or a humor brings it about), and to animate the accident with a fine meaning and soul. — Here is quite a different man; everything that he intends and plans fails with him in the long run. That on which he has now and again set his heart has already brought him several times to the abyss, and to the very verge of ruin; and if he has as yet got out of the scrape, it certainly has not been merely with a “black eye”. Do you think he is unhappy over it? He resolved long ago not to regard his own wishes and plans as of so much importance. “If this does not succeed with me”, he says to himself, “perhaps that will succeed; and on the whole I do not know but that I am under more obligation to thank my failures than any of my successes. Am I made to be headstrong, and to wear the bull’s horns? That which constitutes the worth and the sum of life for me, lies somewhere else; I know more of life, because I have been so often on the point of losing it; and just on that account I have more of life than any of you!”

Gay Science paragraph 303


A favorite saying within NLP is: “we like what if familiar, yet we learn from what is unfamiliar”.

The psychological explanation: to extract something familiar from something unknown relieves, comforts, and satisfies us, besides giving us a feeling of power. With the unknown, one is confronted with danger, discomfort, and care; the first instinct is to abolish these painful states. First principle: any explanation is better than none. Because it is fundamentally just our desire to be rid of an unpleasant uncertainty, we are not very particular about how we get rid of it: the first interpretation that explains the unknown in familiar terms feels so good that one “accepts it as true.” We use the feeling of pleasure (“of strength”) as our criterion for truth. A causal explanation is thus contingent on (and aroused by) a feeling of fear. The “why?” shall, if at all possible, result not in identifying the cause for its own sake, but in identifying a cause that is comforting, liberating, and relieving. A second consequence of this need is that we identify as a cause something already familiar or experienced, something already inscribed in memory. Whatever is novel or strange or never before experienced is excluded. Thus one searches not just for any explanation to serve as a cause, but for a specific and preferred type of explanation: that which has most quickly and most frequently abolished the feeling of the strange, new, and hitherto unexperienced in the past — our most habitual explanations. Result: one type of causal explanation predominates more and more, is concentrated into a system and finally emerges as dominant — that is, as simply precluding other causes and explanations. The banker immediately thinks of “business,” the Christian of “sin,” and the girl of her love.

Twilight of the Idols, The Four Great Errors, paragraph 5

The Origin of our Conception of “Knowledge” — I take this explanation from the street, I heard one of the people saying that “he knew me,” so I asked myself: What do the people really understand by knowledge? what do they want when they seek “knowledge”? Nothing more than that what is strange is to be traced back to something known. And we philosophers — have we really understood anything more by knowledge? The known, that is to say, what we are accustomed to so that we no longer marvel at it, the commonplace, any kind of rule to which we are habituated, all and everything in which we know ourselves to be at home: — what? is our need of knowing not just this need of the known? the will to discover in everything strange, unusual, or questionable, something which no longer disquiets us? Is it not possible that it should be the instinct of fear which enjoins upon us to know ? Is it not possible that the rejoicing of the discerner should be just his rejoicing in the regained feeling of security ? . . . One philosopher imagined the world “known” when he had traced it back to the “idea”: alas, was it not because the idea was so known, so familiar to him? because he had so much less fear of the “idea” — Oh, this moderation of the discerners ! let us but look at their principles, and at their solutions of the riddle the world in this connection ! When they again find aught in things, among things, or behind things that is unfortunately very well known to us, for example, our multiplication table, or our logic, or our willing and desiring, how happy they immediately are! For “what is known is understood”: they are unanimous as to that. Even the most circumspect among them think that the known is at least more easily understood than the strange; that for example, it is methodically ordered to proceed outward from the “inner world”, from “the facts of consciousness” because it is the world which is better known to us! Error of errors! The known is the accustomed, and the accustomed is the most difficult of all to “understand” that is to say, to perceive as a problem, to perceive as strange, distant, “outside of us”. . . The great certainty of the natural sciences in comparison with psychology and the criticism of the elements of consciousness — unnatural sciences, as one might almost be entitled to call them — rests precisely on the fact that they take what is strange as their object: while it is almost like something contradictory and absurd to wish to take generally what
is not strange as an object. . . .

Gay Science Paragraph 355


One of the NLP basic presuppositions is: “The resources an individual needs to effect a change are already within them.” What this means is that someone has always had an experience in the past that is the solutions for today’s problems. This holds even if the person is currently unable to retrieve this experience.

Forgetting. – It has not yet been proved that there is any such thing as forgetting; all we know is that the act of recollection does not lie within our power. We have provisionally set into this gap in our power that word ‘forgetting’, as if it were one more addition to our faculties. But what, after all, does lie within our power! – if that word stands in a gap in our power, ought the other words not to stand in a gap in our knowledge of our power?

Daybreak paragraph 126


One of the NLP basic presuppositions is: “All distinctions human beings are able to make concerning our environment and our behavior can be usefully represented through the visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory senses.” Or to put it in different terms: within NLP we can express all that is human in terms of the five senses. A different name for a sense is a modality as this a mode that data from the outside world enters your subjective experience. The most important modalities are visual, auditory and kinestetic. The less important modalities are olfactory and gustatory.

