The Fishermen’s Dilemma – A Parable (Actually More About Tax Cuts and Responsibilities)

There was a town, of no small size, that was located by the sea. There were merchants, craftsmen, tradesmen, and, as you can imagine, a number of townsfolk who made their living by fishing, as had their ancestors.

Recently the economy underwent a change and many traditional jobs disappeared. Many of the people affected then decided to take up fishing as there always seemed to be plenty of ocean and plenty of fish.

They bought boats and equipment and usually sailed together as a fleet, not only for fellowship and presumed safety, but because they could always follow the boats of the gnarly older captains. This became their routine, and they watched quietly and followed what they saw.

Common sayings among them were, “If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten,” and “A rising tide lifts all boats.” They became confident. Very confidant.

One particular day, the tide ebbed stronger and faster than usual. This caught the newer fishermen by surprise. Most of their boats were left high and dry where they had been anchored, while the boats of the veteran captains managed to chart a rather meandering course through the channels revealed by the rapidly ebbing tide. These managed to reach open water, while those stranded high and dry were left to await the returning tide.

When the boats returned with the tide they were ladened with fish, but only enough for their obligations and the open market.

The new fishermen mumbled among themselves, “This isn’t fair. They must know something that we don’t know, and took advantage of us.” A few said, “What if it was something we should have known, or been prepared for?” but that drew a loud and sharp response from others, “If we say we might have played a part in this, then they’ll foist most of the blame on us!”

They approached some of the veteran captains and asked how they managed to navigate the morning’s ebb tide. One of the captains said, “You men know well that a rising tide lifts all boats, but you didn’t recognize the other half. You didn’t realize that an ebbing tide leaves high and dry the boats of fishermen who don’t know the channels. You anchored in very poor places.”

“What? That anchorage always worked for us before!”

“Yes, but this was a peculiarly strong tide. You couldn’t sail straight out to sea as you normally did.”

“What do you mean?”

“You were only paying attention to what you could see above the water, and missed what was below.”

The newer fishermen mumbled and quickly reached agreement that the successful captains were intentionally taking an unfair advantage of everyone else and ending up with many more fish.

They went to the town council and pressed for new ordinances: the veteran captains, they argued, should not be permitted to sail until all of the other boats had made it to open sea. In addition, they should be taxed more heavily on their catches, as well as a portion of their catches should be redistributed to the fishermen who weren’t successful.

Since there were many more voting families than successful captains, the council passed the ordinances.

The tide ebbed and flowed. The newer fishermen sailed as they always had, and caught what they always caught. And often enough strong tides left most of their boats high and dry.

But the veteran captains left for other ports. And as a result the fishing industry decayed just as the other industries had. And with it, so did the town.

Consider…

In a crisis, typically, the majority’s first gut reaction is to fix the blame (Rarely is the reaction to pause and adequately identify and fix the problem);

If all of the obvious culprits and forces are eliminated, what remains? (The unseen, or the ignored);

If all of the obvious culprits and forces are just inanimate things, then what remains? (People);

What can cause unintended consequences to occur? (Missing information and the resulting poor decisions, all accompanied by complacency and fear – each of which involve choices).

We’ve just passed a significant revision of the Tax Code that will have a great impact. When I stop and consider this (and the discussions leading up to it), I am struck by observations and information that no one seems to have connected together and which subsequently lead to paradoxes. It seemed appropriate to consider these seemingly unconnected facts and draw some logical (I hope logical) conclusions pertaining to them:

  • There is strong evidence that 80% of English speaking peoples cannot do ‘Math,’ especially finance. Either they scrupulously avoid it or just choose not to think about it. No doubt this results from education’s overemphasis on the word ‘Math’ to describe anything to do with numbers. This word should be relegated only to those times when the simple digits from 0 to 9 are replaced by dreaded symbols, (for instance, x, y, z, or a, b, c, and especially ax!) These are enough to scare anyone away. What people really need is comfort with simple arithmetic: plain old addition, subtraction, and occasionally multiplication and division. And a $ sign.
  • It is also documented that ~67% of English speaking peoples cannot explain the compounded growth of money over time, that is, earning interest on interest in a saving account, CD, or other investment (no doubt due to fear of that ‘ax’ thingy).
  • The impact of the above also means, and what is rarely recognized, that these same people also do not understand the possibility of the negative growth of their money, that is,
    Debt will also increase exponentially over time because of interest on interest!
    In essence, this is the silent, continuous creation of the deadweight of negative wealth. (This lack of understanding of this growth is also the basic driving force behind the proliferation of credit card offers, a force that rarely occurs to anyone except those in the industry.  Since dollars cannot be in two places at once, one institution’s gain must be someone else’s (eventual) loss).
  • Since all financial transactions (paychecks, taxes, purchases, bills) involve numbers (and a “$”), it follows that the 80% conclude there must be some ‘Math’ associated with these transactions and therefore they don’t pay enough attention to them.
  • For a very long time, longer than I can remember, the political response to economic tough times is to pass a tax cut. Generally speaking, it is unclear whether these have ever provided any documentable impact on turning an economy around, i.e., they didn’t create a rising tide. In many cases it is unclear what identifiable factors did contribute to turning the economic tide, even years later after much academic study (here is Gap Theory in action again).
  • Why politicians pursue a tax cut has one obvious reason: to act decisively in the short term in a way that will justify their jobs and get them reelected by a grateful, newly flush electorate. However, consider now the following two perspectives:
    • Remember the old adage (yes, conveniently fluffed up by me here) –
      Those who can, do;
      Those who can’t, teach;
      Those who can’t teach, administer;
      Those who can’t administer, become politicians.
      What this implies is that, if 80% of those who can “do” think they cannot do financial arithmetic or scrupulously avoid it, then three steps further down the incompetence adage you can be certain that ~100% of politicians can’t do financial arithmetic either! (This is borne out by politicians ignoring both the deficit and the financial impact calculations of think tanks, the GAO, and reactions from corporate CEOs: This Tax Bill Is A Trillion-Dollar Blunder, and America’s Inequality Machine).
    • Which leads us to the puzzling paradox that any tax cut probably will be too small to overcome the financial difficulties of the majority of people who need help. It will be like telling them “We’ll pay 25% of your outstanding debt” and ignoring the fact that the remaining 75% debt will continue to grow exponentially! Or telling them, “We’re going to raise the tide! (But don’t worry about what comes afterwards.)” This is giving money to people who do not handle it well in hopes they will spend it, which just results in maintaining their situation. Treating the symptoms does not deal with the systematic issue underneath.
  • Rather than a tax cut, why not redirect the same amount of money into realistically dealing with people’s lack of confidence and/or understanding of financial arithmetic.
    We did put a man on the moon, after all.

On another note, there is a second paradox contained in The Fisherman’s Dilemma. It goes like this,

  • We uniformly agree that our children must get an education. In the past few years this has become the idea that everyone should go to college. (From my experience from years both in the seat and at the lectern, not everyone belongs in college. There are other ‘ways’ to obtain the education one needs to succeed with one’s skills identified and developed. In addition, I think that not everyone in the seat (or at the lectern, for that matter) understands the ‘what’ and ‘why’ he or she is there for. I hinted at this here, but a deeper discussion on education is for another post.)
  • We probably also agree that we want our kids to be successful, and depending upon our own backgrounds, more successful than we were.
  • But just not too successful, especially other people and their kids.
  • When people get too successful, when they move too far away from our Cultural Mean, we react as if this were not possible without some subterfuge or scheming. It becomes a crisis, and we look to fix the blame. We jump into the Negative Sum Game and draw the conclusion that they therefore must have taken something that they didn’t have the right to take. It’s Gap Theory again. We quickly stick them with a negative character attribute or behavior to justify our reaction, rather than take the time to look carefully to see, first, what is their added value and if it warrants their success, and, second, if perhaps we ourselves aren’t missing something (such as understanding financial arithmetic) that would have otherwise benefitted us somehow. That’s avoiding the Repugnant Question so that we don’t have to deal with the Repugnant Conclusion. As a result, we have a strong tendency, nay, predilection, to blame the upper 1% (or 20%) when they are succeeding beyond what we deem acceptable, explainable, or understandable by our Cultural Mean.
  • While there is indeed some truth to what we observe, that there are people who manage to get through life by being Takers (or, in an alternate terminology that has a nice ring to it, Extractors), this does not translate into punishing all who manage to be successful beyond a Cultural Mean. Takers are a small percentage of any group of people. Stretching this dollop of ‘truth’ into full condemnation appears to be the pastime of a sufficient number of people to keep this ‘conspiracy theory’ alive and in good health. It’s apparently also great clickbait.

