The self deception problem

Many are mistaking research with “I googled it”. Research is the painstaking process of purposely putting yourself in a position of incompetence and then doing the work until you’re competent again. Reading a couple tweets or your Facebook feed or clicking a couple articles doesn’t change our narrative, it reinforces it.

We need to rely on experts because most of us don’t actually understand how vaccines work. Sure, we have basic concepts but there is an intellectual debt accrued. I don’t know how to work on cars so I go to a mechanic. I know some basics but ultimately I am trusting the expert to tell me what needs to happen next. The same is true if I am going to take Ibuprofen.

And yes, finding the right experts to trust can be harder than ever. In the last 20 years, government, banks, etc have failed the people. The mistrust is warranted. But listening to all sides makes zero sense. I don’t need to listen to a conspiracy theorist that hasn’t done the reading and lacks the credentials. We can toss that opinion to the side. We all know we live in an era of disinformation–someone is the sucker in the room. We need to find experts and listen to them not because they know everything but because the probability that they are right is much higher than a conspiracy theorist.

When 96% percent of doctors in the US are vaccinated and nearly 6 billion doses are administered worldwide–what are we actually talking about? Because there is a clear consensus and not a string of dead bodies from the vaccine. We are talking about ideology not science or truth seeking. What we are actually talking about is tribal. If I speak up against what my tribe has shown to stand for then I am hitting too close to who I am as a person. What happens if the tribe now throws me out?

We are biologically wired to connect, to fit in with those around us. We don’t want to stand out. Which leads us to the problem of self deception:

We all believe we are rational actors. As such we will continue to deny or go through great lengths to uphold a fragile worldview. Cherry picking the facts and fitting it into the cannon–the story we are already telling ourselves.

The mountain that you’ve chosen is not the mountain you have to die on.

You can’t change someone’s mind with a tweet

Here’s the problem about explaining how to solve complex problems on Twitter:

There is more than one answer to the question.

Climate change, the pandemic, gun control, the border, universal healthcare, government and politics, education, the prison system–every major area in our lives needs radical change.

Yet, we think we have the answer if people would just listen. The hubris, right?

Each of us (including myself) think we are rational actors. The reality is we are all biased in how we see the world. We have blind spots, lack the education and ignore the data to fit a narrative.

I feel like the conversation we should be have is learning to see.

You can’t see until you learn how to see. And then we can discuss the solution.

A drop in the bucket

Every day you live, you are impacting the planet.

The people, the culture, the environment–all of it.

It’s up to us to decide what kind of impact we are going to make.

Drip by drip.

And yet…

“You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the ocean in a drop.” – Rumi (13th Century)

What we do matters. Make it count.

Ikigai and itadakimasu

Ikigai is Japanese for your reason of being. It’s your why. And when you have your why figured out you can move the next level.

Itadakimasu. Which means to receive something humbly. Usually for a meal. But it can also mean receiving whatever may come your way. Not just the good stuff but all the trials and tribulations. We can humbly receive them. Because we know, deep down, the struggles is where we grow.


I can quickly Google all the details about the War of 1812.

I can’t Google how to get Pivot Adventure off the ground and how to get to where it is today.

There is a huge gap in knowledge. If it can be Googled then it isn’t that valuable.

You can’t google what happens tomorrow. There is no clear path, no step-by-step set of instructions to follow.

Develop a skill that can’t be life hacked and you are on the right track for something special.

Competence is dead

Competence used to be very valuable in our industrial culture. Here, follow the instructions. Don’t make mistakes. Get paid.

And now we are moving away from competence. Does anyone really know what is going to happen the next twenty years? How about ten?

The culture is moving too fast for anyone of us to keep up. We live in a constant state of change which means there is no time to be competent.

The alternative is to adapt. Learn a skill that can’t easily be duplicated. Pick up a book instead of watching Netflix. Start a blog. Want to become a screen writer? Write a play for the local theater and give it away.

The factory worker is a dying profession. And it isn’t just factories–any job that can be written down can easily be replicated. And if it can be replicated, they can find someone cheaper.

It doesn’t matter what happens next if we put together a resilient system to withstand the winds. The best you can do is make yourself indispensable in a world that is increasingly pushing us to be mediocre.

There is a reason why adults color within the lines

As kids our computers are blank. And so we are shown which rules we need to follow. Nature teaches us not to touch the stove if we choose to ignore the wisdom of our care takers.

Then we go to school. Mass indoctrination and mass instruction. Follow the rules, be compliant and some day you will be rewarded for this behavior.

At some point, we forget to be curious. We forget how to explore the edges. Perhaps, the problem of this generation is that we are still waiting to be told what to do next. Just like school. We don’t pick projects, we are given them. Which is why it is so difficult to get someone to break their status quo. We have not developed the kind of culture that encourages us to reach for the stars. We just like talking about the few who do. We tell ourselves “someday” that will be me.

Art and joy and happiness isn’t going to be found on Netflix or on a Tweet. It isn’t going to be handed down from the boss. It comes from throwing away the useless map we have been seduced to believe will bring us the purpose we are seeking.

When the Resistance shows up

When Resistance shows up it means you are on the right track of something bold and daring.

Otherwise, why would it be there?

Perhaps, you are nervous about what the boss may say if you fail (or succeed).

Perhaps, you might lose something–your time, money, energy, status.

You can count on one thing: Resistance will only keep ramping up as you get closer to the goal.

Your choice to embrace it or waste energy wishing it would go away.

