Your Online Content Should Deliver 'Cognitive Ecstasy'

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Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Humans love to have their minds blown. We are changed by that feeling of seeing or learning something perfectly new -- that feeling we call “awe.” And, according to Jason Silva, that’s the secret to really spectacular .

“Great content trades in the currency of inspiration,” said Silva, host of the popular National Geographic TV show Brain Games and futurist with YouTube series “Shots of Awe,” at Advertising Week in earlier this month. “If we are going to tell a story, if we are working with advertisers -- why not make that story inspirational? Why not make that story mindblowing? Why not give people that experience of cognitive ecstasy? Because I promise you they are going to be more compelled to share if they are moved by what you have created.”

At a time when the volume of material for people to read and watch is exponentially growing, being able to grab consumers’ attention online is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If you can invoke wonder and amazement in the content you create and share, you stand a better chance at making those consumers your customers.

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Silva spends his life seeking that feeling -- that “exhilarating neurostorm of intense intellectual pleasure.” He specifically curates what he reads, sees and does to maximize his potential for experiencing awe.

“I think it was Aristotle who used to say that human beings don’t care about spectacle, what they care about is ecstatic understanding,” he says. “We want to feel like we learned something new. We want to upgrade our maps. We want that cognitive ecstasy.”

How does he define awe? It’s that sensation you experience when you’re presented with something you have no existing framework to process. “Consider the first time you went to the Grand Canyon or the first time you saw an IMAX 3-D film about space. Literally you have no reference points for what you are seeing, no anchoring for what you are seeing, so your mental maps of the world are being upgraded in real time and that is an experience of awe.”

It’s next to impossible to listen to Silva and not believe what he preaches. He’s animated, energetic and eager. It’s as though he wants to give his audience a taste of the cognitive ecstasy he preaches about. But alongside his charismatic presentation is some pretty impressive science. A 2012 study published in Psychological Science determined that experiencing awe slows down people’s perception of time, and that the more a person experiences awe, the more satisfied they are with life.

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Advances in technology open up more opportunity for awe -- and that’s a good thing. The changes we are experiencing now, such as the constantly shrinking size of a computer chip or the miniaturization of the video camera, will provide new experiences we cannot even imagine. Silva says that’s not something to be feared, but something to look forward to.

As an entrepreneur, that means there are a growing number of opportunities where your product or service will have the potential to show a customer a new function or service. Show that. Capitalize on that.

Writing content that will elicit a feeling of awe in your customers will very likely mean more revenue dollars for you, but will also leave your customers feeling better, too. “It turns out that these exquisite moments of cognitive ecstasy have residual feelings and benefits,” Silva says. “Like, once the feeling of awe is over, you are actually left with residual feelings of increased well being, increased compassion, increased creativity, increased all kinds of wonderful therapeutic benefits.”

Related: What Separates Entrepreneurs From Mere Mortals: The Ability to Take Risk

Perhaps you want to try your own feeling of cognitive ecstasy? Have a look at the videos, embedded below, which Silva showed in his Ad Week presentation. Learn about awe -- and be inspired. You might just want to blow your own mind on a more regular basis.

To Be Human Is To Be Transhuman

What Is The Future of Us

The Adjacent Possible


Exploring Space: Cosmic Revolutionaries

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