Interestingly, these two paradoxes eventually merge together, but with a twist in understanding:

The vast majority of the 20% and the 1% are not Takers or Extractors. They understand enough about Added Value to be Participators in the economy, and they contribute and benefit (and sometimes lose) accordingly. There also is sufficient reason to propose that part of the widening income and wealth inequality gap has a component that is due to a lack of full participation by the 80%, which has a strong basis in a weakness in financial understanding.

The above implies a dual (but not necessarily equal) contribution, exactly what the Repulsive Question, if pursued, would reveal. However, being glued to an Either/Or mode of thinking (the blame either lies with them or me) precludes considering this idea. So does Political Correctness.

Overcoming the immediate gap takes us back, once again, to education, especially about financial arithmetic.

In considering other social and cultural gaps and if this dual contribution idea is true, which I think it is, it still leaves me with a larger, nagging question in explaining how this happens.

Much pondering for another post.

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Posted in 02: Value Added, A Definition, 04: Games People Play, 06: Incomplete Information, 07: Getting It, 08: Observing, Listening, Learning, 16: Culture, 17: Choice, Gap Theory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thought Provoking but Obscure Articles from 2017

So little time, so many good articles, so many great books, so much fake and misleading “news” … (sigh)

Here, in no particular order, are the pieces that helped make my reading year most enjoyable, informative, and often challenging.

Ground Zero

Speaking of reading, this article from the Quartzy daily newsletter (itself a valuable free reading source – subscribe!), The Beginning of Silent Reading Changed Westerners’ Interior Life is worth the time. Historically, information was shared through oral tradition. Even with the development of writing, an oral tradition was important because so few could read but one was still at the mercy of the speaking reader as late as the 1700s. Silent reading, however, “… emboldened the reader because it placed the source of his curiosity completely under personal control.” And with that we discovered: I read; I do; I become …

From another short and affirming article, You Are What You Read (Quartz),

“Language is our primary tool of communication. It’s how we build and organize our knowledge, and it’s what allows us to interact with each other. Outside of direct experience, it’s also largely how we create our perception of reality. The information your senses absorb through your surroundings combine to create linguistic (and subconscious) models in your mind about how the world works and the best way to interact with it.”

From building and organizing our knowledge to creating our worldview (both expanded here), reading is essential. While not necessary for maintaining a limited ‘worldview’ or live-in bubble (we can get that from the “news” or social media), it is essential for stretching our ‘worldview’ to touch other “bubbles” that exist (more below).

Lest we forget, language is a living entity. It is constantly evolving; new words appear, new definitions and uses arise for existing words, and, alas and alack, words die. Twenty-six words we don’t want to lose (bbc.com) is more plea than eulogy. I hope you ‘popple’ while reading this before having to ‘scurryfunge’ with your ‘ambilavousness’ before your boss peaks over your shoulder, unless of course you are ‘frowsting.’

Singularly Unique

The 2017 Jealousy List” (BloombergBusinessweek, December 2017). This is the selection of favorite articles by other journalists that the Bloomberg staff wished they had written. A wide variety of stuff here, all well written, including the reasons why Bloomberg writers were jealous someone else had written them.

For the sheer fun of it, the following:

A Long-Sought Proof, Found and Almost Lost (Quanta). Ok, I know most readers might skip this one, but I thought the article itself (not just the math concept) worthwhile as a proof of another little recognized reality (the basis for this blog): that knowledge and understanding in one area can be transferred into other areas to great, surprising and unexpected benefit. I identify with the discoverer, as he too was old, retired, and just putzing around. Go ahead, it’s illustrated.

The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick (Guardian). Yes, there are some of them out there, or so they say. To paraphrase Pogo, “We have met the healthy, and it is us.” In reality, despite a rapidly growing health supplement market, our health depends upon our immune system with a bit of environment thrown in (the innate along with the acquired, once again). Happiness and lack of stress are very beneficial. Lots of pills, not so much. Lifestyle plays an important role in the functioning of our immune systems. Suggestions included.

In case you missed it, Albert Einstein’s “happiness” note was sold. What could be better than “happiness” guidelines from the world’s most renowned physicist? He wrote them on a hotel napkin in 1922, and the napkin was sold this year at auction for $1.56M. What is even more surprising is the simple lifestyle instruction he wrote, which you can read here. Money can’t buy happiness?? Hopefully the purchaser wasn’t that desperate.

For sheer perspective, the following:

Capitalists Need the Nation-State More Than It Needs Them (aeon). An informed look at how any rampant and polarizing Either/Or thinking obscures the positive effects of globalization by falling into the trap of ignoring important perspectives by actively avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion.

21 Ways Dumb Leaders Drain Everyone’s Energy (Leadershipfreak). Research reports that about 80% of people do not like or actually hate their work, and that the number one reason for people to quit their jobs is, not surprisingly, their boss. So, if you are one of the 80%, read this to see how many of these align with your experience. If you are a boss, read it again. In either case, this short video will help understand a simple way (at about 2:30) to overcome negative behaviors.

Today’s biggest threat to democracy isn’t fake news – it’s selective facts (Quartz). One of our human failings is that we most often don’t know what we don’t know and we won’t admit it (that’s Fundamental Principle 7c). This, coupled with the loads of missing important information (Fundamental Principle 6) that we need to make good decisions, can lead us to recognize but choose to avoid the Repugnant Conclusion and ultimately arrive at bad decisions.

That description just describes everyday life with naturally or passively missing information, which, if we’re aware and attentive, we can choose to make the effort to find.

What happens when someone actively ignores available information and uses selective but incomplete facts to promote a particular agenda or worldview? Sam Zell, former CEO of Tribune, was blunt but real when he told his journalists, “You need to help me by being a journalist that focuses on what readers want and therefore generates more revenue.” With actively selected facts, the target audience will take hold of it due to their Confirmation Bias, be completely oblivious of the selectivity, blow right by the Repugnant Conclusion, and become more strongly polarized. Rather than crowdsourcing news, perhaps we should call this crowdsucking the news.

But the unintended consequences demand we take the higher, more difficult path: to intentionally scrutinize information in spite of its massive quantity and ease of access. In other words, we must be more responsible to inform ourselves rather than relying on others to do it for us. This is the digital equivalent of the historical shift from a passive oral tradition to an active reading one. Some simple tips for doing this are included.

Since I mentioned the Repugnant Conclusion, the essay by David Graham’s about embracing political conversations (and a few other types as well) at the family Thanksgiving table (or any other time) seems apropos since it spills the messy contents of family dirty laundry right in the middle of the living room floor (thus attempting to avoid spoiling the food on the table; well, perhaps not). His advice: just do it. He leaves out, though, how to do it, but refers to a multitude of articles written with that in mind. One reader’s comment highlights the connections with the Repugnant Conclusion, Missing Information, and Selective Facts (with my brothers-in-laws it was always “You have your facts. I have mine!”),

“I’m tired of seeing people take some of the happiest days of the year, and some of the best opportunities for engaging with others, and use them as an excuse to b**** and moan. It’s likely that if you can’t handle conversations in which people don’t automatically agree with you, you yourself are at fault to some degree. You are probably not trying hard enough to engage civilly, to listen, or to understand others. And if someone is truly being belligerent or disrespectful, then end the conversation with a contrived excuse, steer it away from hot topics, or show some decorum and politely say that you see no point in continuing … Find something to be grateful for, engage others around you, and don’t get bent out of shape if not everyone caters to your every opinion and preference.” (The Atlantic Daily, November 22, 2017)

Speaking of Bubbles

We live in bubbles. Call them your Dunbar Group, your Social Neighborhood, or your worldview, but it’s a bubble. It’s limited by your Accessibility Heuristic (what information you choose to access – remember, lots is missing – naturally or intentionally), your Confirmational Bias, overload, and most likely a strong dislike of the Repugnant Conclusion. The illustration that accompanied the Politico essay The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think visually captures the concept well, not only for media, but for organizations and individuals.

