Posts Tagged 'beliefs'

Fear of Fear

fear of fearMost of the things we avoid are avoided because we’re afraid of being afraid.

The negative outcomes that could actually occur due to speaking up in class, caring about our work product, interacting with the boss – there’s not a lot of measurable risk. But the fear… the fear can be debilitating, or at the very least, distasteful. So it’s easier to just avoid it altogether. We avoid the feeling of fear.

On the other hand, artists and leaders seek out that feeling. They push themselves to the edge, to the place where the fear lives. By feeling it, by exposing themselves to the resistance, they become more alive and do work that they’re most proud of.

It usually looks higher from up there. When we find ourselves on the edge of a precipice, looking down at the depths of the chasm below, it’s easy to think that our plan is far too risky, or our behavior too weird.

The funny thing about perspective is that most bystanders don’t see you standing on a precipice at all. They see someone doing something a little risky, or even questionable, but by no means off-the-grid nuts. You’re far more likely to go not-far-enough than you are to go too far, especially if you tend to find yourself worrying over what others think.

Internal monologue amplifies personal drama. To the outsider, neither exists. That’s why our ledge-walking rarely attracts a crowd. What’s in your head is real to you, no doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can see the resistance you are battling. And most don’t care about it.

How deep is the water? If it’s over your head, does it really matter?

At some point, when the stakes are high enough, you will swim. And when you swim, who cares how deep the water is?

How much does it cost you to avoid the feeling of risk? Not actual risk, but the feeling that you’re at risk? What are you missing out on? Feeling risk is very different than actually putting yourself at risk. Over time, we’ve created a cultural taboo about feeling certain kinds of risk, and all that insulation from what the real world requires is getting quite expensive. It’s easy to pretend that indulging in the avoidance of the feeling of risk is free and unavoidable. It’s neither.

The fear doesn’t care, either way. The choice is to spend our time avoiding that fear or embracing it.

 

Advertisements

Two Kinds of Argument

science-vs

Scientific -vs- the other kind. The scientific kind relies on what the facts say. The science can be proven wrong by better science. The other kind relies on what emotions say or pride.

If you need to convince someone who refuses to act like a scientist (listening to facts), making better science isn’t going to help you very much. The person you’re arguing with (who might be a scientist during the day, even, but is merely being a person right now) is not going to be swayed from a firmly held opinion by your work to make better science. It’s more likely that it will take cultural pressure, shame, passion, humor, connection and a host of unreliable levers to make your point.

The easy way to tell the two varieties of argument apart is to ask, “what evidence would you need to see to change your mind about this?”

Don’t argue about belief, argue about arguments. The essence of a belief is that we own it, regardless of what’s happening around us. The key to making a rational argument is that your assertions must be falsifiable.

“I believe A because of B and C.” If someone can show you that “C” isn’t actually true, then it’s not okay to persist in arguing “A”. The statement, “All swans are white” is falsifiable, because if I can find even one black swan, we’re done.

On the other hand, “Aliens are about to take over the world with flying saucers,” is not, because there’s nothing I can do or demonstrate that would satisfy the person who might respond, “well, they’re just very well hidden, and they’re waiting us out.”

If belief in “A” is important to someone’s story, people usually pile up a large number of arguments that are either not testable, or matters of opinion and taste. There’s nothing wrong with believing “A”, but it’s counterproductive to engage with someone in a discussion about whether you’re right or not. It’s a belief, or an opinion, both of which are fine things to have, but it’s not a logical conclusion or a coherent argument, because those require asserting something we can actually test.

You can’t argue with feelings. The key question is, “is there something I can prove or demonstrate that would make you stop believing in ‘A’?” If the honest answer is ‘no’, then we’re not having an argument, are we?

Before we waste a lot of time arguing about something that appears to be a rational, logical conclusion, let’s be sure we are both having the same sort of discussion.

Organization’s Effects

artguy

If you take a group of people, a subgroup of the larger population, and expose them to focused messages again and again, you will start to change their point of view. If you augment those messages with exposure to other members of the group, the messages will begin to have ever more impact.

We generally tend to align ourselves with those we’re around. We don’t fully understand why. There is a lot of psychology we know, and then other stuff we can’t explain. Yawning, for instance, can be statistically shown to be contagious. It has been studied for years, yet we don’t know why it happens.

Once a group starts to become aligned, and starts acting like a tribe, the messages of the tribe will become self-reinforcing. When someone is born into that tribe, there is a very high probability she will never know the difference. It is simply her common sense about the way the world works.

