Perhaps Profound

I have not been shy about giving advice with my many blogs. Although I like to call it strategies. Here is a two word summary of all of my advice writing. With, of course, support from a more famous author.

Ask questions.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.    Stephen Covey

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Overconfident Decision Making

 Know what you want, but don’t be sure. Positive Uncertainty

Getting what you want is the purpose of decision making. It involves using reasonablejudgmentabout what you want and reliable predictionabout how to get it. But remember the famous quote: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Getting what you want or what you wish for always involves a decision with judgement and prediction. For example, “My opinion is that thisoutcome will be the bestfor me (judgment).”“If I decide to do this, I expect thatwill happen” (prediction).  We want our choice of actionto have the most favorable consequence. The problem with judgment and prediction as the key elements of decision making is that humans are not very good at either one. We are overconfident of both our judgment and prediction ability.

The overconfidence bias is awell-established human bias. It is whena person’s subjective confidence in his or her predictions and judgments are greater than the objective reality. The key problem in judgment and prediction is the overconfidence bias (certainty). The key strategy for better judgment and prediction is uncertainty (an open-minded, malleable mindset).

You don’t have to always be right; you just have to not always think you are right. Judgment and prediction with uncertainty is a difficult task for the subjective, overconfident, biased human mind. It seems obvious that the subjective mind creates or elicits one’s judgments and predictions. But we don’t seem to notice.

That should tell us to look inside (our minds) for decision making strategies. Look inside for what is going on outside. Don’t be sure, by asking questions.

Ask what else questions:

  • What else could happen?
  • What else could I do? Etc.

Ask why and how questions:

  • Why do I predict that? Why is that better? Etc.
  • Get feedback from others: How do you predict? How do you see it?
  • Think twice: try doubt and hypothesis making.

To be totally objective is almost always impossible. But to be diligent about subjectivity will be useful. Open-minded judgment and prediction will more likely get you what you want. Remember, the way you see things comes from within. A recommended strategy:

Adopt An Insight Outlook

Roger von Oech in A Kick In The Seat Of The Pants, 1986

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Or Do You Care?

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

We create our life with the thoughts in our mind. Yet we don’t often ask; “What do I think?” Maybe because we don’t want to know, or we don’t care. We probably don’t have much experience questioning our thinking. But it is an important question because what we think determines what we do.

The challenge of this blog is to encourage you to think about your thinking. This could be an exercise in better understanding yourself — and others. It could be a beginning of caring more about what you think. Do you know what types of thinking you do — most often? Least often? Never? What types of thinking are you most noted for? What types of thinking do you wish you did more? Can you identify types of thinking by others better than by you? If so, why?

Here is a test to help you think about your thinking from my Process Of Illumination essays 11 years ago, and from speeches and workshops much earlier.

The Thinking Test

____1. Have you ever had thoughts that were not total rational?

____2. Have you ever had unrealistic fantasies about the future?

____3. Have you ever made up your mind and then changed it?

____4. Have you ever said, “I don’t know out loud?”

____5. Have you ever been taught any of these skills in school?

I have asked these questions enough to know that most people answer “yes” to the first four questions and “no” to the last. Although we were not taught these skills in school, we all seem to have them, which means that either they are innate skills or we learned them without being taught. Actually these skills are now being taught today in adult workshops and executive training programs and even in some schools. These thinking skills expand the capacity of our minds, increase our ability to make creative decisions and promote the use of both sides of our brain.

We probably pay more attention to what others think because we wonder why they do what they do. Maybe we should engage more in wondering why we do what we do. Or do we care? We have often been told about our different kinds of thinking. For example:

  • Edward de Bono: Six Thinking Hats: Objective thinking, Emotional thinking, Negative thinking, Positive thinking, Creative thinking, Controlled thinking.
  • Roger von Oech: logical thinking, conceptual thinking, speculative thinking, critical, foolish, divergent, convergent, reflective, visual, fantasy thinking.

Is there a best way to think? 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? Is it worth the effort? Do you care?

There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Shakespeare.




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American Political Tribalism

When Americans hear about “tribalism,” they often imagine a faraway land where one    ethnic or religious faction mercilessly persecutes another for generations. Only recently have many in this country begun to appraise the extent of tribalism at home  Laila Lalami

This blog is a result of my reading the article, Our Gang, by Laila Lalami in The New York Times Magazine, July 1, 2018. This blog is also being written during a time when the Supreme Court’s liberal and conservative imbalance is in the news, and when partisan politics is at an extreme. And this is a time when we are increasingly  appraising the extent of tribalism in American politics.

Laila Lalami says American politics is now made up of republican and democratic gangs deciding to fight it out. Here are some of the descriptive quotes about the two tribal political gangs from her article: A zero-sum triallist contest (Amy Chua). People are retreating into their own little cocoons, (Jonah Goldberg). Identity politics — tribalism by any other name – could turn the nation into a divided country of ideological ghettos (Orin Hatch). I like the metaphoric analogies.

Tribalism leads to “Myside Bias – Self-Serving Bias In Politics” (My blog  10 – 18– 17). The myside bias is also known as the confirmation bias. I believe this major belief tendency — to believe to be true what we want to be true — is the reason for today’s political turmoil. In the American two party political system, it is easy to be “myside partisan”. All you need to know on any given subject is which side you’re on. Andrew Sullivan. This could also be called the “bandwagon bias”.

America is not a “melting pot” — and never was. What we seem to forget is that tribalism apparently has always existed in American politics. For most part of America’s history, one tribe has held power, deciding who was allowed to settle the land and who could be dispossessed, who was free and who was enslaved, who had the right to vote and who did not.  Laila Lalami.

Does the fact that tribalism has always existed in American politics mean that it will always exist? It is probably true that the confirmation bias, myside bias and bandwagon bias will always exist in human nature. It seems to me that a tribal mindset (us and them) will always exist. Racism in America could be considered a tribal mindset. Liberal and conservative Supreme Court judges could be considered tribal mindsets. Tribal mindsets exist today. I am sure we could identify several other tribal mindsets today.

So, since we have always had tribal mindsets, will we always have American tribalism?

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

Does this mean we are the enemy?


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Tentative Scientific Believing   

 Science is enlightened common sense. Karl Popper

Among all the ways of knowing ever devised, only the scientific method strives to combat our confirmation biases by asking the question: “What is the evidence?” How many ways of knowing are there? If you don’t believe in the scientific method, what method do you believe in? Scientific methods shouldn’t be reserved only for scientists.

This blog is another version of my plea for positive uncertainty about what we believe, enlisting the support of the scientific method. The scientific method is tentative; doubt is the scientist’s friend. A hypothesis is a scientist’s educated guess about how things work and that can be tested. And retested; and retested. This requires doubt and uncertainty.

However, we the people, don’t seem to be natural doubters — because the confirmation bias is always there in the human mind. Humans have a disposition to believe too readily. Our natural state is not doubt, but a willingness to believe whatever is personally or socially congenial. The confirmation bias, the most popular of the many human subjective biases, is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirming our existing beliefs, thoughts, opinions, assumptions, and point-of-view (all synonyms).

How do we know if our existing beliefs are true? How does one involve the scientific method in their beliefs? My proposed strategy has been: “Treat beliefs as hypotheses”. Even, “treat truth as a hypothesis”. (See previous blogs). This, of course, involves positive uncertainty, doubt and retesting. Isn’t that common sense?

Accepting your belief as true because you want it to be true (the confirmation bias)  is not common sense. But scientific believing may sound too technical, rigorous, impractical. And it may never be able to overcome the confirmation bias of the subjective mind. Subjective is defined as: based on personal beliefs or feelings  

rather than based on facts; Taking place within a person’s mind such as to be unaffected by the external world. A person’s mind is where personal beliefs are created; the external world is where objectivity exists and where the scientific method is tested.

The strategy of hypothesizing about our believing may help dealing with the confirmation bias’s tendency to mislead us. Knowing that what we believe may be influenced by our disposition to believe too readily, and unaffected by the external world, we might be more willing to subject our beliefs to some questions, to some testing, to investigating their validity — to hypothesizing. Try it; it makes sense.

If we want to understand how we err, we need to                                      look at how we believe. Kathryn Schulz






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To Abandon Democracy In America?

 It only takes one, but the one has to be the President of the United States.