(Source: Poltico)

This is an informative essay that reveals facts and reasons behind the truth of the media bubble, but in unexpected ways. This bubble’s not intentional (surprise; it’s economics) but it goes unrecognized by those in them (no surprise), and consequently it is not compensated for (also no surprise). Observations like “… the national media just doesn’t get the nation it purportedly covers” (Fundamental Principle 7c again), and “… ideological clustering in top newsrooms led to groupthink,” indicate a sincere attempt at self-evaluation which leads to the following,

“The ‘media bubble’ trope might feel overused by critics of journalism who want to sneer at reporters who live in Brooklyn or California and don’t get the ‘real America’ of southern Ohio or rural Kansas. But these numbers suggest it’s no exaggeration: Not only is the bubble real, but it’s more extreme than you might realize. And it’s driven by deep industry trends,” and

“… the ‘heart, mind, and habits’ (of the NY Times) cannot be divorced from the ethos (read: bubble) of the cosmopolitan city where it is produced.”

Both quotes provide strong support for the reality of Regression to the Cultural Mean.

Not being able to “get the ‘real America’ ” leads right into another revealing essay on just how strong this groupthink has become: On Safari in Trump’s America by Molly Ball (@mollyesque) from The Atlantic. Picture the country’s coastal elites from an influential “center-left think tank” doing research (the “safari”) in the fly-over states (i.e., not the coasts) just to listen to people, and then producing a report that leaves out much of what they heard (but which is caught by this accompanying journalist). Because they couldn’t process it, it did nothing to unsettle their preconceptions. That’s a bubble.

Now, picture the bubbles around everyone you interact with in a day. Then, picture them in your organization.

How can/will you engage with them for growth, learning, influence, teamwork, or just leaving while taking away an “I’m glad I interacted with that person today” feeling? It takes willingness to process.

Then picture the people around your Thanksgiving table …

Mostly Important Books:

This has been a lean year for books for me, probably because the election caused a lot more activity in articles and essays and the increased need to follow sage advice and check them out more thoroughly. Here are some books that struck me as important as well as genuinely good reading,

David and Goliath, M. Gladwell

I mentioned this in January’s best articles/books post (a bit late due to travel). It, along with any of Malcom Gladwell’s other exquisitely research and written books, deserve your attention.

Unpopular Essays, B. Russell

“12 Adventures in Argument” by the 1950 Nobel Prize winner in Literature. (Note: Russell was an outstanding mathematician and philosopher, but, alas, there were no prizes for these.) Enlightening but considered revolutionary because he pushes stuff that “we know” into arenas where we should know them and apply them, but don’t.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, T. Piketty

Amply reviewed after its 2014 publication, Piketty makes strong arguments based on historical and current data about the increasing discrepancies in capital (wealth) distribution. Very apropos given our current stock market, economy, and ‘anticipated’ tax revision. Although an academic, this is actually a moderate and easy if lengthy read. A couple of holes, I think, but that’s for sometime later.

For additional reading sources, there is also 100 Notable Books for 2017 from the NY Times. However, an even more relevant source is The Best Books of 2017 from Bloomberg. The latter is not a list but a compendium of favorites from notable influencers. One recurring book is The Gene, which I referenced in January 2016’s list and used extensively for Agents of Influence. Depending upon your bubble, there’s bound to be something rewarding.

Read. Enjoy. It is good for you.

It’s good for your bubble, good for everyone you influence, good for your organization, and good for overall society as well. As long as we put good lessons into practice.

Posted in 06: Incomplete Information, 07: Getting It, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Baker’s Dilemma – A Parable

In a small village there was a bakery shop. Its owner had inherited the bakery from his father, who had inherited it from his father before him.

It was not the only bakery in the village, but it was well known. It baked breads of all sorts, styles, and sizes, and pastries, too. But it was mostly known for its breads. Its products were well liked, and its baker was well respected in the village since anyone could remember.

One particular day, the baker began early in the morning as was his usual habit, prepared his large wood fired brick oven and began to make the dough for the day’s breads. Grains and flour were selected and the yeast, eggs, salt, and milk added just as he remembered.

The dough was set aside in a warm place to rise, covered with a moist cloth to protect it and prevent it from drying.

When the oven temperature was right, the coals were pushed aside and the oven floor made ready.

When each dough had risen and reached its desired size, he took it from its bowl, placed it on the floured table and began carefully to knead it. When it was ready, he cut the large dough into smaller portions and formed each of these into perfectly shaped loaves and cut them with a knife on the top in the special way that noted each loaf grain and type.

When enough loaves had been prepared, he placed them on a wooden paddle, opened the oven, and slid each loaf onto the oven floor, pushing it carefully into position for the best temperature. Then he noted the time on the clock.

When the right amount of time had passed, he checked the loaves for color and firmness, then removed them and paced them on a cooling rack. When they had properly cooled, he carefully stacked each loaf on an open display rack.

When it was time for the shop to open, customers were already lined up outside. They entered into the aroma filled shop, mingled and chatted, made their selections for the day, and headed home.

An hour or so later, while customers were still streaming into the shop to buy, other customers began to return to speak to the baker.

“There’s something wrong with my loaves of bread! They are not completely baked!”

“There are lumps in my loaves!”

“My loaves don’t taste right! My family won’t eat them!”

For a moment the baker was puzzled. He thought, “I didn’t notice anything amiss. I did everything as I have always done, so I should be getting what I’ve always gotten!”

Then he realized that his shop was also full of customers who hadn’t yet purchased bread for the day.

He spoke up boldly, “There’s nothing wrong with the bread! I made it from the same grains, in the same oven, in the same way I’ve always made it! Something must have happened when you took it home! What did you do differently?”

Of course, arguments ensued. And got more heated. And then those customers left. And then the customers who had not yet purchased left also.

And the shop was empty.

The baker was still puzzled. And still angry.

Loaf by loaf he cut off samples and tasted them.

“They don’t taste right! And this loaf is lumpy! And this loaf is not completely baked!”

“It must be the oven!” So he ran to check the oven. The coals were still hot, and the temperature just right.

“It must be the flour!” So he ran and checked each of the flours, and they were fine.

“It must be the yeast!” So he took out the yeast and checked it, and the yeast was fine.

“It must be the clock!” But the clock read the right time.

This left him in a horrible dilemma:

If it wasn’t the oven,

and it wasn’t the flours,

and it wasn’t the yeast,

and it wasn’t the clock,

What on earth could it be?

He was left with only one question, and one that was very repugnant:

“What if it was something I did?”

He rejected the question because he quickly realized that just considering it might lead to the obvious but very Repugnant Conclusion:

“Something I did actually contributed to the situation!”

So, unable to find another answer to his dilemma, he grumbled and complained the rest of the day.

And all the while, his shop was empty.

Consider…

In a crisis, typically, one’s first reaction is to fix the blame (Not to identify and fix the problem).

If we eliminate all of the obvious culprits, what remains? (The unseen, or the ignored)

If all of the obvious culprits are just inanimate things, then what remains? (Us)

What can cause unintended consequences to occur? (Missing information, poor decisions, complacency, fear – all of which involve choices)

The real Repugnant Conclusion

Yes, there is one named that. It applies to “real” debates in philosophy and ethics dealing with different groups of people (subcultures) and their “happiness.” It also is known as the mere addition paradox. Both labels concern the “incompatibility of assertions about the relative value of populations (subcultures of people).”

The mere addition paradox arises from faulty (and incomplete) reasoning, for instance, as in this simple example: take a population of 100 people who control $100 in resources. Their average wealth per person is $1. If you add one person to this group who has wealth of $10,000, then the average wealth per person statistically becomes $10,100 spread over 101 people, or $100. Apparent average wealth (and a shift away from poverty, which apparently means towards “happiness”) has drastically increased, but in reality nothing has changed for the original 100 people.

Interestingly, the inverse mere subtraction paradox is even more informative. In an unequal society, such as the 101 people above, simply eliminating the rich and their resources technically would result in a more equal world at a lower resource level, but still nothing would improve for the poor. This raises questions over whether or not “inequality” is the correct or only issue to consider. (Take, for instance, blaming the upper 1% (or 20%) for income inequality. Or once again offering a tax break to treat a symptom rather than addressing the actual issue – 80% of people cannot adequately manage their finances and don’t feel competent to teach their children.)

If we must then consider other “issues,” what issues are there? Apparently, these should be those that are previously unseen or ignored. Following this path inevitably leads to the Real Repugnant Conclusion:

That each of us, as individuals or a group, is responsible for contributing a non-zero but measurable contribution to the undesirable situations we find ourselves in.

