Humans, as a general rule, won’t take action on a single data point. A certain critical mass of influence has to build up in order to shake you from inaction. People who have spent any time in sales or marketing know this; people almost never buy from the first contact. The general rule is that you have to hear a positive mention of something six times before you’ll do anything.
That’s why billboards and TV commercials and stuff are important, even when they don’t seem to be selling anything directly. Lots of advertising is just meant to be funny or entertaining so that it gets shared widely and becomes “one of the six” for a large number of people. You don’t see a billboard and immediately order the product. But if you happen to see an appealing product in a store, you’re much more likely to buy it if you’ve had a positive encounter with the idea of that product at least five times prior.
The thing is, this is true of more than just advertisements to buy stuff. This is true of all sorts of concepts and ideas that may be very beneficial to you. Lots of study into evolutionary psychology can tell you why humans require this many touchpoints to move on a topic, but the important thing to remember is that you can choose to be different. And doing so – in certain circumstances – is to your tremendous benefit.
Many people, at various points in their lives, find themselves “in a rut.” They want to find a new place to live, they want to find a new job, they want to meet new people, they want to explore new hobbies. In other words, they want change. Well, the whole “six touchpoints” thing is absolutely insulation against change! It’s a defense mechanism designed to keep you safe and not do anything unless you’re sure enough of your peers have survived it and established that it’s a good idea. That might serve you well in some instances, but it’s really terrible friction when you’re deliberately trying to explore new things. And in the modern world, those things probably won’t kill you, harm you, or make you a pariah. They’re probably just interesting!
So lower your defenses. When you’re in “exploring mode,” make it a point to take suggestions. If someone says, “you should listen to this podcast, it’s really cool” – don’t wait for 5 other people to say the same thing to you before you do it. Do it right away! What have you got to lose, 20 minutes? You’re not about to be the first person in history to eat a particular berry; the risk is low.
Don’t be resistant to influence when you want to be influenced. Let the world open doors for you and explore a bit. When you find a new thing to care about, you can always pause for a while. But don’t let the pause be automatic while you yearn for movement.