Motivated reasoning

In 1973, Richard Nixon was sitting at 67% approval rating just after his inauguration.

Not much later after the trials of the Pentagon Papers began and after the story of Watergate had broken through, his approval rating plummeted to 25%.

The question is, who was the 25% that was still approving how things were done?

It turns out, not only do we sort people, we sort through ideas and beliefs.

Motivated reasoning is this idea that we “tend to find arguments in favor of conclusions we want to believe to be stronger than arguments for conclusions we do not want to believe.”

In other words, we pick a person or position and then we are likely to stick with it. Any information is then sorted to fit the narrative. Over time, as we sort and sort, we create a louder echo chamber.

During this struggle of Coronavirus, an event that has clearly been fueled by fear and politics, there have been clear lines drawn. Do you stand with Republicans or Democrats? Science or faith? Are you more worried about the economy or epidemiology? Do you trust the government or not?

The problem with this or that is this is no longer dissecting the information to find a conclusion. No, this has turned into why someone has chosen something different from me.

We are not data-driven (even if we think so), we are emotionally charged.

Yet, it’s possible to be following the science and find a way to open things up. It’s possible to practice social distancing and to protect our liberties. It’s possible to suspend normal behavior and collect more data.

There is a third choice in this mess. We can toe the line of this and that.

Once we pick a side, we often give that narrative the benefit of the doubt. You are not choosing between right or wrong here. We are all on the same team regardless of what side of the line you choose to stand.

HT Ezra Klien

One step further

When is the last time a tweet changed our minds?

They don’t. Which is why social media activism is not action.

It’s the first step is sending a signal to others about what team you are cheering for. Perhaps, it can help you find the others who feel the same way you do.

Real action, however, looks like:

Pulling out your wallet and making a monthly donation.

Organizing a speaking event or rally.

Attending a non-violent protest.

See something, say something.

Holding the space to have a difficult conversation.

Calling a legislator.


Reading a book on the history of the subject.

Starting a non-profit.

Be compassionate to non-compassionate people.

Show up week after week.

Action is when you’re willing to take it one step further past your comfort zone. Because it isn’t about your comfort right now. It is about someone else’s.

Experience-based education

When someone wants to learn how to play basketball, you don’t hand them a history book of the sport.

No, you give them a basketball, go to a court and start shooting.

Little by little, you make the challenge a little more complex. Explain the rules, teach them how to dribble, where to stand, what to aim for…

This is the ideal model for education: Experience.

Experience is something we all crave for. This is why when we find something that we are truly passionate about, we are engaged.

Schooling is the complete opposite. Schooling requires us to follow instructions, do what we are told, memorize what is on the test, get an A, repeat. No wonder students are not enrolled in the process.

Your education is separate from schooling. With each experience, we become more educated.

What do we pay attention to?

Every day, you can pull up Twitter and find that the world is falling apart.

Except, if we are choosing to focus our attention on the negative, we are ignoring all the good things that are happening all around us.

The same can be said in our lives. We wake up and choose to focus on the good things that are happening or the stuff that we perceive is bad.

An interesting word in all of this is pay. What do we pay attention to? Our attention is finite. You get what you pay for. Choose wisely.

Embracing patience and tension

The longer you be the change you want to see in the world, the more likely it is bound to happen.

Of course, this requires patience.

Patience comes with problems though.

The longer we wait, the more patient we have to be.

The longer we wait, the longer we have to hold this tension of this might not work.

The longer things take to happen, the more ammo the critic has to use (both internally and externally).

The good news is, patience and dealing with tension will also help you become the leader we need for this movement to work.

We need someone worth following. Not someone who is going to give up at the first sign of trouble.


When no one is willing to budge, the best thing we can do is to go back and ask what the person on the other side of the table needs.

Not their analysis, diagnosis, tactics or strategy—what does the person need?

When we work with needs any conflict can be resolved.

Problems and solutions

There are an infinite amount of problems to fix.

Fortunately for us, there is an infinite amount of solutions too.

Although some of these solutions haven’t been invented or discovered yet—there is always a path to find.

More problems lead to more solutions. More solutions lead to more problems.

Design decisions

Designing requires decisions.

The choices you make can change the behavior of those you seek to serve. For better or for worst. And with choices always comes criticism. Never without.

We need to be careful about what criticism we choose to listen to.

It’s easy to look back and say we should have chosen a different route after we hit a dead end. Or perhaps, all we are hearing is just someone’s preference.

There is a reason we use the term backseat drivers—they are in the backseat. So, let’s be clear: You are in control of this project. You are the one making the decisions. Part of your job is to manage these criticisms.

Sure, we need feedback. Yet, most feedback isn’t actually that good. They are a glimpse into someone’s narrative and worldview.

It might be that the work you are doing isn’t for that person or they are not in the trenches. Best to not let it affect you from doing your work. Say thank you and get back to it.

And if you truly are getting great feedback, then hold onto them. That person that can look you in the eye and sincerely say, “I think you can do better” is so rare.

[Note: Most critics don’t get a chance to see what is behind the stage, they just see the final product. They don’t know what you know.]

Forward motion

No organization can move people better from Point A to Point B than Disneyland.

That’s the beauty of scientific management. You can identify the bottlenecks and work to resolve them (i.e. posting wait times and using Fast Passes).

With that, there is a reason that when you stand in line for Splash Mountain that you are never standing still for too long before you get moving again.

That is a placebo.

Even if I am still an hour away but I am moving toward something I can tell myself that I am getting closer. It changes the narrative. I can’t say that I am stuck.

Long arcs with slow progress still need a feeling of forward motion to help make the journey bearable.

It’s too hard to quit smoking if you don’t have a calendar to check off. Too difficult to run an Ultra without counting steps. And, of course, we are not just talking about smoking or running.

Find something that keeps you moving towards the goal.

Play with your heart

Before COVID-19, it didn’t make sense to take a leap. I mean, how long could the good times last?

During COVID-19, the excuses are everywhere.

And after? Well, you’ll probably need time to recover.

It just never makes sense to take a leap. Because…

Because you are playing with your head, not your heart.

Playing with your heart isn’t going to make the fear go away, but it will give you the right purpose.