What is the most difficult source to accept as a contributor to unintended and undesirable consequences? (Ourselves)

For reasons of insecurity, self-protection, defensiveness, or simply saving face, we very often refuse to ask the Repugnant Question. And to avoid the Repugnant Conclusion, we shift the blame. Or we label it as Politically Incorrect.

Consider the behavior in each of the following (and identify the unseen contributor):

-Two siblings arguing; “Mom! He hit me!”

-Husband and wife arguing; “You started it when you …”

-You are driving and suddenly experience road rage directed at you …

-Your culturally accepted behavior causes “social rage” from another cultural group …

-Your “leadership” behavior causes “rage” (disruption) from employees, upper management, shareholders, customers, or the public …

-Your nation is viewed negatively by the world when “we’re just doing what we’ve always done” …

The real Repugnant Conclusion is the one we choose most often to avoid:

That something I/we have done (my/our behavior) has contributed to an undesirable outcome.

Notice another paradox: this chosen avoidance behavior cascades upwards – it begins with individual behavior (often in childhood) and moves upwards to family, to peers, to clan, to tribe, to community (subculture, a social neighborhood or Dunbar “bubble”), to organizations, to nations.

It’s also like a pandemic – the behavior spreads rapidly within a given population (a Regression to the Cultural Mean).

The situation is not, however, hopeless. Behavior can always be changed, especially old ingrained behavior. But this change is a choice; it is an intentional, and often demanding process.

Change begins with self (you, the individual) and progresses through what we can call the Five R’s:

  1. Recognition, that your behavior contributed to an undesirable outcome
  2. Regret, that the outcome negatively affected others, not only you
  3. Resolution, making a decision, a choice to change
  4. Renewal, of the Attitudes that by Choice lead to your Behaviors (here), and ultimately
  5. Redemption/Restoration, (of position, esteem, performance, self-worth)

Where could you begin today?

And, being an agent of influence, who would you influence tomorrow?

Posted in 06: Incomplete Information, 10: Integrity, 12: Character, 13: Values & Self, 14: Behavior, 16: Culture, 17: Choice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Power Causes Brain Damage

“Power – a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies” – Henry Adams

Power is like the weather:

  • Everyone likes it when it’s comfortable, warm and makes them feel good; but
  • More often than not it’s lousy and something everyone complains about but can do little about; and
  • In small and well-controlled doses it can leverage life, progress, and added value; but
  • In heavy doses, like hurricanes and tornadoes, it causes immediate and either highly focused or widespread damage, or both.

That’s generally what happens to us when someone else has power. But what happens to them?

The Atlantic ran an article recently that confirmed what we all probably knew before hand – Power Causes Brain Damage. If you can’t read it, the following is a brief overview, followed by more thoughts.

After years of lab and field experiments on people’s behaviors, Professor Dacher Keltner from UC Berkeley reached a conclusion not far from Henry Adams metaphorical quip. Subjects under the influence of power (i.e., wielding it for long periods) behaved as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury. They had become

  • more impulsive,
  • less risk-aware, and most importantly,
  • less adept at seeing things from other people’s perspective.

In different studies, Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University in Ontario, looked at subject’s brains. He observed that power impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy (the ability to relate to what others are feeling).

These and other results give a neurological basis for what Keltner called the “Power Paradox”:

  • Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.

Powerful people “stop simulating the experience of others,” leading to what is called an “empathy deficit.”

(Blog: In other words, they become clueless. To say nothing of dangerous and potentially destructive.)

Had power people become so task focused that they made little effort to empathize with others? In a subsequent study people were informed what “mirroring” was and instructed to make a conscious effort to increase or decrease their response to others. Results? “No difference.” Effort didn’t help.

This leads to Power Paradox #2:

  • Knowledge is supposed to be power, but what good is knowing that if power deprives you of knowledge?

A sunny spin on this is that these changes are only “sometimes” harmful. Power, according to research, primes our brain to screen out peripheral information. That is, to increase our “task” focus, which in itself generally reduces our “relationship” focus where empathy is most necessary.

In being heavily “task” focused, “power lessens the need for a nuanced read of others, since it gives us command of resources we once had to cajole from others.”

“Less able to make out people’s individuating traits, they (power people) rely more heavily on stereotype. And the less they’re able to see, other research suggests, the more they rely on a personal “vision” for navigation.”

One issue is that many people regard power as a post or a position rather than a mental state. If regarded as a post or a position that comes with certain perks, this makes Taker behaviors all the more justifiable.

If power is recognized as a mental state, then the choice to exercise that power depends more upon the situation and available information and less on it being a “permanent” or entitled behavior.

The latter is referred to as “Hubris Syndrome” – “a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success (Blog: or perceived success), held for a period of years and with minimal constraint on the leader.” It has 14 clinical features, but the most interesting are

  • manifest contempt for others;
  • loss of contact with reality;
  • restless or reckless actions; and
  • displays of incompetence

Now consider the following thoughts …

Unfortunately, while the medical literature does not yet recognize Hubris Syndrome, I suspect that the majority of us have all lived through some manifestation of it.

Apparently, the longer someone is under the influence of power, the further left on the Behavior Curve they unconsciously move, exhibiting Taker behaviors much more often. In addition, the screening out of supposed “peripheral” information increases the amount of Missing Information, some of which can be critically important. By screening out potential course corrective information, the further left on the curve they move.

Nature With Nurture

While our five forces of Nature (genes (DNA) & temperament) working with Nurture (environment, triggers, and chance, all influenced by inanimate and/or human forces (choices)) play a significant role, there is a certain pattern of power that emerges:

  • A person observes power being exercised by someone and the effects that it brings;
  • It is assumed that power is something tangible to be acquired, primarily by position and/or title;
  • It is also assumed that power is a chip in a zero-sum game: if someone wins, others must lose;
  • Power is thus something to be seized;
  • Because you seized or acquired it, your vision must be the correct one;
  • Once acquired, power is like muscle, it must constantly be used or become atrophied;
  • The point of having power is therefore to use it, demonstrating that you have it;
  • By exercising it, you keep it in shape to be used when necessary; and
  • You need to keep it stronger than other power around you.

One can see where power viewed in this way becomes a tumor, controlling behavior in order to feed itself.

It might just be that accepting the adage that Knowledge is Power is incorrect if not misleading. Perhaps the adage itself is incorrect.

Knowledge, if we remember from a previous post, results from organizing Information. Knowledge must still be processed to become Understanding, which must then be practiced to become Wisdom, which is when the benefits are realized. Unfortunately, due to the very real human attributes of the Availability Heuristic and Confirmation Bias, we are constantly in danger of slipping from Wisdom back down to Mere Knowledge, an effect we can call Understanding Erosion. When “exercised,” Mere Knowledge can take on the aspects of a ritual response or a recipe, exhibiting this loss of mental capacities, including the ability and desire to read other people.

What is possibly a strong driving force for this behavior is fear. Since the power holder climbed up the mountain to attain a position of power, he/she knows that someone else behind them is also climbing up the mountain. What one obtained can be lost, or even worse, taken.

There is nothing worse than a Taker who fears being taken – The Fear of getting Mugged and losing power.

It is for these reasons that I suspect that the adage Knowledge is Power is at least incorrect if not misleading. If we must associate an adage with position or title, things that are possessed, then a better one would be

  • Knowledge is only temporary power

Process, not just knowledge

If we accept the concept that power is a mental state, then much broader opportunities open up:

  • Power as a mental state implies that there is more focus on the process necessary to reach understanding on how and when to exercise it;
  • Process involves recognizing that important information is very likely missing and responding to that fact;
  • Process thus involves engaging with others who may have insight and/or the desired information. This requires empathy, a strong Emotional Quotient, the recognition and management not only of your own emotions but the ability to read and appropriately respond to others;
  • Process also involves situational awareness, when to act, how to act, and how strongly to act. This directly implies the option not to act or to wait, without losing any power;
  • Process also includes recognizing that the best outcome is a careful mix of both task and relationship.

This provides a much more powerful (sorry) adage:

  • Knowledge with Process is sustainable power

This is a freeing concept. Power is no longer some thing one possesses and gets mugged and loses. It become who you are, what you do that achieves outcomes above and beyond yourself.

It cannot be lost or taken away. It is part of who you are.

