It Enhances Your Living

 To me, curiosity is another name for positive uncertainty.

The well-known idiom, “curiosity killed the cat”, is meant to be a warning that too much interest in something can be dangerous. This blog suggests that not enough interest, curiosity, inquisitiveness can be dangerous. Curious people ask questions, inquire about things, seek solutions; they are open-minded. They are alive: having a life, living, with interest or vitality(Dictionary). Antonyms include apathy, indifferent, unconcerned, uninterested. To have apathy is to have lack of interest or concern. This is like being closed-minded: unreceptive to new ideas. Curiosity is like positive uncertainty because it keeps you open-minded, asking questions and receptive to new ideas.

Recent research* shows some benefits of curiosity. It enhances intelligence; it increases perseverance or grit. And it propels us toward deeper engagement, super performance, and more meaningful goals. The word curious means to want to know things you don’t know; to investigate. So to be curious is not a bad thing. Adults and teachers often praise children with curious minds for asking questions — sometimes a lot of questions!

To me, asking questions is the key. It is also the key virtue of uncertainty. To be curious is to seek knowledge, not to own it. Knowing can be the antitheist of learning. George Land and Beth Jarman. Curious people can be very interesting. They want to know more about the world around them. Another way of saying curious is inquisitive. The verb “inquire” means to ask one or more questions.

Questions come from open-mindedness. Curiosity enhances your living by making you more aware of your surroundings and what is going on. With a lack of curiosity you miss part of your potential life. Inquiry keeps you alive and learning. You don’t grow, clinging to the status quo.  Children ask questions; adults give answers. Which is the best way to learn? Maybe being childlike should be an objective of adults.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.   Albert Einstein

*Harvard Business Review, Sept/Oct 2008. The Five Detentions Of Curiosity. Todd B. Kashdan, David J. Disabato, Fallon R. Goodman, Carl Naughton.


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Or “Stay The Course?”

 There is an old joke about a man, who asks a stranger the way to Edinburgh,                               to which the stranger replies: “If I were going there, I wouldn’t start from here.”

Today, if I were deciding where this country should go, I wouldn’t want to start from where we are. Here is not where I want us to be. But here is where we are and where we must start from. Wherever we decide to go, we have to start from where we are. The important question is: Is where we are today where we want to be? The answer clearly is, yes and no. In other words, some people do want to be where we are; they will want to stay the course. Others do not want to be where we are; they will want to go in a different direction.

So the decision is: Do we continue going where we are going or do we change direction?  To make a wise decision, we will need to know where we are now, and know where we want to be. I wonder how many of the voting public in America know the answers. We live in a democracy; deciding where to go is decided by the majority of the people. Herein lies the problem; pleasing everyone. In American democracy, we never please everyone. The majority wins; the minority loses. Both the majority and minority in a democracy make decisions based on common biases.

Knowing where you are presents a problem.

If where you are is good for you but not for others, or is bad for you but good for others, you are likely to employ two kinds of cognitive biases. Personally congenial biases: confirmation bias, self-serving bias, expectancy bias, perceptual bias. Socially congenial biases:bandwagon bias, in-group bias, group think and tribalism. This is a potential problem for everyone.

Knowing where you want to be presents a problem.

Where you want to be involves the future. Therefore, you have to imagine the future you want, and then decide how to create it. This is a two-step decision making process. The first step requires an unbiased imagination. This first step is a potential problem for everyone because of the same self-serving biases.

The second step is the bigger problem. Creating a positive future for everyone would be the most desirable future for everyone. But everyone includes the majority and the minority. With different points of view. This means everyone doesn’t rule; the minority doesn’t rule. A positive future for everyone probably won’t exist.

A democracy of the people, by the people, for the people should probably read: Of most of the people, by most of the people, for most of the people. By definition, democracy always has winners and losers. The majority and the minority. Everyone never wins.

 Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed                                                             no better than we deserve. George Bernard Shaw



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 Cognitive biases in medical education — and in personal decision making.

 In my recent blog, Thoughts About Thinking, Dec.16, I quoted Jerome Groopman’s  2007 best-selling book, How Doctor’s Think. He was asking questions of doctors that I then asked of you in that blog. In the 2008 paperback edition, Groopman has written an Afterword that I just read. That reading is the cause of this blog.

Groopman suggests that most misguided medical care resulted from thinking errors rather than technical mistakes. He concluded that: Medical education, for studentsand licensed physicians, had not yet incorporated the emerging science of cognition. Now is the time to integrate that discipline. I believe now is also the time to incorporate the science of cognition, and its cognitive biases, into the discipline of decision making.

