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This page is a part of "Merl's World on NLP", one of the first websites on NLP, created in 1995 on CompuServe out of a Frequently Asked Questions file on the topic.
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The background of John Grinder,
that triggered his modeling skills

This page is a section of an Article I wrote for the NLP World magazine (March 1998 issue). It's an attempt at modeling the modeler. It is the answer to a question I asked John to find out where the roots of NLP can really be found.

John describes himself as addicted to excellence. He uses modeling to make a map of this excellence. Modeling is the goal he had in mind when developing NLP together with Richard Bandler, and he urges that modeling be the main element in the work of an NLP practitioner.

The blacksmith story:
This is a personal reference experience at the age of 9. Following out of curiosity the sound of metal hitting metal, John discovered the building where a blacksmith was working and he stood there, admiring the work of the blacksmith, the movements he made with the same elegance and economy of movement that a superbly trained dancer makes, the way he hits the metal with the certainty of the knowledge of his trade, …
Being trained by Jesuits
John was instructed by Jesuits for four years, during University, from the ages of 18 to 22. Jesuits are superb at argumentation and the structure of reasoning. John "admitted" he loves to argue with them.
Being a Linguist:
What is important for modeling is the skills to stay out of content and to manipulate the form, the process. For this, it is useful to have some sustained area of study that shows you the difference between form and content – biology, physics, mathematics,….
Influence by Miller
George Miller is well known for his work that demonstrates that the conscious mind can attend to 7 +/- 2 things. He is also known by NLP-ers for the TOTE-model that he developed along with Galanter and Pribram. John Grinder was a guest researcher as a graduate student at Rockefeller University in George Miller’s lab.
Knowledge of Science of Automata
The field of linguistics that John took his Ph.D is quite rigorous (it looks "almost like mathematics"). In fact, it is based upon a branch of mathematics known as Automata Theory. The study includes elements like the work of Turing (Turing Machine). Chomsky's work on Transformational Grammar is largely formed on these concepts.
Being in intelligence work
Skills involved in the actual application of the As-If frame in intelligence work the ability of agents to pass themselves off as someone they weren’t.
Studying languages
When John was 22, he was confronted with foreign languages for a first time in a concrete environment. In that he started to play a language game in which he tries to carry on a conversation with native speaker to induce the perception that John is a fluent speaker of the language, while that in fact John almost doesn't know anything about the language.

Language game model

The Meta-model can serve as a tool to play language games: Once you know what are the verbs and nouns in a language, the meta-model offers you a tool to play with the language without having a lot of actual understanding of what persons are saying. (Another hint from the editor: for those familiar to Artificial intelligence, in the 60s a computer program called Eliza was developed. This program simulated a Rogerian Therapist (only asking questions reflecting upon what the person was saying) and actually managed a lot of "patients" into being tricked that there was a "real therapist out there.)

When you want to get a quick first insight in a language, you can go for a first fluency. An example John described, involves learning the 6 forms of the verb "to go" in the language, the modal operators and the 20 most frequently occurring verbs in their infinitive form. This creates very quickly an illusion of fluency in a language.

You use the verb to go to indicate the future tense you want to put your sentence in, and add the significant verb. E.g. I am going to eat (in English) = "Je vais manger (in French) = Ik ga eten (in Dutch). If you combine the above sentences with some personal state management (enabling you to work under uncertainty and enabling you to learn by provoking corrections on your language use), the results are very quick.

<Read also about John's vision for the future of NLP>