Self-fulfilling prophecy is bad prophecy

The other day, I was doing the dishes and I set a cup at the edge of the counter. I looked at it thinking, “This is going to fall over.”

I then convinced myself that it would be fine, I was almost done anyway. Of course, moments later I knocked it over with another dish.

It’s tempting to think that somehow by thinking the cup was going to tip over, I caused it to tip over. A form of self-fulfilling prophesy.

Self-fulfilling prophecy is bad prophecy.

The thing is, we make these assertions and predictions all the time. We operate from one guess to another without any thought when we are wrong.

And we are wrong most of the time.

We’re wrong when we imagine we are going to get in a car accident when we are driving down the road. We’re wrong when we imagine the worst outcome every time we sit down with the boss at a performance review. We’re wrong when thinking the teacher is going to call on us when we don’t know the answer.

Sometimes, we do get in a car accident or have a bad performance review or our name is called.

When it does happen we say to ourselves, “I knew it!”

If you really did, then why would you go through with it?

It’s because we didn’t know. We told ourselves a story that it was going to happen and this time it did.

When we insist on telling ourselves these stories, we are conditioning ourselves to be more cautious next time.

So, over time, we tell ourselves stories to be more careful. To be more alert, more watchful for the worse. To not make a ruckus. To not be seen. To blend in. We tell a story to preserve ourselves. Because when something bad happens (and it always does), we can insulate ourselves with another layer—another piece of evidence to point to that the world is a dangerous place and we are not safe.

Better prophecy comes from better explanations. Better explanations come from better knowledge.

We pretend that our outcomes are fixed because we limit ourselves into imagining only one possible outcome.

We live in a world of infinite possibility. Act accordingly.

Contagiousness and closure

When 13 Reasons Why premiered on Netflix two years ago, mental health experts warned about how this could lead to an increase of copycat suicides.

I don’t think many are surprised to discover that there is now data that shows “overall suicide rate among 10 to 17-year-olds increased significantly in the month immediately following the release of 13 Reasons Why.”

Here is the interesting thing…

A second study found that “viewers who stopped watching the second season exhibited greater suicide risk and less optimism about the future than those who continued to the end. However, unexpectedly, current students who watched the entire second season reported declines in suicide ideation and self-harm relative to those who did not watch the show at all. Moreover, those who watched the entire second season were also more likely to express interest in helping a suicidal person, especially compared to those who stopped watching.”

What’s happening here?

Well, couple things worth pointing out.

First, we still fear that suicide is a contagious meme. That deep down if we talk about suicide it will lead to more suicide. (We are still experiencing the cultural hangover of this from not talking about it the last 30 years.) So glamorizing suicide must mean it will lead to more suicide. Here’s the thing, just like the Momo Challenge hoax, the reason why these memes don’t simply disappear is because we cannot stop talking about them. Now that people are curious about what the big fuss is about, it drives more people to view the meme.

Second, it turns out that human beings are built to find closure. That we seek out to solve interesting problems. Once we start something, we want to finish it. We get a shot of dopamine and feel accomplished when we finish. So when someone tells us a story, we want to know what is going to happen next and how it is going to end. And when we start a show and like 13 Reasons Why, and don’t finish we begin to imagine what happens. That’s what makes people anxious.

[Contagiousness and closure is what makes social media so addicting. We are constantly checking our feed to see if the world broke while we were offline. It is also a design choice to have your Facebook feed scroll on forever. It keeps us on the hook. You can’t find closure. That is why if you do it for too long, you begin to feel like a rat stuck on a wheel.]

It’s worth pointing out that the most vulnerable populations for this show are 10 to 17 year olds. Parents and adults should be in the discussion about whether this is something they want their adolescent watching. If you do, I hope you will finish it.

