Is The Way I See Things

Three baseball umpires                                                                                                                                I call ‘em the way I see ‘em.                                                                                                                          I call ‘em the way there are.                                                                                                                They ain’t nothing until I call ‘em.

 This famous baseball story is a great metaphoric illustration of the way we see things. We usually think we see things like the second umpire: the way things are. We think other people see things like the first umpire: the way they see thigs. The third umpire’s view: They ain’t nothing until I call ‘em, highlights the notion of personal perception, seeing and calling our reality. Nothing exists until we perceive, label, and interpret it.

In this blog I want to use the baseball metaphor to illuminate the way I see things, and maybe the way you see things. I am hoping that the popular umpires’ story might have some benefit. Each umpire actually believes they see things the way they say they see things. You and I actually believe we see things the way we say we see things. The way the three umpires see things could help us see the way we see things. I can realize I see things the way I see ‘em. And they ain’t nothing until I see ‘em and call ‘em. Which way do you describe the way you see “em?

Notice that the way I “see ‘em and call ‘em” depends on my personal perceptions and subjectiveinterpretation. Perception is the key.Some descriptions of perception:

Perceptions are portraits not photographs. Daniel Gilbert

Much of what we take to be perceptions are actually conceptions,                                                mental and not empirical.  Ken Wilber

By the time perceptual information reaches consciousness, each individual has transformed it into something new and unique.  Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman

 Kathryn Schulz, in her book, Being Wrong, says the major reason we can get things wrong is that our perception of reality is always our interpretation of reality; this implies wiggle room. I have often written about this wiggle room in my blogs. For example: Believing is seeing.Whenever there is belief there is interpretation and room for error. The reason the wiggle room of perception is important is that the way we see things determines the way we do things. Perceptions become behavior.

Perception is not only fallible; it is also partial. This Partial Blindness, is our inability to see the wholeness of realityWe are visually impaired observers”; what we see is not all there is. Our view of reality is partial, incomplete: an “isolated observation”, a snapshot; not the “big picture”. In all visible things there is a hidden wholeness, Thomas Merton.

The way the three umpires see things can help me see and understand and illuminate the way I see things. I can ask myself: “Is the way I say I see things actually the way I see things? You might ask yourself the same question.

We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. Anaïs Nin

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Is It Possible?

 The goal in America today is to resurrect the primacy of reason over passion.              Jeffrey Rosen,  President of the National Constitution Center.

 This blog is the result of my reading the October 2018 issue of The Atlantic, “Is Democracy Dying?”  And since the title and subtitle above are almost a summary of my200 plus decision making blogs, this blog is about democracy and decision making. Democracy and decision making are clearly interconnected

The system of government delineated in the constitution is a concession to the idea that humans are deficient in the science of rational self-government.                                         Jeffery Goldberg, Editor Atlantic Monthly.

Several articles in The Atlantic: “Loosing the Democratic Habit, The Threat of Tribalism, A House Divided, Building an Autocracy”, make it clear that democracy is being threatened by out-of-control political favoritism, tribalism, self-serving biases, and emotional thinking. Rational self-government requires rational decision making. A healthy democracy depends on rational decision making by politicians and voters. The overwhelming presence of undisciplined social media has almost eliminated rational thinking. Facts and truth (reason and rational thinking ) are hard to come by.

Inflammatory posts based on passion travel farther and faster than                         arguments based on reasons. Jeffery Rosen

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth                                                                is putting its shoes on. Mark Twain

 Democracy and decision making are also interconnected with beliefs. My blogs, starting in 2012, have been about the categories of beliefs and democracy, in addition to other decision making categories. This Atlantic issue relates closely to my beliefs about beliefs and democracy. For example: Democracy is a most unnatural act. People have no innate democratic instinct; we are not born yearning to set aside our own desires in favor of the majority’s. Democracy is, instead, an acquired habit, Yoni Appelbaum.

I believe rational decision making is a most unnatural act. People are not born to be rational, objective  decision makers. Credulity appears to be an instinct. Open-mindedness needs to be learned. The Atlantic recommends reviving democracy by teaching it early in schools. I also recommended teaching decision making in schools. I published decision making curriculum for high school students in 1973.

The Atlantic articles raise the question: Is democracy dying? I raise the question: Can decision making become a rational process? Is reason over passion an achievable goal? Time will tell.

 If humans are deficient in the science of reason in self-government, it may also be that humans are deficient in the science of rational decision making.

Could it be that a democracy of reason isn’t built for humans?                                             Could it be that rational decision making isn’t built for humans?

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 As Decision Rules Of Thumb                   

 A heuristic is a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. These rule-of-thumb strategies shorten decision-making time and allow people to function without constantly stopping to think about their next course of action. Heuristics are helpful in many situations, but they can also lead to cognitive biases. (Verywell Mind).

