They don’t believe me

Because they don’t see what you see.

Take a look at this juxtaposition of Ignaz Semmelweiss and Barry Marshall.

Both of them knew something that the rest medical community didn’t know. Both had an important discovery that would save many lives or make them substantially better. And they both were being shunned for their heresy.

The only difference between the two was that Semmelweiss couldn’t produce data to support his claims.

Even then, with all the research to support Marshall’s claim, it wasn’t accepted in the cannon right away.

Because facts don’t tell a story. They only amplify them.

Yes, you have to do the research, get it peered reviewed, produce the data, put it on a spreadsheet, present it in a PowerPoint presentation…

But ask yourself this: When was the last time you changed your mind after watching a PowerPoint presentation?

It doesn’t happen.

Proving something to be true and convincing others of it are two separate skills. The latter being the challenge of our day in the increasing reactionary, sorted world we are building.

We have plenty of data to support whatever claim we make, now it is about finding the truth that can help us build a better culture.

One that we can all be proud of.

Your mindset matters

Ellen Langer has pointed out that simply by suggesting to chambermaids that what they did for a living was exercise, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index.

That when the chambermaids saw themselves as people who exercised they acted as if they were people who exercised.

While it was reported that the chambermaids did not change their habits, we know that a placebo is powerful enough to change our behavior and even our chemistry.

Your mindset matters.

It matters because if you never see yourself as someone who goes to college then why would you graduate from high school? It matters because if you don’t see yourself giving a TED talk then why would I ever apply for one?

Because when we see ourselves as someone who loses their temper, we ignore all the times we keep it in check. And if we label our child with Opposition Defiance Disorder then we only highlight the moments he is not compliant.

The truth is, we are not always defiant. We have moments of defiance.

The label is easy to embrace when we struggle to ask for compliance. We embrace the label because of how it makes us feel. We think it lets off the hook.

To prove a point, Ellen Langer reminds us that when we go to the eye doctor and read off the chart, that at some point we know there is going to be a line we cannot read.


You know what happens when we flip the chart around?

Image result for ellen langer eye chart

Our vision improves. Why? Because we know as we go down the chart we are expected to eventually read it. We are expected to eventually succeed. And it is enough to improve our vision.

It is the same chart but with different interpretations.

Teens are the same way.

Post decision dissonance

It turns out that people on the racetrack feel much more confident about their horse to be victorious after they have placed a bet.

What changed?

Because nothing about the horse or track changed. What changed is the story we tell ourselves. That somehow by betting on this horse we have now improved its chances to win.

Human beings are extremely obsessed with being consistent. Consistent with the decisions we make and to appear consistent with the people around us. That once we make a choice or take a stance, we will put pressure on ourselves to behave consistently with that commitment. Subsequently, we build a narrative to defend and justify these decisions that will drive us to do things we would normally not do to create predictable outcomes.

Changing our minds has always been perceived as some sort of weakness in our culture. We are quick to label people as “flip-floppers.” That’s a problem. It’s a problem because the world is changing faster than ever before. Every day, we come up with new ways, better processes to do things, which are inconsistent with the way things have been done around here.

Just because this has been the way it always been (consistent), it doesn’t mean that it always has to be.

For decades, it was believed that ulcers were caused by stress; until Barry Marshall shattered the consistent thinking of how stomach ulcers formed by ingesting bacteria to prove his point.

Even after his findings were published, it took years for the medical community to adopt the practice. Why? Because it wasn’t consistent with the cannon about stomach ulcers. It wasn’t consistent in the eyes of other doctors and scientists that a small university, like the University of West Australia, couldn’t possibly publish such important work.

The opportunity of our time is to learn to embrace inconsistency. To say, “knowing what we know now, we are going to act accordingly.”

It takes guts to admit that the horse we picked wasn’t the winner.

Arriving at a conclusion first

It’s a difficult spot to be in. To be the first to show up, to look around and see no one else there. To not have any confirmation that this is the place you need to be.

That’s how difficult problems are solved though. Someone has to come to the conclusion first.

At that moment, it is tempting to think you did something wrong.

The trick then isn’t to go back and start again but to sit with this tension and wait. Wait until others come to the same conclusion as you have.

It turns out, it’s difficult to sit on an island. But as long as we don’t die on it, we can stand to be more patient while we wait for others to arrive.

Dr. Google

One problem with Google, particularly when it comes to our health, is that it is easier than ever before to pretend to be a doctor.

That with a simple google search and you can find three thousand articles on a subject. It easy to feel qualified to make a diagnosis.

Here’s the problem with this, the internet isn’t just a collection of data but a place to amplify a story we tell.

To make the fear louder, to establish confirmation bias…

The internet is great to look up things like a DIY video of how to do an oil change. But until we can gain the discipline to not jump to a conclusion when we are scared, the internet is not the place to seek a diagnosis.

If the answers we seek aren’t fitting the narrative, we will keep looking for something until it does.

(Which is how the anti-vax phenomenon continues to spread.)

Because we are not seeking the truth, we are seeking confirmation. 

How we build cases

We build cases to win.

We gather data and present the facts to win an argument. 

But what if instead of building cases to win, we built cases to better understand.


Understanding leads to better knowledge. Better knowledge leads to better empathy.

Someone doesn’t have to lose in order for you to win.

When the goal is to win then we no longer want to hear what the other side has to say.

We only see and hear inconsistencies to build a stronger case, ignoring the opportunity to gain a better understanding.