In addition, as a culture we need to do a better job about which memes we choose to spread. It only took me three clicks to find the secondary study. Just three clicks that lead to more knowledge. More knowledge leads to better decisions. It’s easy to be seduced into reading the headline and amplifying our fear. Especially when that headline already resonates with our worldview.

Suicide remains to be a complicated endemic with no clear path forward. If you are feeling isolated, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.

Should you go back to school?

The first batch of millennials are closing in on their first ten years in the workforce. Many are asking the same question, “Should I go back to school?”

The two main reasons: They don’t like their job or they don’t make enough money.

This trap has created a huge problem in our culture. Go to school, rack up debt, take a job that is less desirable to pay that debt off or work at a job that you are proud of doing and skimp by.

So many are left wondering What should I do?

Three things to think about:

  1. Think of your work and art as separate. Work is something you have to do in order to fund your art. Most people have eight hours outside the office that they can be using to do art.
  2. Going to school to figure out what you are passionate about is another form of hiding. (It didn’t work the first time, what makes you think it’ll work better the second?)
  3. Rather than “finding your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life” instead decide to become passionate about the work you do and then it won’t feel like work.

There is no step-by-step set of instructions to get to the life you deserve. What we need is a compass and to spend more time developing one.


Stock markets are a reflection of brain chemistry

Markets have already reacted to what we think is going to happen next.

So, if you think Disney stock is going up, the market has already reacted. If you think Facebook is going down, it has been prepared to go down for a while.

You can’t out think the market because it is a reflection of us. And what it is reflecting is knee-jerk reactions.

Because when projections don’t match the experts, investors become disappointed. (And yes, to boost Q4 we see many people lose their jobs.)

It’s crazy to think that a company like Amazon can make 60 billion dollars in its first quarter and there are still worry about this kind of growth is going to eventually slow down.

As if it would be a problem if they only made 25 billion next quarter?

The same is so true in our culture and the way our brains work.

It is so difficult for us to be vulnerable enough to enjoy the highs because we know that it can’t possibly last forever. That at some point it will all come crashing down.


Once we begin to think of something, the chemicals in our brains have already decided beforehand.

Just like markets. We rationalize in a reactionary state.

Rational actors

We’ve become quite good at envisioning greatness for organizations if we were the ones in charge.

There is two mistakes with this.

First, when it comes to bureaucratic organizations, no one is in charge.

We think there is a rational actor inside these organizations when in fact it’s broken down into many parts.

The department in charge of marketing looks at the marketing problems. The department in charge of financing looks at the financing problems. And so on.

The second mistake?

We think that our title and status is what allows us to change things. By doing so, we fail to recognize the significant role we play.

You have more power than you can imagine.

You don’t need a bigger badge or a bigger paycheck or more education to make things better.

You start.

One heart at a time.

Gatekeepers have never been less valuable

The invention of knowledge is one the most important things we have ever accomplished in human history.

Once we began recording information and were able to share it with someone, the step-by-step set of instructions could be copied.

For centuries though, we have seen the rise of gatekeepers. In order to pass this bridge you would have to pay a toll.

For a while, this person looked like the local clergymen that could read and interpret the scriptures. And it looked like the scriber, who had the ability to translate and copy one text to another.

Until the printing press…

And today, thanks to the internet, we have shattered the model again.

Because you don’t need a college professor to read out of a text book that I can check out. You don’t need a talent scout to post your act on YouTube. You don’t need a publisher to publish.

Access to the means of productions is now in the hands of everyone (including the “amateurs”).

There’s no need to use the excuse of a gatekeepers if we can just hit send ourselves.

Insulin prices have doubled in 5 years

This is the double edge sword of capitalism and the main challenge of our time.

We live in a world where more have been lifted out of poverty. There are more millionaires than ever. This is the richest civilization in history. And yet…

Yet, we haven’t figured out how to take care of each other while satisfying the unappeasable demand of share holders.

The goal is not for the culture to serve capitalism. The goal is for capitalism is to serve the culture. 

People over profits.