Much has been written lately about heuristics and cognitive biases. I also have contributed several recent blogs. This blog is a review of the advantages and disadvantages of these decision making short-cuts. Heuristics could also be called Rules of Thumb. A rule of thumb is an easy to remember guide that falls somewhere between a mathematical formula and a shot in the dark. Tom Parker

 Cognitive biases seem to always be getting the way of our thinking and deciding. Recognizing that heuristics and rules of thumb decision strategies can be both helpful and harmful is beneficial in today’s world of information overload. Rules of thumb were first used to make up for lack of facts. Today we need rules of thumb because of too many facts, which can be problematic in decision making. Sometimes you don’t have the time or the ability to discover the best way to do something. Or there may not be a best way. This is when you need a homemade recipe or an easy to remember guide.

In 1991, I introduced four paradoxical decision principles, that could be considered rules of thumb or heuristics, in my book Creative Decision Making; With Positive Uncertainty.*

  • Be focused and flexible about what you want. This principle will help you create your goals and discover new ones.
  • Be aware and wary of what you know. This principle will help you to appreciate knowing and appreciate not knowing.
  • Be realistic and optimistic about what you believe. This principle will help you realize that your beliefs influence your reality and your behavior.
  • Be practical and magical about what you do.This principle will help you use both you head and your heart in deciding.

Totally rational, by-the -book, decision making is considered almost impossible today. So a little help from non-rational, intuitive decision strategies would seem useful. My many blogs since 2012 are full of heuristics and rules of thumb for decision makers. For example, Always be rational, unless there is a good reason not to be.

Since we apparently can’t usually make rational decisions, we need some non-rational strategies for deciding. Humans need all the help we can get.

The best-laid plans of mice and men are usually about equal. Murphy’s Laws

  • Crisp Publications. Creative Decision Making, Using Positive Uncertainty, 1991; Revised edition 2003, with Carol Gelatt as coauthor.



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    And Not Knowing It

 There is no experience of being wrong. While being wrong is happening to you, you are oblivious to it. As soon as we know we are wrong, we aren’t wrong anymore. Thus we can only say “I was wrong.” Kathryn Schulz, in her book, Being Wrong, 2010.

 But what if you are not oblivious to it? What if you know you are wrong? If you are being wrong, and keep being wrong, and knowing you are wrong — this means you are lying. (But what if you aren’t lying?)

This is an important topic in today’s politics. We have a president who is said to be lying; not just sometimes, but constantly. Can anyone imagine Donald Trump saying: “I was wrong?” He is oblivious to being wrong. He believes his beliefs are truth, whatever is personally congenial, without doubt or uncertainty. His believing is not open-minded. This sounds like a perfect example of the need for “Positive Uncertainty”. Would it help Trump to have a little bit of uncertainty? Uncertainty could avoid being wrong and not knowing it.

It may seem unfair or unscientific to use one person as an example, but Trump is the President of the United States and one of the most powerful political persons in the world.  The need for uncertainty in this one case is so obvious, the point seems hard to avoid. I can’t resist using it as a perfect example of the lack of open-mindedness, that would be hard to miss or ignore. Open-mindedness is not part of Trump’s cognitive tool box.

But there is another reason for this blog. What if President Trump isn’t lying? Lying, by politicians isn’t unusual. “Honesty isn’t the best political policy.” It is obvious that Trump isn’t telling the truth. But it could be he believeshe is telling the truth. If we want to understand how we err, we need to look at how we believe,Kathryn Schulz. How  does Trump believe? It is not hard to describe Trumps’ beliefs. They are not tentative or open-minded. Dogmatic may even be an understatement. This suggests that Trump is not lying — he believes what he says is true. He is being wrong, and doesn’t know it.

If the president isn’t lying, but believes his beliefs are true, it raises even more dangerous concerns — such as ignorance or a personality disorder. This concern has been raised by others, and needs more public consideration. And ignorance may not be the biggest potential problem.

If what Trump knows for sure isn’t so, should he be the political leader of the free world?This could be a current political question that needs an answer form the voting public. However, it seems clear that some of the voting public also are capable of being wrong, and not knowing it.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble;

it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so. Mark Twain



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How To Outlive A Chevrolet

 The four things that makes us die are bad design, bad accidents, bad maintenance, and aging. Exactly the same as if you were a Chevrolet.  Walter Bortz

Over 20 years ago I used this Bortz’s quotation in workshops on “Using The Wisdom Of Aging.”  Coleader Marianne Clark/Fontana and I used the theme of “Living the inner journey.” The inner journey is what you and I have that the Chevrolet doesn’t have. Aging is a more serious problem for a Chevrolet because, although it can have more of its aging parts replaced than I can, it doesn’t have a built-in renewal mechanism of personal perspective (beliefs and attitude) that you and I have. Humans have a brain, mind and consciousness that defines us as humans. It gives us the power to outlive a Chevrolet.

I have been writing about my aging for many years. This blog gives me a chance to feature Bortz’s interesting quote. He makes it easy to see that we, as humans possess something a Chevrolet doesn’t have. We have the ability to determine our own self- maintenance and a human mind to help us be involved in creating our future.

Of course, having good design, good maintenance, and no bad accidents is also helpful to good aging. But a positive, open-minded perspective with a personal belief system that is interested in continuing to grow is also helpful. Your personal perspective can’t solve all of your aging problems, but it can prevent some of them.