It is no longer something that must be exercised to accomplish goals and objectives, it becomes something that can be invoked to influence circumstances and motivate people such that not only are goals and objectives achieved, but people are developed (their individual “cultures”) and healthy organizational culture is strengthened.

So, is power a tumor, the result of a Taker’s Fear of Being Mugged?

Or is it the result of a Giver’s enhanced mental state?

Since we are all agents of influence and have a choice, which would you choose?

Posted in 04: Games People Play, 06: Incomplete Information, 12: Character, 14: Behavior, 16: Culture, 17: Choice, Career | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Agents of Influence

“It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it.” – Brazilian Samba instructor

If there is any merit to the previous post proposing a connection between actual observed behaviors and the shapes that our Individual Behavior Curves or profiles can take, then the Next Why arises: Why are these curves shaped like this?

Is there some way to connect a curve with the five major agents of influence on behavior: the internal forces of Temperament, Personality, the balance of Self & Values, and Integrity, and the wealth of external forces we are confronted with in life?

I suspected that a possible answer had been marinating for a while, but I needed the previous post for a number of things to come together. I also needed an external catalyst, which I experienced recently playing cards with friends.

To press ahead, however, now seems to me to be a bit of a hike, or more like a journey – There and Back Again. But first, I need to go back and try to lay a foundation. Bear with me; this might be a long post I think it will be worth it.

The Simpler Games People Play

Remember when you were kids (or were parents with kids) and you played the card game of War? 54 cards (jokers included), shuffled randomly and dealt out to the players. Each player flipped over his or her top card and the highest card took that play. Repeated until there’s one winner with all the cards. (Yes, when trying to teach kids to share and play together nicely and ending up with one winner and a bunch of losers is probably the reason why it was only played on desperate occasions).

But the focus here is on the game itself. It has some useful aspects that are going to be helpful in a minute. First, while all of the available information (all 54 cards, the known knowns) is present, the Incomplete Information (as known unknowns) is that no one knows which cards are where (unless they peeked at their own deal), and in what order they will be played. Second, this Incomplete Information is revealed only as each top card is flipped simultaneously. Players do not know (or aren’t supposed to know) what card will be played. It is all chance; there is no choice (although there might be a little free-style ‘peeking’). In other words, as each play follows, you play what you were dealt, in the order you were dealt it. No choice.

That’s our foundation. Now let’s build.

Consider another more ‘complex’ game, for instance Whist, my catalyst, which in our case for four players is slightly modified, as follows:

In the first round, all 52 cards are dealt (13 tricks) and Spades is defined to be trump. The person to the left of dealer declares first for the number of tricks he/she expects to win. Declaring then continues around the table (total trick declarations do not have to add to 13, at least how we play). The person to the left of dealer leads, and each player follows according to the suit led, except if void he/she must trump. For the second round, only 48 cards (12 tricks) are dealt, Hearts are trump, and players declare again. For the third round, 44 cards (11 tricks) are dealt, and Diamonds are trump. The deal/declare/lead rotation continues as the number of tricks decreases down to 1 trick with trump changing each hand, and then play continues by increasing the number of tricks and changing trump until 13 tricks are reached.

Now, as above, focus on the game sequence itself. In the first round, everyone knows all cards are in play (the known knowns), but the Incomplete Information is that no one knows which cards are in the other three persons hands (the known unknowns). They can only partially guess this missing information by inference from the respective bids. The person with the lead has 13 cards from which to pick, and thus he/she has a choice: do I want to lose this trick or win it, and with which suit? The card led fills in some of the Incomplete Information by showing the suit and card value, but it also becomes the trigger for the next player’s reaction: do I want to win this trick (play high), or lose it (play low), or cover the lead and hope the next player plays higher? Player 2 now has to make a similar choice. His/her play now becomes the trigger for Player 3, who now has more information (two cards) to influence his/her choice of play. And ultimately Player 4, who now has all the information for this one trick, must make his/her choice, win the trick or lose it.

As play continues with a decreasing number of tricks you will notice the increasing agony of the decreasing information: when you are playing for only one dealt trick (your card is the known known, their cards the unknown knowns, the high card is the known unknown, and the 48 undealt cards comprise the bulk of the Incomplete Information, the unknown unknowns). 1 Fun.

One could also consider other card games as many of the Incomplete Information, trigger, and choice elements are similar; but as for me, I choose Whist.

Rabbit Trail

So, how does the above apparent rabbit trail help us begin to understand the interrelationship between Temperament, Personality, Self/Values, Integrity, and external forces when it comes to behaviors? To approach that, I propose not to duplicate how I began this blog by starting somewhere near the middle, but actually starting point by point at the beginning: with Temperament. (If you’re pressed for time, just read the main Points).

Temperament

Starting Point:  Temperament describes the combination of innateinherited mental, physical, and emotional traits of a person – their natural predisposition. Or, more particularly, a person or animal’s nature, especially as it permanently affects their behavior.

From the 1930s the dominant view was that, other than being born with a general capacity to learn, human behavior was explained almost exclusively by forces outside the individual. It was the environment.

In 1971 when the idea was proposed that “… the genes we were born with provide, along with the rest of our functional selves, the basis of our intelligence, temperament and personality,” 2 it received little traction in academia and practice. Only in the late 1980s, based upon studies of human twins, did our understanding of personality and temperament begin to shift away from culture and environment toward genes. In 2011 a major review stated, “A century of familial studies of twins, siblings, parents and children, adoptees, and whole pedigrees has established beyond a shadow of a doubt, that genes play a crucial role in the explanation of all human differences, from the medical to the normal, the biological to the behavioral.” 3

Anyone who has had more than two children recognizes that differences in temperament show up even as infants before many behavioral responses can be learned. They are innate, inherited; they come in the package that is you.

In other words, it’s in our genes.

DNA, Genes, Chromosomes, and Genomes

And This Point:  DNA is the double helix macromolecule that is located in a cell’s nucleus and is the basis of life that carries all the coded genetic information necessary for the functions of life and the transmission of those traits which are our innate, inherited temperament. Within the huge DNA molecule there are “shorter” segments that each code (provide the instructions) for a particular cell’s synthesis of a protein necessary for a particular cell function, including DNA repair. That segment is called a gene. There are about 20,700 human genes.

(If you are comfortable with DNA and genes, go ahead and skip forward to Genotypes, Phenotypes and Breast Cancer below.)

The transmission of genetic information occurs by a marvelous process where the two complementary A-B strands of the ‘parental’ DNA double helix are slowly separated, and each single strand begins to build a new double helix by adding in the exact same sequence the components that were in the other complementary strand. B begins to add the components of A, and A begins to add the components of B, until at the end there are two identical ‘daughter’ double helixes. The two separate DNA strands are now able to carry the genetic information to wherever they may roam.

Within a cell, DNA is organized into dense protein-DNA complexes called chromosomes that are located in the nucleus. The genes reside in these chromosomes, and there may be tens of thousands of genes linked together in chains.

We have 46 chromosomes in our cells; we inherited 23 from one parent, and 23 from the other. When cells divide in the human body, the above replication of the DNA maintains the integrity of that person’s DNA, genes, and traits for the next generation of cell growth. But when procreation occurs, the fertilized egg contains half of the genetic material from each parent, transmitting some traits from each.

The entire set of genetic instructions carried by an organism is termed its genome.

Genotypes, Phenotypes, and Breast Cancer

Now A New Point: Where we move into new territory is by distinguishing the following: a Genotype is the set of genetic instructions that may be contained in one gene, a configuration of genes, or an entire genome. A Phenotype, however, constitutes the actual physical and mental manifestations, attributes, and characteristics of the individual.

Getting from the genetic instructions to the physical reality is a major part of the story.

If the gene is considered to be the carrier of inherited information, then a simple (and often incorrect and misunderstood but widely promoted) conclusion is: having the gene turns the trait “on,” not having it turns the “trait “off.”

Not so.

Research has shown that multiple genes as well as the environment play a role in the manifestation of an organism’s attributes and characteristics.

Where Mendel’s plant discovery was that a gene determines a physical feature (and where our education typically stopped), later work would extend that idea to cover multiple genes and multiple features as well as incorporate additional important factors. Decades of further study brought us to,

This Important Point:  An inherited Genotype + Environment + Triggers + Chance determine an expressed Phenotype 4

The importance and impact of this Point cannot be underestimated (although it continues to be grossly misunderstood). It addresses the observation that identical genomes (i.e., identical twins) develop into dissimilar personhoods with non-identical temperaments, personalities, fates, and choices.