Groopman reported that his past misdiagnoses embodied three cardinal cognitive pitfalls.Anchoring error, the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.  Attribution error, the inclination to overemphasize the influence of a human’s dispositional factors like individual personality traits, temperament, and genetics, while ignoring the influence of situational factors of a person’ behavior. Availability error, the reliance on those things that we immediately think of to enable quick decisions and judgements, rather than in logic or careful analysis.

These cognitive pitfalls are related to the personal cognitive biases of confirmation bias, self-serving biasand expectancy bias. I have frequently urged us to get better acquainted with our cognitive biases. Groopman says a question often asked of health care professionals: How to find time to think about thinking when working against the clock? The rest of us usually aren’t working against the clock, but do we take time to think about our thinking before deciding?

Doctors diagnosing symptoms and prescribing a remedy is like our decision making process: determining the option to choose in order to achieve the desired outcome.  Doctors are not the only ones capable of misdiagnosis, thinking errors and cognitive biases. You and I, and all professionals and all politicians are also susceptible.

It is interesting that this Afterword by Groopman was written in ten years ago. Do you think We the People, Professionals or Politicians today are well acquainted with the science of cognition and cognitive biases? Who will take time to think about thinking?

   We can be blind to the obvious, and we can also be blind to our blindness.

                            Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast And Slow, 2011

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Thinking Allowed

  Thinking is the ultimate human resource. Edward deBono

What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow; our life is the creation of our mind.   The Buddha

Thinking may be one of the most important human activities. Thinking about thinking is not hard to do, but it is hard to want to do. Thinking is like breathing; we do it automatically, without noticing we are doing it. This blog is to encourage you to pause and reflect about whatyou are thinking and howyou are thinking. Most people don’t want to bother.  Following are three possible thinking strategies about your thoughts.

Think Without The Box:Think without boundaries.                                                  Boundaries are self-imposed. Don’t think “outside the box”, this creates a boundary. Everything is connected. Ken Wilber points out that we create our self-identity by drawing a mental line or boundary across the whole field of our experience.  Everything on the inside of that boundary you call your “self”. Everything outside that boundary you feel to be “not self”. Your self-identity depends entirely on where you draw the line. Don’t fence you in. Whenever I draw a circle, I immediately want to step out of it, Buckminster Fuller.

Think Scientifically: Think in hypotheses.                                                                           What you think may or may not be true. The very foundation of science is to keep the door open to doubt. Therefore, a good scientist is never certain, Gerd Gigerenzer. Uncertainty is scientific thinking. Science was invented by humans; therefore, it is a worldview, a way of seeing  things. The way science sees things is designed to be open-minded. Hopefully, thinking scientifically can give us a more open and broad-minded way of thinking.

Think With Curiosity: “Be curious”, advice from Stephen Hawkins.                                                                  Curiosity is defined as: a desire to know or learn. When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.Walt Disney. A curious mind is an open mind. To be inquisitive is to ask questions. A curious, open mind asks Why? and Why Not?  Ask yourself how curious you are. Michael Gelb described Leonardo da Vinci as having: an insatiable curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.

In his 2007 best-selling book, How Doctor’s Think, Jerome Groopman asks the question: “How should doctors think?” This raised other questions for him about doctor’s thinking that I will ask about yourthinking. How should you think? Is there a best way to think? How do you think when you are forced to improvise, when confronted with a problem for which for which there is little or no precedent? How does your thinking differ during routine decisions versus times of crisis? Do your emotions or attitudes color your thinking? In other words, do you ever think about your thinking? Why or why not?

A final thought about thinking:

If you think you can, you might. If you think you can’t, you’re right. (Unknown).


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It Needs To Be Created

When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, those who wonder what happened. John M. Richardson Jr.

The future hasn’t happened yet; and when it does, it becomes the present; so it never exists. It has been said: The future is not predetermined, it is not predictable, but it is persuadable. The purpose of this blog is to encourage your persuading the future. You have two choices: Create your future, or let someone else create it. We don’t inherit the future, we make it. “The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”Futurist John Schaar. Creating the future changes the future and changes you.

This blog is about creating a positive future with our minds. The future, by definition doesn’t exist in reality, but can exist in our imagination, in our minds. “It is going to be our minds (cultural evolution) not our genes (biological evolution) that creates or destroys our positive future”, Peter Russell. Positive is the key word here. Notice that our minds could destroy our positive future. The future we create needs to be a positive future for everyone. I believe it is fair to say that there are minds out there that are trying to destroy a positive future for some of us.

Your imageof your future, in your mind, may be the most important factor in determining what it will become. Humans apparently have an innate ability to think about the future. But we are almost never taught to imagine it or how to think about and persuade the future.  We take required history courses about the past and we learn about what is happening in the present. But we almost never get lessons in creating the future. (I am aware that this may no longer be true).

I not only believe we can create our future, I believe we need to do it now. Unless we change directions, we are likely to end up where we are headed, Chinese proverb. On November 1st, 62% of Americans did not approve of where we are heading.How do we solve this problem? The Dalai Lama explains: Our minds are the source, and properly directed, the solution to all our problems.

Creating the future, will require persuading the future one worldview at a time. A worldview is a collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or group. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world (in our minds). The collective worldview we need to multiply is on open-minded and inclusive.

I wonder, like you do, how likely is it that this kind of worldview will become prominent. I have been promoting this collective worldview for years. I am not optimistic. But think of the options. You create it or let someone else. If it is not you, who will it be?  You create it now. The reason for doing it now is that it can’t be done sooner.

The best way to predict the future is to create it.  Abraham Lincoln.

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And Continue To Stand Divided

 We have met the enemy and he is us.  Pogo

American democracy is “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. And we the people are the enemy of a united America today. It is interesting that the Pogo quote is over 50 years old. This shows that this is not a new issue. A dictionary definition of divided describes America today. Divided: Being in a state of disagreement or disunity; Moved by conflicting interests, emotions, or activities. And I would add, beliefs and behaviors.

We have a country of conflicting beliefs and behaviors. And maybe we always have and always will. American democracy was originally divided into to two political parties; a two part tribal system. Tribalism defined: A strong feeling of identity with and loyalty to one’s tribe or group. Andrew Sullivan explained how this makes decision making easy: All you need to know on any given subject is which side you’re on.Much is being written about tribalism today. Myside bias prevails.    

Long Division: How and why we stand divided

  • A two party system of competing tribes.
  • Red and Blue states. Right and left politics.
  • Democrats represent a majority of America’s voters but Republicans dominate geographically.
  • Fear and loathing as powerful campaign tools.
  • Identity politics continues.
  • The suppression of minority voting rights.
  • White supremacy. Gender bias.
  • Deal-making, working with the other side, does not exist.
  • A divided country of ideological ghettos(Orin Hatch).
  • Liberal and conservative voters. Liberal and conservative judges.
  • A crude sort of nationalism or ethnic identity that is built around us and them(Barack Obama).

You can probably add to the list. To overcome being divided, we need to become inclusive, interconnected, united. This is where we need a collective worldview that is open-minded and inclusive. That has been a goal of all my writing. I wonder now if tribalism eliminates open-mindedness and inclusiveness. Science has been telling us: Everything is interconnected to everything in an unbroken wholeness. Doesn’t that mean that us and them are interconnected? We the people are not interconnected.

I have met the enemy and it is tribalism.  Jon Udell

Here is my tentative conclusion (with some positive uncertainty). Today’s divided   America is not new; it is an expansion of past divided America. America was divided in the beginning and will be divided in the future. America is still the country I love. I just don’t think we should pretend the United States of America is united.




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 Not Paying Attention Intentionally   

 Out of necessity we learn to run on auto-pilot, paying attention mechanically and passively most of the time. This underscores the need to pay attention deliberately and voluntarily, thereby liberating our awareness from robotic activity, Daniel Goleman.

 This blog is about our “inattentional blindness”. * it is my effort to encourage you to pay attention deliberately to the way you see things. The way you see things is your perception. It is your worldview, point of view, your conception of reality. There are two problems with perception: it is partial and fallible. What you see is not all there is; you see only part of the iceberg. Much of the wholeness is hidden.

And your perception is also fallible. This blog is only about the fallibility of perception. The way you see things is the way you interpret things, and interpretation leaves room for error. Your perception determines what you do, which seems to make it very important. You can change your interpretation but you can’t change your partial blindness. My purpose is to encourage you to pay careful, intentional attention to your perceptive interpretation of the way you see things. I believe the way WE see things may be one of the most important factors in the world today.

Because things can change, and often do, you will also need to be able to change the way you see things. With your perception interpretation comes the need for uncertainty. In order to change the way you see things, you need to be uncertain about the way you see things. To be uncertain is to be open-minded; to be capable of change.

The problem with perception is that it is subjective. The problem with subjective is that it    isn’t objective. The trouble is you can’t take subjective youout of your perceptions. Objectivity is the subject’s delusion that observation can be done without him. Heinz von Forester. I like the way Kathryn Schulz explains this. Subjective  perception suggests interpretation. Interpretation implies “wiggle room —- space to deviate from a literal reading. Every step in the interpretative process represents a point of potential divergence between our minds and the world — a breach where mistakes can sneak in.

However, remember that even paying intentional attention to your perception is full of subjectivity, and interpretive wiggle room.

The situation turns circular as perceivers struggle to understand the process of perceiving. Human subjects turn into their own objects.  Humberto R. Maturana


* Inattentional blindness was made famous by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons in their book, The Invisible Gorilla, 2010.


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