Trip Report: Grand Teton in a day

This is my third trip this season up to Grand Teton National Park. I’ve made four other attempts up there, the first when I was new to trad climbing about 8 years ago with Katie. We made a half hearted attempt and turned around at Wall Street when our ropes were going sideways.

Last year, Katie, Bart and I made an attempt at the end of the season via Petzoldt Ridge. We ended up bailing due to route finding issues and didn’t feel confident in our timing for a safe descent if we pushed forward.

This year, Adam and I climbed Petzoldt Ridge successfully but had to bail once we connected with Upper Exum so Adam could get back to work on time.

Alpine (rock) climbing is a game of patience. And I have really embraced this mentality of what could be done in a day. Bart and I decided to give Upper Exum one more go before the season ended. Last minute, we were able to get Katie to jump on. We ended up finishing in 25.5 hours car to car. No world record by any means. But a big breakthrough in pushing ourselves in what we think is possible to do in a day. We didn’t solo much but we certainly could have done some more to speed things up.

I also had stomach problem that put us behind some groups. It definitely hurt us in the long run having to cut pitches short and wait for the rock above to clear. On the way back, we also found a small cave by a large boulder to sleep for an hour. It was a much needed break.

Gear we brought:

  • BD UL Cams and Z4s from .2-3
  • A set of DMM Walnuts (per Bart’s request)
  • 8 shoulder length slings
  • 2 double length shoulder slings
  • Belay gear and a GriGri
  • Cordelette and 180 cm sling for belay stations
  • A guide draw that I made
  • Prussik and knife
  • 20 feet of webbing and couple biners in case we needed to bail
  • 2 40 meter ropes – our intention was to bring one and use a Beal Escaper until Katie jumped on.
  • Med Kit with Garmin Spot, meds, chap stick, sunscreen, climbers tape, bivy blanket, spare batteries and Goal Zero phone charger
  • Headlamp
  • Rocky Talkies
  • Crampons and ice axe

We used everything except the crampons and ice axe. It was about 3 pounds in slings and pro and another 2 of personal gear. Everything fit snug in my 25L pack. I didn’t bring climbing shoes and would have wanted them to lead the friction pitch (I’m not much of a slab climber). Fortunately, Bart led that pitch for us. I felt fine the rest of the climb with approach shoes and lead probably 65% of the climb (Golden staircase, Wind Tunnel, some of the Jern, everything above the Friction except the V-pitch).


  • Patagonia Capilene Base Layer Expedition bottoms and top
  • Patagonia Softshell Pants
  • Patagonia Airshed Pullover
  • Patagonia Houdini Jacket
  • Patagonia Micro Puff
  • Patagonia Nano Air Vest
  • Patagonia Expedition Balaclava
  • Random headband
  • Petzl Belay Gloves and Showa Temres Gloves
  • Two pairs of socks (I like to switch out for the descent to avoid blisters)

Again I used everything. And I was rarely cold at the belays and was able to shed properly as the day warmed up for us. I probably could have switched out the pants for Patagonia Houdini Pants and probably some lightweight hiking shorts for the approach. But overall, it was a fantastic setup.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Colin Haley’s words on clothing, it definitely changed how I view clothing systems in the alpine. I essentially ripped off everything he recommends.

“The truth is out there.”

Today’s top stories: Afghanistan, COVID, California recount…

If you have been working to stay informed, it’s easy to seduce yourself into thinking that you’re an expert. As much as we like to think we know what is going on, most of us haven’t taken a biology class since university and don’t actually understand the first thing about how vaccines work.

Impossible to be an expert in every field. Instead we rely on experts to tell us what is actually happening. Creating intellectual gaps when assuming the expert has done the research.

What’s difficult is deciding which experts to follow. As Doug Muder has pointed out, just in the last two decades, you can find the government lying about Saddam hiding weapons of mass destruction, bankers committing fraud and triggering a mass recession, priests abusing children and systematically working to cover it up–it’s much more difficult today to find someone to trust because of how the culture and its leaders have failed so many. Add in the dark patterns of the internet and you’ve created a massive problem of trust.

Biologically speaking, we tend to believe what we hear. Because if someone on the savannah is telling us that there is a sabertooth tiger over by the creek, we tend to stay alive by trusting that person and avoiding the threat all together.

Status roles play a huge role in what we do. If I am to preach to my family and friends about a certain position and it turns out to be wrong, what does that say about me? Our culture has not built a space to change our minds. We tend to double down instead of owning the fact that a position can change as data comes in.

So, what does it mean to do our own research then? It’s understanding which areas we are actually experts in (very few), deciding which topics we like to be more informed on, and where we are going to trust someone who has done their homework. We all have blind spots. We can’t eliminate them but we can mitigate with the help of expert opinion.

It makes zero sense to avoid vaccination when billions have been administered worldwide and when 98% of doctors have taken it. If you are going to go against conventional wisdom here, you have to have a good reason. Not because you read something on Twitter that somehow all the experts missed. It seems silly when we put it that way.

In this example, what we are ultimately saying is, “I don’t trust the experts and the truth is still out there.” If you are not going to listen to scientists or epidemiologists, then who are going to listen to make your healthcare decisions? Because it was only a couple weeks ago, Salt Lake County voted against masks at schools. They “knew” better than the former state epidemiologist who actually studies how viruses spread. In the right circumstances, we trade our values to fit a worldview–a narrative of how we see the world.

That narrative often betrays us because we are unwilling to see the world as it really is.