When you’re green you’re growing, when you’re ripe you’re not.   Ray Kroc

I have used the following poem to close many of my speeches and workshops in the past. It may be a fitting closure for this blog.

Reverse Living

Author Unknown*

Here is one’s person’s view of what would happen if we lived our lives backward.

 Life is tough. It takes up all of your time, all your weekends, and what do you get at the end of it? Death — a great reward.

 The life cycle is backwards. You should die first, get it over with, get it out of the way. Then you live for twenty years in an old-age home. You get kicked out when you’re too young. You get a god watch; you go to work.

 You work forty years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You go to college, you do drugs, alcohol, you party until you’re ready for high school, then grade school. You become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb.

 You spend your last nine months just floating, and you finish off as a gleam in someone’s eye.

*From: A Whack on the Sid

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                                                And The Process Of Illumination

 Don Quixote teaches us that life is to be challenged. James March

James March was a professor at Stanford when I was a Stanford doctoral student (1963). He gave me permission to audit his class, Organizational Decision Making. The two textbooks were: Don Quixote and War And Peace. I read Don Quixote but not War And Peace. Somehow recent readings and conversations brought all of this back to me. Therefore, this blog.

Don Quixote is a story of the misinterpretation of reality through illusion and imagination. My Process Of Illumination is a process of looking at the way we see and interpret the world. Illusion and imagination are key concepts in my writing.

In a film he made about Don Quixote, March says: Quixoteprovides a basis for thinking about what justifies great action.Why do we do what we do? Our standard answer is that we do what we do because we expect it to lead to good consequences.Quixote reminds us that there is another possible answer: We do what we do because it fulfills our identity, our sense of self. Identity-based actions protect us from the discouragement of disappointing feedback. Of course, the cost is that it also slows learning. Both types of actions are essential elements of human sensibility, but our usual conversations — particularly in business settings and schools — tend to forget the second.

I don’t know how my encounter with Don Quixote years ago influenced my writing. But I do know how my encounter with James March did. I have read most of his books and many of his articles. My blog about his Technology of Foolishnessin 2016, when he recommended “playfulness” as a decision making technique; “No always, not usually, but sometimes”. This is still the most popular blog. One of my favorite quotes: Decision making should as much a process of discovering goals as achieving goals. March’s books and articles basically considered and challenged the fundamental dogma of theories of choice. He helped us realize that human decision making is not a totally logical, rational process.

The Process of Illumination is a process of looking at the way we see things. Looking at the way Don Quixote sees things has been studied by so many for so long, it is a useful reminder to think about the way we see things. And do things.

The way we see things is the way we see things; it is nothing more;                                                  it is nothing less. But it is the beginning of everything.





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“Fast Thinking”

Treat intuition as real.  James March

Intuition is marvelous but flawed. David Kahneman

Once upon a time there was rational and non-rational thinking; and that’s all there was. Today we have creative, imaginative, intuitive, metaphoric, critical, logical, experimental, emotional thinking, etc. Rational thinking is no longer considered the expected norm.

Recently David Kahnemansummarized current thinking about thinking in his book Thinking, Fast And Slow 2011, by identifying two types: System 1(fast, automatic) and System 2 (slow, effortful). Most of what we think and do originates in System1, but System 2 takes over when things get difficult, and normally has the last word. Intuition is the name we give to judgments based on the quick action of System 1. Definition of intuition: the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.” Intuition is knowing without knowing how you know. Rational is how we describe System 2 thinking.

Today we have learned to treat intuition as real. It is now well-known and well-accepted; but not totally understood. David Kahneman suggests: If you want to understand intuition, it is very useful to understand perception. There is no sharp line between intuition and perception,. Perception is recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based chiefly on memory (Dictionary). Remember perception leaves “wiggle room” for misinterpretation. This is when intuition can become flawed by its cognitive biases.

System 2 is the slow process of forming judgements with conscious thinking and critical examination of evidence. It appraises the actions of System 1. But System 2 also is subject to cognitive biases. So, there you have it: two imperfect systems for making judgments and decisions. How do we improve these?

What Kahneman suggests is to get better acquainted with our Type 1 and Type 2 cognitive biases. Many others have suggested the same thing; and this has been the focus of my many blogs. Kahneman wants us to use the names of these biases ineveryday conversations,when we point out our friends mistaken judgments and when we review our own. He has renamed some biases to be more conversational: for example: the availability bias and the illusion of validity. Some other well-known ones might also be easy to insert into conversations: perceptual bias, uncertainty bias, blind-spot bias, confirmation bias, self-serving bias, bandwagon bias, expectancy bias.

Maybe social media can help in getting these kinds of conversations started? You can imagine some people having fun with this. Wikipedia has identified 104 cognitive biases.

In spite of the potential errors, we need to treat intuition as another intelligence and part of our mental tool box. Intuition is real, and like all of our decision making tools, flawed.

Decision makers will make better decisions when they expect their decisions to be judged by how they are made, not only by how they turn out.  David Kahneman





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