Why we are not Idealists.— Formerly philosophers were afraid of the senses: have we, perhaps, been far too forgetful of this fear? We are at present all of us sensualists, we representatives of the present and of the future in philosophy, according to theory, however, but in praxis, in practice. . . . Those former philosophers, on the contrary, thought that the senses lured them out of their world, the cold realm of “ideas,” to a dangerous southern island, where they were afraid that their philosopher-virtues would melt away like snow in the sun. ” Wax in the ears,” was then almost a condition of philosophizing; a genuine philosopher no longer listened to life, in so far as life is music, he denied the music of life — it is an old philosophical superstition that all music is Sirens’ music. — Now we should be inclined at the present day to judge precisely in the opposite manner (which in itself might be just as false), and to regard ideas, with their cold, anaemic appearance, and not even in spite of this appearance, as worse seducers than the senses. They have always lived on the “blood” of the philosopher, they always consumed his senses, and indeed, if you will believe me, his “heart” as well. Those old philosophers were heartless: philosophizing was always a species of vampirism. At the sight of such figures even as Spinoza, do you not feel a profoundly enigmatical and disquieting sort of impression? Do you not see the drama which is here performed, the constantly increasing pallor — , the spiritualisation always more ideally displayed? Do you not imagine some long-concealed blood-sucker in the background, which makes its beginning with the senses, and in the end retains or leaves behind nothing but bones and their rattling ? — I mean categories, formulae, and words (for you will pardon me in saying that what remains Spinoza, amor intellectualis dei, is rattling and nothing more! What is amor, what is deus, when they have lost every drop of blood ? . . .) In summa : all philosophical idealism has hitherto been something like a disease, where it has not been, as in the case of Plato, the prudence of superabundant and dangerous healthfulness, the fear of overpowerful senses, the shrewdness of a shrewd Socratic. Maybe we modern are not healthy enough to need Plato’s idealism? And we don’t fear the senses because –

Gay Science paragraph 372

Positive intention

One of the most common mistakes about NLP is made in regard to the NLP presupposition that “There is a positive intention motivating every behavior; and a context in which every behavior has value.”, most commonly described as “every action has a positive intention”. The wrong interpretation here is that most people ascribe to the idea of a “positive intention” that said intention is an intention for the good, or even worse the greater good of society.

Of course in most cases there is nothing like this intention for the greater good. Most positive intentions people have, are egoistical intention that only further their own agenda. Positive here means that people’s actions are motivated by what they want rather than what they don’t want. The context in which people’s action have a value often is only the context of what the person involved wants for himself. To be blind for this is a mistake.

‘Man’s actions are always good.’ – We do not accuse nature of immorality when it sends us a thunderstorm and makes us wet: why do we call the harmful man immoral? Because in the latter case we assume a voluntarily commanding free will, in the former necessity. But this distinction is an error. And than: we do not call even intentional harming immoral under all circumstances; one unhesitatingly kills a fly intentionally, for example, merely because one does not like its buzzing, one punishes the criminal intentionally and does him harm so as to protect ourselves and society. In the first instance it is the individual who, to preserve himself or even merely to avoid displeasure, intentionally does harm; in the second it is the state. All morality allows the intentional causing of harm in the case of self-defense: that is, when it is a matter of self-preservation. But these two points of view suffice to explain all evil acts perpetrated by men against men: one desires pleasure or to ward off displeasure; it is always in some sense a matter of self-preservation. Socrates and Plato are right: whatever man does he always does the good, that is to say: that which seems to him good (useful) according to the relative degree of his intellect, the measure of his rationality.

Human, All Too Human, book 1, paragraph 102

There is something in the morality of Plato which does not really belong to Plato, but which only appears in his philosophy, one might say, in spite of him: namely, Socratism, for which he himself was too noble. “No one desire to injure himself, hence all evil is done unwittingly. The evil man inflicts injury on himself; he would not do so, however, if he knew that evil is evil. The evil man, therefore, is only evil through error; if one free him from error one will necessarily make him — good.” — This mode of reasoning stinks of the rabble, who perceive only the unpleasant consequences of evil-doing, and practically judge that “it is stupid to do wrong”; while they accept “good” as identical with “useful and pleasant,” without further thought. If you start off with the assumption that this is the origin of every system of utilitarianism, and then follow the scent: one will seldom err. — Plato did all he could to interpret something refined and noble into the tenets of his teacher, and above all to interpret himself into them — he, the most daring of all interpreters, who lifted the entire Socrates out of the street, as a popular theme and song, to exhibit him in endless and impossible modifications — namely, in all his own disguises and multiplicities. In jest, and in Homeric language as well, what is the Platonic Socrates, if not — “Plato at the front, Plato at the back, Chimaera in the middle.”

Beyond Good & Evil paragraph 190

Wickedness is rare. – Most people are much too much occupied with themselves to be wicked.

Human, All Too Human, Part 1, paragraph 85


One of the basic NLP presuppositions is: “The ability to change the process by which we experience reality is more often valuable than changing the content of our experience of reality.”

The twofold struggle against an ill. – When we are assailed by an ill we can dispose of it either by getting rid of its cause or by changing the effect it produces on our sensibilities: that is to say by reinterpreting the ill into a good whose good effects will perhaps be perceptible only later. Religion and art (and metaphysical philosophy too) endeavor to bring about a change of sensibility, partly through changing our judgment as to the nature of our experiences (for example with the aid of the proposition: ‘whom God loveth he chastiseth’), partly through awakening the ability to take pleasure in pain, in emotion in general (from which the art of tragedy takes its starting-point). The more a man inclines towards reinterpretation, the less attention he will give to the cause of the ill and to doing away with it; the momentary amelioration and narcoticizing, such as is normally employed for example in a case of toothache, suffices him in the case of more serious sufferings too. The more the domination of the religions and all the arts of narcosis declines, the stricter attention men pay to the actual abolition of the ill: which is, to be sure, a bad lookout for the writers of tragedies – for there is less and less material for tragedy, because the realm of inexorable, implacable destiny is growing narrower and narrower – but an even worse one for the priests: for these have hitherto lived on the narcoticizing of human ills.

Human, All Too Human book 1, paragraph 108