Question Everything

Our brains are huge Tetris machines.

Except rather than just using the pieces flowing down the screen, they are able to draw pieces from around the universe. They were designed to solve puzzles. They remember what we don’t remember or what we don’t remember we remember. They secretly know where to go grab answers that fit into other answers to give us our answer.

As long as we keep asking.

It is as simple as that.

You have experienced this puzzle-solving phenomenon in the shower. Or while driving. Or sitting on a beach. Or playing catch with your kid. It is in times of relaxation that our Tetris machine can speed up, work non-judgmentally, and spit out answers to the questions we have been giving it. Questions-to-answers is a game for our brains. It is what Brain does to pass the time.

If you have a problem to be solved, just keep asking the question. And relax.

Why You Do NOT Want to be Right

Roy is a financial advisor in California who started his business not too many years ago. Through a great contact, he was given the opportunity to begin blogging on simple financial issues for a local Christian radio station that had a rather large reach in his region, but he turned it down. I encouraged him to take it, but he said, “No, that’s really not my demographic, and besides, blogging is not targeted enough.” He went on to give me all his other reasons why social media really was not the right platform for building any kind of business, certainly not financial services.

The opportunity was given to another financial advisor in the area who started blogging educational material. Once his content caught hold, the other financial advisor was given an opportunity to begin hosting a podcast which started gaining regional reach and then more national reach.

Today Roy’s business has stagnated. The other financial advisor’s business is thriving on the back of his reach through the different social media venues that he’s now been invited into. But still today when I talk with Roy, he doggedly has doubled-down on why social media is ineffective, not the future, and why he never should have gone that direction.

Roy is a classic case of confirmation bias that author Annie Duke talked about on a recent episode of the Masters in Business podcast by Bloomberg. Annie Duke is a world champion poker player, but is also a trained psychologist and has applied the lessons that she learned in poker to business and to life with great success. Annie points out that we humans are all designed to want to feel that we are “right” –  that being “right” feels good. And so we will go out and find information that supports our case.

For example, if I read in an article that social media is bad and that’s what I believe, then I immediately  say, “Yeah! See that? I knew social media was bad!” But if I read something the next day that says social media is good, then I begin to pick it apart. I question the source. I question the research methods. That is a very natural thing for us humans to do. However, it exposes us to what happened to Roy.

Annie Duke says what we can do to avoid this exposure is work on ourselves to the point that “accuracy” feels good instead of being “right.” She says that if our desire is to be accurate, then when we run across information that is contrary to our strongly held opinion, we will weigh it and if it can help us be more accurate, then we are pleased to find something that showed we were not right. Because now we are more accurate.

Rather than trying to show we are right and working to look smart, we should try to be accurate and curious.

“Good” is Too Subjective to Stop You

“But, I don’t want to post anything that’s not good.”

I was sitting with a friend who is an amazing photographer, but he struggles to post enough of his photography to run his website. Everyone around the table agreed that his photography was inspired, but he still struggled. He pulled up a picture as an example and began to detail all of the things he did not like about it, the things he wished were different. And if they were different, he would post it. “But in the end it’s just not good,” he said.

But the term “good” is such a subjective term. The photograph he pointed to as an example immediately reminded me of a time when I was sitting on a dock as a little boy as my Granddad taught me to fish. It brought back up emotions and memories that I had not thought of in a long, long time. And I loved it.

To me it was an amazing photograph for a number of reasons. To him it was not very good for completely different reasons. So, who was right?

The term “good” is too subjective, and anyone producing art or content or effort or even strategic business ideas needs to remember that. “Good” is in the eye of the beholder.

It is good to someone.