The influence (or lack thereof) of this Point in discussions of one of the most visible, current and active current human concerns, that of breast cancer, deserves special attention. To do that, we need to talk further about genes. An excellent read and source is The Gene by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Siddhartha Mukherjee, from which I have drawn major points including the following pertinent paragraph,

“In humans, a mutant BRCA1 gene (Blog: normally a DNA repair gene) increases the risk for breast cancer – but not all women carrying the BRCA1 mutation develop cancer. Such trigger-dependent or chance-dependent genes are described as having partial or incomplete “penetrance” – i.e., even if the gene is inherited its capacity to penetrate into an actual attribute is not absolute. Or a gene may have variable “expressivity” – i.e., even if the gene is inherited, its capacity to become expressed as an actual attribute varies from one individual to another. One woman with the BRCA1 mutation might develop an aggressive, metastatic variant of breast cancer at age thirty. Another woman with the same mutation might develop an indolent variant; and yet another might not develop breast cancer at all. … You cannot use just the genotype – BRCA1 mutation – to predict the final outcome with certainty.” 5

The effects of Environment, Triggers, and Chance are real and not some set of fudge factors.

Gene Cascades

Important Point:   Individual genes specify individual functions, but the working interrelationships among them, a cascade among genes, allows physiology (including behavior) to develop.

Why we observe the above is also related to the question of “Why multiple genes?” which itself arises from the question, “How can units of heredity (genes) generate the bewildering complexity of organisms?” Once again, for brevity, an important observation from The Gene,

“The answer lies in organization and interaction. A single master-regulatory gene might encode a protein with rather limited function: an on-and-off switch for 12 other target genes, say. But the activity may depend upon the concentration of the protein, and the protein may be layered in a gradient across the body of an organism. It may turn on 12 targets in one part, 8 in another, and 3 in another. These targets may then intersect with other protein gradients and activate/suppress other genes.

By mixing and matching hierarchies, gradients, switches, and circuits of genes and proteins, an organism can create the observed complexity of its anatomy and physiology.” 6

And this Gene Cascade can work in two directions: mutations in a single gene can cause diverse manifestations of disease in diverse organs, as well as the converse: multiple genes can influence a single aspect of physiology.

At this point, in utero, we can simplify the above this way, (only showing the influence on the innate Temperament),

Nature or Nurture?

Critical Point:   The link between Genes, Environments, Triggers, and Chance (the previous Point) confronts the (oft misunderstood) debate that continues to rage: Nature or Nurture, Genes or Environment? The fact is that identity, personality and behaviors are determined by Nature And Nurture, by Genes And Environment, Intrinsic And Extrinsic inputs or forces, but not uniformly.

At the top of the gene cascade Nature works forcefully and unilaterally (e.g., male or female, short or tall, blue eyes or brown). At the bottom of the cascade, in contrast, a straight genetic view fails to satisfy or explain the observed phenotype. 7

The variations that one inherits from one’s parents, mixed and matched, specify variations in cellular and developmental processes that ultimately result in variations in physiological states (phenotypes). If these variations affect master-regulatory genes at the tip of a hierarchy, the effect can be binary (Either/Or) and strong (e.g., male versus female; short statured versus normal height; blond or redhead).

More commonly, however, the gene variations lie in lower rungs of cascades of information and can only cause alterations in what are called propensities, or tendencies. Often, dozens of genes are required to work With each other (Blog: i.e., And/And) to create these propensities or predispositions. 8

What happens next is the combined interaction of Nature With Nurture.

Personality

Necessary Point:  Personality refers to acquired individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. Personality builds on Temperament through the action of Nature With Nurture.

The propensities or tendencies mentioned above further interact With diverse environmental cues or triggers and chance to affect diverse outcomes – including developing variations in form, function, behavior, personality, and temperament, (Blog: italics mine) identity, and fate, but only by making certain outcomes more or less probable. 9 In other words, this is the course of development of an Individual Culture, described earlier.

Pause for An Observation:   Unfortunately, at this point there is still a gap between the definition of Personality above and the variations that result from interactions with these “diverse environmental cues, triggers, and chance.” So far, if you look carefully, we have been dealing with inanimate molecules, genes, and proteins that result in physiological forms and functions. While not specifically stated, the implication is also present that these “diverse environmental cues, triggers, and chance” are also inanimate forces.

Eureka Point: What is missing or not yet identified, I propose, is a critical aspect of Nurture. By introducing Nurture, we have also introduced agents to supply it, and those agents are cognitive, thinking, decision-making human beings. So critical is this fact that I think it needs to be added to the earlier Genotype Point – the purely human activity of choice,

What should be understood from this is that while a particular Genotype is an inanimate given, the Environment, Triggers, Chance, and Choice can each independently vary in intensity and influence, and they can each result either from inanimate circumstances/forces or from circumstances/forces initiated by another human agent, or both. So our Genotype Point should more realistically look like this,

 

In other words, Nature With Nurture, in unpredictable proportions.

Now the connection with our Whist rabbit trail above should become clear. We start with what we were dealt (Genotype), react to our Environment, Triggers, and Chance, mix in some Choices based upon Temperament and Personality, and come out with behavior.

Self/Values

Boring but Necessary Point:  Self – a person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.

Important Point:  Values – a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.

Really Important Concept & Point:  The Self/Values ratio results from separating all of an individual’s principles and standards into those purely focused on oneself (Self, selfishness) and those focused on others (Values, externally oriented).

The concept of or value of Self that is born into us is primarily directed towards survival (reflexive), with a heavy focus on the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy, before extending to fulfilling other wants and needs (introspection).

While Nature in the Nature-Nurture debate is primarily considered to be our ‘pre-wiring” and is influenced by genetic inheritance and other biological factors, Nurture is generally taken as the influence of external factors after conception (beginning in utero), e.g., the product of exposure, experience and learning on an individual. Unfortunately, the influence of choice on Nurture by human agents isn’t mentioned.

Really Important Hypothesis:  When applied to an individual, Nurture is the intentional or unintentional actions (Choices) of parents, family, clan, and tribe (agents) operating in a reasonably small or limited “environmental bubble” to develop these Values. Nurture combined with the other external forces molds their Temperament, develops their Personality, and consequently shapes an individual’s way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Since Culture is basically how people think, this is, in actuality, a Regression to the Cultural Mean, whether intentional or not.

Initially, in infancy, Values are imposed by the external Choices of action by parents and family. Eventually, with development, a child discovers he/she can also choose how to respond to the events around him or her (typically at about age two), and their discovered element of Choice is now thrown into the mix with all of the other behavior choices of people around them.

We don’t often discover until later in life that the behavioral choices made by adult agents around us create not only our values, but the memories, responses, and triggers (baggage) that will later affect our own behaviors in response to events later in life.

At this stage, the combining effects of Genes, Environment, Choices, and Chance can begin to look like this,

Integrity

Subtle Point:   Integrity is the character attribute, the fortitude to hold to one’s Values, especially in difficult, stressful, or threatening circumstances.

We often blur the concepts of Values and Integrity and misuse the word Integrity to describe someone who holds to externally imposed common societal values (i.e., a cultural mean), but we describe a person who holds to their own (sleeper or hidden) Values as lacking Integrity. It should be taken into consideration that an individual’s fortitude in consistently holding to his/her set of Values shows greater Integrity (though we may disagree with them) than someone who says one thing and does another.

True Integrity is when your Practiced Behaviors align with your Professed Behaviors.

Conclusion, from our Cascade of Points

The shape of our Individual Behavior Curve is not a predetermined aspect of our Nature, our inherited genome. It’s a bit more complex.

While we are most likely unaware of our genotype, our developing physiology is very aware of it. We begin engaging with, or being influenced by, our environment in utero, where parental choices and/or chance events can greatly influence overall development.

After birth, our expanding environment will present both positive and negative influences brought about by choices (parent’s, other’s, ours) as well as chance. These influences can become or create triggers that can affect inanimate physiological responses (e.g., smoking or x-rays leading to cancer) or behavioral responses (e.g., claustrophobia, anger, theft, philanthropy), or both.  Even colors are triggers affecting human behavior.