Programmed.

Are You Really Sure?

monoscopeuniverse

What if the speed of light isn’t constant? You don’t have to think too far into that question to surmise that it would break a lot of what we think we know about the universe.

VSL (Varying Speed of Light) is a real theory that has some traction, but is considered out of mainstream physics. It does resolve a few very sticky problems in our current understanding of the universe. For just one example you probably aren’t aware of…the cosmological expansion we often hear about actually appears to be accelerating, which in current (constant speed) thinking would imply that on a large scale gravity is repulsive. The science we accept is not at all iron clad.

There are two ways to look at this:

  1. What can we be sure of? The answer, truthfully, is not much. Everything can be questioned.
  2. When the prevailing science gives us a solid answer that remains stable for decades, we can be sure enough that it’s true to go ahead and act on it. That’s being practical.

There is always going to be that shred of doubt. It’s usually nothing, but sometimes a universe can be found there.

Okay, it’s mildly interesting to entertain these thoughts, but really, what difference does it make? It doesn’t impact that I have to go to work tomorrow, or take out the trash. Does it? Well…first, you don’t really have to do any of those things. Second…it gets to the religious question, and that changes potentially everything about what we’re supposed to be doing.

The more you learn about these subjects, the more you discover that “we” (as in the human race) know a lot more than “we” (the individuals) are aware of. We really do know and understand a lot about how the universe works. At the same time, you begin to see how many problems and mysteries there are within and around all of these things we think we know, which makes the mysteries all the more profound and troublesome.

As I have written before, it takes a bit of a leap of faith either way.

The more fundamental (to me) question is…what makes us leap one way or the other? Why do some look up at the sky and see God, whereas others look up and see only physics? Really think about that question for a while. What tips the scale one way or the other for an individual?

New Information

newinformation

What do we do with it? New information likely means it’s time to consider or evaluate change, which is often more difficult than it sounds.

To some people, it means admitting you were wrong.

But of course, you weren’t wrong. You made a decision based on one set of facts, but now you’re aware of something new.

To some people, sunk costs are a real emotional hot button, and walking away from investments of time, of money, and mostly, of commitment, is difficult. Add a moral component to this and the weight of change can get dramatically greater.

But of course, ignoring sunk costs is a key to smart decision making.

And, to some people, the peer pressure of sticking with the group that you joined or reinforced when you first made a decision is enough to overwhelm your desire to make a better decision. “What will I tell my friends or family?” “What will they think of me?”

The moral component, if it’s really valid and not just something to hide behind to stay comfortable, is another issue.

A useful riff you can try:

Sure, I decided that then, when I knew what I knew then. And if the facts were still the same, my decision would be too. But the facts have changed. New facts mean it’s time for me to make a new decision. This is not done lightly, without regard for what I was busy doing yesterday, without concern for the people who might disagree with me. It is done because it is right and best for everyone involved that me and my actions be congruous with what I know now. My supposition is that once they realize these new facts, they would be likely to make the same new decision I just did, or to at least understand why I need to. If they truly respect, value and even love me, then they’ll give me the space to make this course correction.

This decision is more important than my pride.

Why We Need Show Business

bballglove

Some time ago I had an occasion to visit a practice session with the Indiana University basketball team. It had a very unusual element I had never seen or heard about before. They were working on the usual things: mostly executing their designed plays. The defensive team had twice as many players on the court, all of whom had on boxing gloves and were punching the offensive players in their bodies and arms. Not roundabout punches, but hard enough to knock them off balance.

In life most of the war is in our own minds. The chasm between what we know we can and can’t do is occupied by a battle with perception of ourselves. Everyone who makes it to the other side looks back and tells us it’s mostly mental. If you believe, and really try as if you’ve burned your ships, you can do it.

So what does this boxing-ball match really do? It doesn’t teach a basketball skill we would normally associate with the game. Basketball is supposedly a non-contact sport. Ha, ha, the joke is on you if you believe that! There is lots of contact in basketball, but any kind of punching is out of the question, or is at least called a foul. Some teams do play a very physical brand of ball, with a lot of various kinds of contact. Invariably, if your team is not ready for this, it will throw your game off. You won’t be able to get to spots on the court you want, you won’t be able to be in balance like you are used to, etc. It gets in your head, and soon nothing is working. You lose, even though your team may be better. It’s almost all mental.