 The American political system relies on the personal qualities of the man or woman who wields the awesome powers of the presidency. But congress can protect the American system from an overbearing president. The current political administration of America has been authoritarian rule. it seems less like a democracy and more like a dictatorship. In today’s U. S. politics, Checks and balances is a metaphor, not a mechanism (James Russell Lowell). What excites this president is his approval rating, his wealth, his power. He is ignoring our democratic values of equality, diversity, truth and the common good. Today’s democracy is not of the people, by the people and for the people. Today’s politics is of the president, by the president and for the president. ‘“I alone can fix it.”

How Many Politicians Does It Take: To Reestablish Democracy In America?

It only takes a majority, but the majority has to want to.

Democracy doesn’t seem to be happening. Or maybe it never did. Democracy is when the common people are considered as the primary source of political power, when the majority rules, and when social equality and individual rights are the guiding principles. Some dictionary definitions of democracy:

  • A system of governmentin which power is vested in the people, who rule either directly or through freely elected representatives.
  • The people can criticize and replace their elected leaders and representatives if they do not perform well.  The people are sovereign—they are the highest authority—and government is based on the will of the people. 
  • Elected representatives at the national and local levels must listen to the people and be responsive to their needs. 

 Is this true in America today?  Has it ever been true? Today there are signs that the common people are taking action in order to regain the majority rule and the principles of social equality and individual rights — a government based on the will of the people.

One Politician Today: Is Causing Other Politicians To Practice Democracy.

And to listen to the people.

 How many politicians are assisting this action by the common people and how many are resisting? This movement seems to be growing. It doesn’t make sense that a government elected by the people should be assisting the will of the president and  resisting the will of the people. Maybe we need an accounting of where politicians are resisting or assisting. The time may have come when democracy needs to be a system of government in which power is vested in the people.

Standing up to bullies is the hallmark of a civilized society. Robert Reich




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The Process Of Self- Renewal

Life is the endless process of self-discovery. John Gardner

This blog is my review of a series of my essays, “The Reinvention of H B”, in 1983, 1997 and 2011. I was 57, 71 and 84 years old when I felt a need to write these essays. Somehow I had a 14 year itch to stop and reflect. I believe you are never too old and you are never too young to pause and reflect. In fact this has been a theme of all my writing. Growing up is a process of constant learning. To discover is to learn; reinvention is a learning process. The goal of growing older is to avoid becoming grown up. Consider it an on-going process of constant self-renewal.

The “Reinvention Of H B Again and Again” was because of this Will Roger’s quote:  Even if you are on the right track you’ll get run over if you just sit there. These reinventions became part of my other essays: “Composing My Further life”. My theme became: “You can’t grow clinging to the status quo.”

This revival of my reinvention themes is a way of reminding me to  continue theprocess and to encourage others to consider reinvention. This review of the way I reinvented me is not saying this is the way you should reinvent you — or even that you should reinvent you. It is fun for me to relive some of my self-renewal processes and it may be interesting to others and maybe even useful. What might be useful is sharing three of my change strategies that became part to my renewal process.

Do different things and do things differently

To renew of course means to change. Two possible ways to change are 1) do different things and 2) do things differently. During the 42 years of reinventing I did different things. For example: from keynote speaking to writing blogs. And I did some things differently. For example: from enjoying nature backpacking in the wilderness to enjoying nature by walks in nature at the local beach and in the local mountains.

 Stop – Start – Continue

During workshops I often proposed the renewal strategy of Stop – Start – Continue. During my 42 years of reinvention I applied this strategy to myself. For example: I will obviously stopmeeting with friends and relatives who have died because I can no longer do so. I will stopcomplaining about being older and stoppointing out the disadvantages. (although this is easier said than done).  I will startnoticing the virtues of my age: more freedom to choose what to do and how to do it; more wisdom from life experiences, fewer obligations. I will continuewriting but seeking a difference audience (doing things differently). I will continuewith my outdoors activities as long as I can.

I realize this review may be more of a benefit for me than for my readers. I wanted to emphasize the importance of avoiding growing up by reinventing oneself: Reflection, review, reinvention, renewal. Try it; you might find it a process of self-discovery and self-renewal.

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

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