Despite an ongoing workload, summer is a good time for reflection and rejuvenation. The following are among the musings traveling along my neural pathways as I toiled in my gardens and plantations these past few months (others to be shared in due course):
Disinformation. Misinformation is getting the facts wrong. Disinformation is deliberately misstating them. The spread of disinformation today, abetted by social media and highly divisive political discourse, is rampant and increasingly difficult to counter. Why do people believe things that aren’t true? The answer lies in our hard-wired biases. Research confirms that reiterating implausible statements influences the perception of truth regardless of how extreme the claims may be. Because repetition makes information easier to cognitively process, the (lazy) brain interprets this ease as a signal it must be true. Neurologically, this is known as processing fluency. Repetition doesn’t change a mistruth; it simply makes it more palatable. Much like paper covers rock, belief overwhelms fact. The bottom line? It takes effort to separate fact from fiction. And a lot of people just aren’t willing to put in the effort required to ask the critical questions. Especially when they want to believe what is untrue.
Intelligence. To lead a good life, we must make good decisions. This requires five qualities of mind: intellectual humility (recognizing the limits of our knowledge), openness to contrarian views (benefitting from disparate thoughts), independent (objective) advice, a fearlessness to risk and a willingness to embrace self-doubt. Where does intelligence come into this mix? Intelligence isn’t what we know; it’s the ability to use what we know to make good choices. Intellectual titans often make grave errors of judgment. Book smarts doesn’t make us life smart. Critical thinking isn’t necessarily a consequence of intelligence – it correlates with IQ only moderately (.38). Which is why it’s entirely possible to have low intelligence yet navigate life wisely. Those of high intelligence can make decisions that leave their peers shaking their heads. Critical thinking isn’t about mental horsepower as much as it’s the skill of asking good questions that lead to better choices. And, whatever your IQ, you can always learn how to think better.
Stories. Significant experiences make us who we are. Writing them down while fresh in mind is a canvass our imagination can paint on. Capturing these short chapters of the seminal events that shape our life story is an act of self-preservation. It enables us to describe our journey in the way we want it to read. It crystalizes our identity. Since our memory is wholly unreliable and our creative thoughts especially decay over time, taking a “trip back” to recall and refresh impactful experiences can be a refuge during difficult times. While we prefer to revel in our successes, situations of anger, anxiety, failure and disappointment may be the best times to record our stories. This gives us perspective, clarity and purpose. And that’s what fuels our tenacity and commitment to get better going forward. The other thing about having life-altering stories readily available is that they enable us to help (if not save) someone else from their hardship in the retelling.
Potential. People get paid for two reasons: what they can do and what they might be capable of doing. Performance is a combination of observation; potential is a matter of speculation. Ascending the ladder of success is about self-promotion as much as evaluation. So how do you increase the value that others might perceive in your potential (which is also known as your brand)? Simply ask them: How can I get involved in the type of projects you deem critical to the future of this company? Change the conversation from “me” (how much I should be paid) to “us” (how can we get better). Sell your intention and desire to be more engaged and productive in the things that really matter to those above you – they are the gatekeepers to the road ahead. Demonstrate your potential, don’t doubt it. Harness and leverage it in ways that are an integral part of the their future as much as your own.
Trivia. Seemingly inconsequential data intrigues me. I won’t bore you with this fascination but I will tell you why. Did you know that Greenland’s ice sheet will shed more than 110 trillion metric tons of water in the next 45 years? If that were dumped on Canada, it’d be 37 feet deep. The Big Bang happened 13.7 billion years ago. Our biosphere is 4 billion years old. The sun is halfway through its projected lifespan. An 8 on the Richter scale is 1,000 times more powerful than a 6. When we see someone talking out load, we think they might be mentally challenged; yet we all talk to ourselves all the time (at a rate of between 300 and 1,000 words/minute). We just have the good sense to keep our mouths shut when we do. The most distant spacecraft, launched in September of 1977, is the Voyager 1 probe. Travelling at a speed of 62,140 km/hr., it will reach Alpha Centauri, our closest star system (4.3 light years away) in about 75,000 years. I could go on. My point? Like the universe in which we live, trivia is mind expanding.