The cost of avoiding important conversations

In 1953, Hugh DeHaven introduced the idea of a collapsible steering column. Since it has been used it is estimated to have saved over 80,000 lives.

The problem was that it took car companies 13 years to launch a collapsible steering column.


It turns out, car companies were afraid to talk about safety. In fact, many car companies had safety patents they were intentionally not using to avoid the appearance of cars not being safe to drive.

The lesson we need to understand is this: Not everyone believes what you believe and not everyone wants what you want. (Even when it comes to things as important as safety.)

If it’s important to you, make it important for others. The perfect product or the perfect idea isn’t good enough to change people’s minds—only stories will.

[How many lives were lost in those 13 years because of people avoiding conversation that seemed too difficult to have?]

How can you challenge your status-quo?

By asking better questions:

What assumptions do I make that get in the way of me living the life I deserve?

How does this contribute to the false limits I put on myself?

How am I being complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?

What would I do if I weren’t afraid anymore?

What hard choices am I delaying to make?

What if…?

Shortcuts are rooted in our culture

Overnight shipping.

Fast food.

10 way to get rich quick.

Instant messaging.

The culture demands instant gratifications but gratification is never instant.

It’s painstakingly slow.

You don’t demand plants to grow faster.

You care for them.

Our filing system is biased

It’s dangerous to compare and judge other people’s moral character to ours.

Yet, we do this all the time.

Even if we try to be objective: we don’t see the world through their lens, we see it through ours.

Just because someone doesn’t fit a label we create or into a box we designate, doesn’t make them wrong—it makes them different from how you see the world.

A bird in search of a cage

There has never been a period in history with so many opportunities and so many choices.

And yet…

Yet, our instincts is to stay low, find security, don’t be noticed.

We look for things that feel safe.

But the cage door is wide open.

We get to choose when we decide.

What will you do?

Marginal thinking

One of the first thing that each student learns in business school is how to evaluate alternative investments.

It starts by ignoring sunk and fixed cost and instead calculate and make a decision based on marginal costs and revenues.

The problem with this formula is that it almost always shows that the marginal costs are lower and marginal profits are higher than the full cost.

We assume that our current assets, our current model of doing things will continue to be profitable and valuable in the future.

Except, past performance is not indicative of future results. There is no guarantee what sells today is what will sell tomorrow.

We fall into this trap of thinking in terms of marginal cost: we don’t comprehend the full cost of our actions.

And the same can be said in how we make everyday decisions. We don’t fully grasp the cost of one more cookie or to charge the credit card just this once.

We put more confidence in what we can measure instead of what we can imagine.

How powerful is a placebo?

It turns out that by simply re-framing what exercise is, it will help someone lose weight.

Things like the smell of a new car signals luxury, the $42,000 price tag on a pair of skis helps people ski faster, the horseshoe hanging on a wall helps make the steak taste better…

Placebos remind us what we think is authentic.

Ultimately, they are stories we tell ourselves about people, products and services—even to the point that it can change the way our brains and bodies respond.

“I’m not good enough”

Discursive thoughts are like an emergency alert system. They flash through our mind over and over again, incessantly. A broken record, stuck on repeat.

This resistance, that voice in our head that tells us we are not good enough, subverts us from doing our best work.

Here are three strategies that are helpful in combating the enemy from within:


Pema Chödrön invites us to gently say the word “Thinking.” As if your thoughts are like clouds passing through the sky. Acknowledge they are there and simply let them pass through.

Make better art. 

When things are not going well—you lost your job, that proposal you worked on for three months was axed, your presentation bombed—beloved author Neil Gaiman has an invocation: when the work you do is not working, make better art. And then you keep making better art and keep making better art, until, the work gets better.

Thank you.

What does Ulysses, Moby Dick and The Great Gatsby have in common? Each of them have one-star reviews on Amazon. No author ever got better by reading her one-star reviews. For all the critics, trolls and haters trying to tear down your work, just say Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for having the courage to speak up. And now you can go back to work. Because it’s not for them. An artist understands that she isn’t trying to change everyone, just someone.