So you practice with boxing gloves to learn to handle these physical teams. Totally makes sense. But here is the non-obvious part. This is a sales job. The boxing gloves game isn’t that much like a real game. Conventional wisdom would tell you to line up a physical team to play in the way it will actually happen on the court? First, it’s not that easy to make such a team. The opponents you will face already have the best players who can do this. Second…you need to practice under worse conditions, so that actual game conditions are more tolerable. But do you need boxing gloves to do this? What is the point of big, red, boxing gloves? Here is the kicker, the third and big reason for it: by having played under these worse conditions in a very demonstrative, show business way that’s visually memorable, you have actually become sold yourself that you can work through it and handle it. The purpose is not so much to give you the skill and toughness, but to help you believe you have it. You have the visual mnemonic of all of those guys in red gloves punching you, and you learning to deal with it. You have become sold.

What have you sold yourself on in life? That’s the key to unlocking doors.What are you drifting towards as a result of accepting the sales job that has been done to you, whether by yourself or others?

Reminds me of a great line from an interesting movie about sales.

“There is no such thing as a no-sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way, a sale is made; the only question is who is gonna close? You or him?” – Jim Young (Ben Affleck), Boiler Room

The real “him” is your alter ego. That quiet voice of doubt that comes from your lizard brain wanting to keep risk low, and keep things comfortable. Sounds good enough, but as I have written before, comfort in the now belies the bigger discomfort of the future if you don’t act.

There aren’t many more ways I can think of to say it. Take the shot. You can probably get somewhere good, and you have rebounders around you in case you miss.

 

 

 

 

Is Truth Relative?

truthwoman

It depends on what you mean by “truth.”

There are only about three possible scenarios for how the universe works.

  1. There is an objective reality that exists, but not one human in all of history has ever witnessed it. Everything, EVERYTHING, is processed through the human system of perception. Our perception is our reality. It has been proven time and time again that our perceptions, and therefore the beliefs that stem from them, are faulty. We are easily fooled or tricked into believing things are real or accurate, when they can be shown not to be. We also have tons of evidence that shows similar individuals in similar circumstances perceive things differently. They may resemble reality to some extent, but there are many – perhaps an unknowable number of – flaws or discrepancies between what we see and believe is going on and the way the world “is,” versus the objective reality that may actually exist.
  2. There is no objective reality at all. There is merely the sum of our thoughts and beliefs, and all that we invent therein, which add up to something that seems objectively real to us. Taken to the extreme, this theory goes toward painting us as ‘only’ a consciousness. Seems far-fetched to me, but we have to admit it is possible.
  3. There are many objective realities. Each one existing in its own universe, with its own history and distinctiveness. There is evidence to support that these different universes occupy the same space, but are simply out of phase with each other in a way that allows them to overlap without interacting. In any case, the embodied consciousnesses that occupy each one of those may or may not be able to process their relative realities the way they actually are. Certainly, in the universe where we exist, there is ample evidence to show that we at best perceive a facsimile of our surrounding reality.  See #1.

So, truth? Yeah, my truth and your truth can be a bit different. Or a lot different. The answer to this is almost certainly not knowable by man, at least until maybe we might possibly someday transcend into some other, much more enlightened state.

What do we do about it? Nothing. As far as my perception can tell, we can’t do a bloody thing, and the exercise itself is nearly pointless. We have the lives we have and the perceptions we own that go along with them. That is the reality we must work within. We simply have to do the best we can there, because anything else would appear to defeat any possible purpose or joy in life for us. And it wouldn’t do any good anyway.

But, be mindful of what this normally concrete term really implies. Your truth, no matter how iron-clad it may seem to you, is absolutely faulty (i.e. wrong) in some ways. May we all learn to operate within the humility of that reality. Minimally that means being cautious about what you think, feel, believe, and remember. More profoundly it means questioning it down to the core of who you think you are, and why you are that way. These are extremely tough questions to genuinely grapple with, in part because it’s all tied up in perception and our programming. Any conclusions you may come to are suspect.

Since it’s not really knowable, does that mean that we’re just as well off with whatever makes us feel good? Probably. And that’s awesome for those who don’t get wrapped up in the doubts or can just feel good enough about whatever they believe. Some people are naturally able to hold their beliefs in a way that to them seems nearly iron clad. What is the answer for those who don’t? Modify our beliefs? Yeah, how exactly does one go about that without some satisfying justification (i.e. compelling evidence)?

How do you convince yourself? I asked a qualified friend once if hypnotism works. Her answer (paraphrased): “It can if you believe it.”

Damn.

 

 

 



%d bloggers like this: