Replacing error for truth

With so much information shared, it has never been easier to change one’s mind than it is today.

Each of us has an opportunity to exchange error for truth but there is an emotional cost of discerning this avalanche of information at our fingertips.

Here’s the challenge:

Instead of using the information to change narratives, we use it to reinforce old ones.

It’s difficult to admit one has been wrong. There is also this door that has simultaneously opened–now that you know this now, how will you behave?

The room for growth here is truly endless.

Use it or lose it

What’s the point in having free speech if you don’t exercise it? The same can be said about the freedom of the press or the right to assemble.

Many before us have fought and died for these freedoms that are so abundant today. But when is the last time anyone of us assembled a protest?

It seems risky to take a stance in our reactionary culture of today. After all, you might go to jail or receive backlash on social media. And yet, if you can’t push back on the status quo, those in power seem to stay in power.

When we exercise these freedoms, that is when the power structure works for us.

Skepticism and wonder

90’s sci-fi drama, X-Files, was a hit because it tapped into the public mistrust in the government and conspiracy theories. Most episodes end without an explanation breeding more skepticism. “The truth is out there.”

Juxtapose that to the kids show Scooby-Doo, where at the end of each episode there is a reasonable, logical explanation to the paranormal. Every time, in fact, it is attributed to foul play.

There is nothing wrong with being open to wonder while being skeptical. But we also must not reject the reasonable, logical explanation rather than assume there must be a larger conspiracy in play. Big claims require lots of evidence. We waste a lot of mental capacity when we reject science and math to fight gravity.

Starting at the beginning

If you are going to learn how to play baseball, you are first shown how to hold a bat.

If you are going to learn how to play guitar, you learn to hold a G chord.

And the same is true for riding a bike.

Economics are different. Because we are all born from different sectors with different advantages. Some just have none.

Some things are difficult to even understand because you need 10+ years of higher education before you can understand the math.

This is what I love about skills that can be learned. In most cases, we are all starting at the same spot. So, you can appreciate the contributions experts are making in their fields because of how long it took in the first place to even get there.

Limits to growth

Facebook lost half a million global daily users in the fourth quarter of 2021. A drop in a bucket when Meta hosts 1.93 billion total daily active users. As a result, Meta shares are now down 20%, not because the business stopped working, simply because the market thinks they might have topped out. So, we move on.

There are limits to growth even when almost 2 out 7 people use this product every day. So the question we have to ask is, why are we working to be so popular? If everyone is using it, then we must dumb it down. Therefore, if everyone is using it, it wouldn’t be remarkable then.

It’s not just Facebook. We saw this with Amazon, Uber and WeWork. What makes the shareholders happy is to see the imaginary numbers go up. Running a nonprofit, I can tell you people are sometimes generally confused when we ask for help and their response is under the mindset of “What’s in it for me?” It isn’t easy to turn on this mentality of “What can I give?” or “How can I help?”

What are the only things certain we know in this life?

Benjamin Franklin said, “death and taxes.” Another old proverb states, “Only three things in life are certain: birth, death, and change.”

The point is there are not many guarantees in this life. You can literally count them on one hand. Almost everything can be taken in an instance. And always looming in the back of our minds the amygdala is reminding us we can’t live forever. The clock is always ticking.

No wonder human beings are so stressed when we know the only thing certain is someday it will all end! We all need to come to terms with our own mortality in some way. In the meantime, as a reminder…

Life is supposed to be lived. To be consumed, spent, loved, failed…Take a punch. And to stand on top of a mountain to see the sun rise. To smell the salt from the sea. You can’t stay forever. That is sort of the beauty of it all. We get a glimpse.

Reframing the problems

On January 14, 1914, Henry Ford announced that he would double Ford’s wages to $5 per day. At the time, this was unheard of. Since then, for the last 100 years or so, our culture has highly valued competence. You can trade competence and your time for a paycheck and healthcare. And for many, that didn’t seem half bad when you could afford a family, a house, an automobile (maybe two), appliances, television, and even a vacation. So, what happened?

Well, that deal is difficult to pull off now. Take Utah for example. The median sales price of homes in Salt Lake City has jumped from $365,000 in 2020 to $440,000 in 2021, a 20.5% increase in just one year. How often does a 20% raise come to the average worker? Not often. If you missed the boat, you are stuck paying for rent that has also substantially increased, waiting for the market to dip, finding a job that pays better, or moving. None of these options are easy to pull off or even desirable. With the cost of living skyrocketing, people are searching for answers. So, what now?