All this has similarities to the Brazilian view of the Samba: “It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it.” Or, in the case of our Individual Behavior Curve, what others, chance and the environment did to it before some of us realized we needed to choose to take over its development and maintenance.

The reality is that all of the elements in this ongoing process, the combined negative and positive effects of Genes, Environment, Triggers, Chance, and Choice over time, influence and shape our Individual Behavior Curves, similar to the following,

The good news is that life is also an ongoing learning process and, if we choose, we can recognize, adapt, and change the shape of that curve to our (and other’s) benefit.

Why is all of this important? Because our individual behaviors control our future more than any variations in our genes. Genetic variations/mutations are selected over millennia, but cultural and individual variations/mutations, for better or worse, can be introduced and selected in just a few years.

For better or worse, through our behaviors, we will always be agents who influence others.

Notes:

  1. I couldn’t resist this reference to Donald Rumsfeld’s oft maligned quote. In fact, the four categories of known knowns, unknown knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns perfectly describe living in a world of Incomplete or Missing Information. Only those who fall under Fundamental Principle 7c (they don’t “get” that they don’t “get” something, but think they do) would continue to propagate their misunderstanding (of the quote and Incomplete Information).
  2. Genes, Dreams, and Realities, M. Burnet, 1971, quoted in The Gene, pp. 379.
  3. E. Turkheimer, quoted in The Gene, pp. 487.
  4. The Gene, pp. 106-7.
  5. The Gene, pp. 107.
  6. The Gene, pp. 195-6.
  7. The Gene, pp. 368-9.
  8. The Gene, 387.
  9. The Gene, 387.

 

Posted in 04: Games People Play, 05: People, 06: Incomplete Information, 10: Integrity, 11: Growth, 12: Character, 13: Values & Self, 14: Behavior, 15: Baggage, 16: Culture, 17: Choice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Individual Behavior Curves (Illustrated)

“This idea that there is generality in the specific is of far-reaching importance.” – Douglas R. Hofstadter

In the back of my mind there has always been a quiet nagging question:

Why can’t the Behavior Curve enable us to reproducibly pinpoint a type of behavior? That is, to better predict behavior rather than just recognize it? And, more generally, why does our own (or anyone else’s) particular behavior bounce around during the day?

There must be something missing. No doubt another example of Incomplete Information (Fundamental Principle 6).

As a recap, here’s the original Behavior Curve with a bit more detail,

This Behavior Curve simply indicates how general behaviors change (on an individual level but also more on a generalized communal level) from Building/Adding Value behaviors to the right to surviving or Taking behaviors to the left depending upon how much “Self” is coursing through our minds, either consciously or unconsciously. At the far right of the curve, where one can be well into the Building/Adding Value behavior zone and be more focused on communal Values and the well being of others, there is still a measurable component of “taking care of myself” that is there. No one can be so completely altruistic that they are 100% other- or communal-oriented.

This ever-present component of “Self,” even if it is only 20% or 30% of our subconscious concern, is enough to sway or alter our behavior. Not just longer-term behavior, such as remaining cool, calm, and collected in a mounting crisis, but instantaneous behavior, such as going ballistic at the drop of a hat (be realistic, you’ve experienced this). But the original Behavior Curve doesn’t have the ability to take these influences into account.

Why?

I’ve pondered this for quite a while. (You probably already know what I mean by this – not just having somewhat lightly targeted thoughts while driving or listening to a boring talk I cannot escape. No, it occasionally means the unexpected awakening at 3:00 am, sitting bolt upright fumbling for a pencil and Post-It in the dark.)

All that for only a part of a thought.

I’ve had that ‘part’ of an answer for a while. The part that said, ‘You need something that can provide a reasonable (and realistic) explanation or motivation for individual behaviors to swing or move left and right along the curve.’ Yes, that’s right; … something.

Then, it came to me (no, not at 3:00 am. I think while under cruise control somewhere). Not a specific “spot” on the Behavior Curve where one’s “behavior” can be pinpointed, but an additional curve or shape associated with this individual’s “spot” that would permit a “behavioral window” around the “spot” and have some rhyme and reason associated with it.

In an instant the thought came: ‘a Gaussian curve,’ what we also call the normal or bell curve, a distribution or “window” of occurrences when we measure certain events, such as people’s heights.

In the next instant, as I realized I had drifted left out of my lane, I also realized, ‘No, that will not work.’ It only shows a window of what happened and provides no link as to why. It’s also a collection of multiple events and not applicable to one event or person. Not only that, it’s symmetrical, shaped the same to the left and right.

At that moment, three things happened. I realized this other curve needed to be asymmetrical, with a different shape to the left and right; it needed reasons why it could be steep on one side and only gently rising on the other independent of where on the Behavior Curve the individual’s “spot” was; and I drifted right over the rumble strips onto the shoulder.

And there it was (no, not on the shoulder). I knew I had seen it before, and I remembered the why’s for its shape and a possible connection between those why’s and other behavioral aspects that had appeared in earlier posts.

It was a Eureka moment, a very exciting moment (above and beyond my wife’s reaction to the rumble strips). It was also a validation of a basic premise of this blog, about the little known and under-appreciated transferability of knowledge across disciplines.

Rather than risk losing you by revealing the source (we’ll come back to that later, although a few of you may recognize it and start laughing, as I did with the discovery of the original Behavior Curve itself), let’s just move forward and develop the idea, from the general to the specific. Here’s the basic curve that I envisioned –


The General Idea

With a bit of imagination, one can picture an individual’s “normal” behavior resting somewhere near the lowest point on the curve, sort of at the bottom of a ‘well.’ Trying to change their own behavior by moving to the left runs up against a steep wall, but changing it by moving to the right could eventually lead to different behavior involving a lot less effort.

What we can observe, or have experienced ourselves, is that often our behaviors vary depending upon circumstances. Therefore, we should make provision for an individual to have a “range” of behaviors under normal circumstances, sort of like being able to move around while in the “well.” It could look something like this,


The General Idea as an Individual behavior curve, with room for behaviors to “maneuver”

On a typical morning we start the day after a good night’s rest and get up in our default behavior, indicated on the “Equilibrium” line above. Having great expectations for the day, say we’re at Emotional Energy level 1 (E1) above, and our “normal” behaviors can vary left and right on the red line without anyone thinking we’re wacko.

Then, something happens during the day, typically some external force or event. For now, let’s say that is a positive event. Our reaction to that force bumps our Emotional Energy up to, say, E2. Our range of responsive behaviors now broadens along the E2 red line, but is still contained within the bounds of our personal Individual behavior curve. Because it was a positive event, our preferred behavior (represented by the green dot) moves to the right, in a more positive direction.

Depending upon how positive the external event was, we could conceivably move up to E3 or even E4, with an observable shift of our preferred behavior in a significantly more positive direction. (We’ll cover a negative external event in a bit).

So far so good, for we can now propose a potential connection between behavioral variations and positive external influences.

Now comes a bit of a conceptual paradigm shift, because we would like to relate the General Behavior Curve (the original one) to the Individual behavior curve above. To do this I propose taking the Individual behavior curve and superimposing it over the General Behavior Curve. For starters, we’ll superimpose the Equilibrium line from the upper Individual behavior curve on the vertical midline of the General Behavior Curve, where there is a 50/50 balance between Self and Values, and place our “preferred early morning behavior,” the bottom of the “well” below E1, on the blue General Behavior Curve,

The Individual Behavior Curve superimposed over the General Behavior Curve (background)

Now one can more readily visualize, in this simple example of a positive external force or event, how a “range” of individual behaviors (represented by the width of the red line for E1, and projected onto the blue line of the General Behavior Curve underneath using short green lines) could be observed. A bit of minimally “selfish” behavior but predominantly more positive.

One could conceive that, with even stronger positive events or forces, an Emotional Level could increase to E2, E3, or E4, resulting in a broader range extending to even more positive and value adding behaviors.

But what prevents an individual from responding in a highly selfish manner (negative and Taking, to the left on the General Behavior Curve)? What we need now are some realistic reasons for the shape of an Individual behavior curve, and what happens to the left and right of the Equilibrium point.

What I suggest, based on previously proposed ideas, is that the shape of an Individual behavior curve is determined by the nature of an individual’s internal forces, their Temperament, their Personality, the strength of their Values and the strength in their Integrity in holding to their Values in light of an external force.