With a few exceptions, most systems break with enough force. What used to work just a few generations ago, struggles to survive now. We are in a state of influx while insecurity continues to compound. So when we are reflecting, searching for answers, perhaps we should examine the system that has got us here. After all, there have been grave costs to get to this point: ecological, climate, human, freedoms, etc. Is this really the best there is? We have to reprogram ourselves to be curious and ask the right questions rather than focus on the “right” answers. The very train of thought we are on may not be the path that solves the very conundrum we are in.

Human beings are the only creatures that can step out of the system of thinking and decision-making to examine the process. There are so many different paths that can be chosen, we forget how to imagine a world that is more just. If we can’t even imagine this world, how are we ever to build it?

Healthy levels of skepticism

You have a board meeting at 2:00 o’clock. You get there ten minutes early to shoot the breeze with one of the long-time board members.

At one point, they start spouting antisemitic rhetoric–what do you do? Do you stand there in silence (after all you have much to lose, no one else heard it), allowing this sort of behavior or do you speak up and challenge the authority?

Okay, another example. This time you are at lunch with a friend and they are talking about superstition and mysticism, how astronauts didn’t land on the moon, Princess Diana didn’t die in a car crash and how they saw bigfoot on a camping trip. What then?

Our culture has come a long way in drawing the lines between right and wrong. In the first scenario, we have built little tolerance for that sort of outright behavior. (The answer is to speak up, the question is whether you have the courage.) So much has changed in just the last 50 years for the good (with so much more to go). What I also find interesting is the grey area. How do we allow people the right, the freedom to think/believe/speak while steering people towards truth?

It’s a delicate line to walk. When we are silent (grant it even if the belief at face value is mostly harmless) we are breeding the wrong kind of culture of skepticism. At the same time, when we speak up and are skeptical about someone’s belief system, it might be considered impolite. Tricky. Indeed, this takes wisdom on our part to navigate these kinds of conversations today. It also might mean that your friend isn’t being heard or seen. Do you have the courage to hold this tension? After all, skeptics have paved the way for great leaps forward. At the same time by allowing all types of thinking (amplified by the dark patterns of the web), we must also live with the consequences of what every type of thinking brings to the table.

Enough?

This was an interesting tidbit from A Learning A Day:

“I was thinking about an anecdote from a book by late Vanguard founder John Bogle. This was an exchange Bogle witnessed at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island in New York.

The late novelist Kurt Vonnegut informed his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history.

Heller responded – “Yes, but I have something he will never have…enough.”

That’s a really good insight. Appetites are endless for humans. It takes discipline to say enough whether we are talking about money, power, food, sex, etc. We are not wired to have this much abundance. As a result, we have to fight our biology to say enough is enough.

Consumerism is a symptom of a much greater problem. We are often using it as a way to escape so we don’t need to face reality. As the saying goes, “Just because you’re rich, doesn’t mean you are wealthy.” We all have met someone who seems to do well financially but is bankrupt in other facets of their life.

Losing our attachment to outcomes

Attachment is at the root of so much of our suffering.

Just a thought exercise: Suppose for a minute, that none of this matters. That Earth will be swallowed up by the sun in half a billion years and we didn’t manage to get off it in time. (That is assuming our species can even make it that long.)

If all of it is inevitable then why are we worried about outcomes? Why worry about what might happen next?

Inner peace isn’t coming to those who are attached to the “peace” that comes with dissolving the tension of knowing what happens next. We lose peace when we want outcomes to be a certain way. We lose it when we are trying to put ground underneath our feet. We lose it when we’re working so hard to fill a void that can’t be filled. Instead of spending our time dissolving this tension–that root of suffering–we can learn to dance with it.

Let me be clear: I am not talking about nihilism. Life is precious. It is so rare in the universe. Life should be celebrated and cherished. What I am talking about is freedom. Freedom to be human. The best example I can think of is looking to kids who are just naturally more in touch with what it means to be human before we indoctrinate them into something else. There is a posture that each of us can obtain–one of peace–if we can quit taking ourselves so seriously and quit falling into this trap of consumerism, of wants and greed, a whole new set of possibilities can then open up. When you can make your own rules, will you choose to be your best self?

There is lots of darkness in the vast universe–who else will be there to shed the light if not you?

The bottom line is, there are a lot of different ways of thinking. If you are not feeling peace, it might be the inconsistency we feel when we are attached to thinking a certain way.