If the external force is threatening (i.e., it always pushes to the left, to a more self-defensive, selfish and negative) behavior, this will be resisted to the extent of the strength of the individual’s internal forces, including their Values (which are externally oriented) and the strength of holding to them (Integrity). This is indicated by the ‘repulsive forces’ label at the bottom of the diagram below. (From this point forward I’ve moved the Individual behavior curve lower in the diagram for clarity and ease of picturing these two curves working together).

Repulsive Forces: when Values resist external negative forces; Additive forces: when positive external forces complement Values.

If the external force or event is non-threatening or in fact a positive, constructive opportunity (i.e., pushing to the right), then an individual’s internal forces can work in an additive manner with the external event’s force, and movement to the right to more positive, constructive individual behavior will be much easier to achieve (as indicated in the diagram above, to the right of the Equilibrium line).

The Either/Or nature of the forces of an external event, either always pushing to the left in a threatening event or pushing to the right in a non-threatening event, is confronted by the And/And constructive (value-adding, pulling to the right) nature of internal Values.

In other words, the shape of an Individual behavior curve is strongly affected by the individual’s internal forces, their Temperament, Personality, Values (Professed as well as hidden, or sleeper values), as well as the strength of their ability to hold to their values (Integrity). Empathy as a Value no doubt also plays a significant role.

What may encourage individuals to respond in a more positive and altruistic manner (to the right on the General Behavior Curve) will be the additive nature of their internal forces, Values, Integrity, and the non-threatening (to them) nature of the external force or event. Think here of firemen rescuing people from a burning residence, or a broad based response to sending relief or going in person to aid Texas after hurricane Harvey, or Mother Theresa’s life in India.

Thinking more broadly about this concept or paradigm reveals the following realizations, including considering an individual’s response to a negative external event,

-The shape of an Individual behavior curve is not restricted to the ‘generic’ shape given above. In fact, some people might have a much narrower shaped curve; they can be pretty stoic (limited Emotional Energy levels) in their behaviors in most circumstances,


The Stoic

Another individual could demonstrate much broader, more impulsive behaviors that swing wildly at the drop of a hat (gifted with a multitude of Emotional energy levels). These might look like this,

The Impulsive

-An Individual behavior curve need not necessarily be centered at the mid-point of the General Behavior Curve, as presented above. We have all experienced people about whom, if pressed to describe where their Individual behavior curve was positioned, we could respond ‘far to the right’ (greatly serving and/or altruistic), ‘far to the left’ (“Most self-centered person I’ve every encountered. Must avoid”), or somewhere in between,


The Servant

The Self-Centered

-Most importantly, building off the observations above, an Individual behavior curve does not necessarily have to be steep on the left and shallower to the right, as presented. It could just as easily be steep to the right (little interest in serving others or adding value to the community) and shallow to the left (easily sliding deeper into self-serving behaviors rather than adding value to the community, and being more focused on Taking). In this case, one could conceive of the strong forces of “Self” working in tandem with negative external event forces (destructively reinforcing) to result in much more negative behavior,

The Taker

All of these bring together many of the puzzle pieces that have been posted here earlier.

-Our Values are part of the internal forces that will ultimately direct and guide our behaviors. These Values will be built upon our Temperament (our DNA) and our Personality (as molded by parents, family, clan, and tribe). They all contribute to the shape of our Individual behavior curve.

-We all have Baggage, the stuff and experiences that are also internal forces (or dead weights) that will have an even more significant effect in directing and guiding our responses to events in life. These have a way of influencing our Individual behavior curve by distorting it in a negative way. We may also have a strong sense of empathy, which would alter our curve in a more positive way.

-There will always be external forces in life that trigger our responses. These forces can either be threatening (a crisis) or non-threatening (an opportunity), providing us in either case with a choice of how to respond, typically with one of The Two Questions: Who Did This To Me? (Fix the Blame, get defensive, and move to the left), or What Can I Make of This Opportunity? (Fix the Problem, get creative, and move to the right).

Overall, this would give credence to “personality (or behavior) profiles” such as Myers-Briggs, DISC, and others, which do not attempt to pigeon-hole people’s personalities into boxes as commonly thought, but indicate behavioral preferences (based on internal forces), but recognize changes with circumstances (those external forces) without explicitly identifying them.

Conclusion

-We can alter the shape of our Individual behavior curve and its position on the General Behavior Curve to achieve more desirable outcomes. It’s always a Choice, but it takes recognition and effort.

Understanding all this would make it easier to understand and adjust our behaviors to better accomplish what we desire in our families, clans, tribes, communities, and nation.

Understanding this would make it easier to understand and adjust to our spouses and children to better influence their Values, Baggage, and Individual behavior curves.

Understanding this would make it easier to understand and adjust within our organizations to more effectively, efficiently, and more healthily achieve our goals and vision.

What’s your Behavior Curve look like?

And what are you going to do about it?

(Ok, I guess now would be the time to reveal the source of this entire mental exercise, and how I came up with the shape of the curve I felt was needed:

The Bohr model of the hydrogen atom.

Or, more specifically, the potential energy curve of the two hydrogen nuclei in the hydrogen atom (H2) as they formed a covalent bond.

Never thought it would be useful, did you. Laugh if you like.)

Posted in 02: Value Added, A Definition, 06: Incomplete Information, 10: Integrity, 12: Character, 13: Values & Self, 14: Behavior, 15: Baggage, 17: Choice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drifting without an Anchor

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” – Hebrews 11:1

Mulling over that last post on The Next Why gave me time to consider the following:

Given the influence of social media and the Internet, a Dunbar Group is probably no longer adequate to describe our closest relationships.

We should enlarge this idea and refer to it as our Dunbar Bubble (our ~150 closest relationships and our most trusted information sources, neither of which honestly intersect with most of the rest of the world). We are all just floating in our own little “worlds,” just “filter bubbles” jostling against each other. Since economic conditions are flat, the jostling feels like competition for limited “space” rather than, in a growing economy, flowing forward together. Think exiting smoothly from a theater after a performance versus fighting your way in panic through a single exit.

With respect to Trust in the last post, two additional aspects came to mind: Responsibility and Accountability. They are not quite the same, and to confuse things dictionaries use them to define each other in a circular manner, to whit (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary):

Responsibility: the quality or state of being responsible: such as moral, legal, or mental accountability.

Accountability: the quality or state of being accountable, especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. “Public officials lacking accountability.”

Perhaps this is splitting hairs, but consider the following:

When driving there is invariably a speed limit, typically set by local or state authorities, as well as a “correct” side of the road. If we were honest we’d have to admit that speed limits are never too high for what we’re comfortable with; they’re always too slow. But they’re there for a reason – the common good, whether that be for a residential area, school zone, construction zone, or narrow lanes with no shoulder or safe exit path. Our responsibility is to those around us as well as ourselves (and theirs for themselves including us), but our accountability, however, is to the agency charged with enforcing the limits – local or state police. Our “loss aversion” instinct tells us there’s not much potential loss for exceeding the speed limit, but it’s whopping if we drive on the “other” side of the road. So we don’t.

Then consider taxes, whether local, state, or federal. Again, these are set by authorities for specific purposes to benefit the common good. However, we are accountable to the tax authorities and the courts if we fail to meet our responsibilities.

In both of these cases, notice the following truths: the imperfect laws were written by imperfect people to spread around responsibility for the common good in as fair a manner as reasonably (conceivably?) possible, and delegate responsibility to each of us individually to faithfully meet them.

And thereby hangs the tale.

Since the laws were written by imperfect people, it follows that the laws are also imperfect – they contain what we call loopholes. And if there’s a loophole, there’ll be a body slipping though it somewhere. In fact, everywhere.

We saw this in a previous post, where studies have shown that with regards to paying taxes, the average individual manages to avoid about 3% of the taxes the law expects them to pay, but the top 0.05% of the population manages to avoid, on the average, about 15% of its obligations.

And on the highway, my observations are that if I am going 70 mph in a 70 mph zone (with cruise control and a tracking GPS indicating 70 mph), about 90% of the traffic, including trucks, is flying by. Except, of course where there are police, which I know about because a majority of those people who flew by me have forewarned me by posting a “Report” on Waze. And all but a few oblivious drivers slow down.

Why do we do this? (Sorry, apparently there are still more Whys?)

If we look into the Behavior Curve it should become a bit clearer.

The Behavior Curve simply indicates how our behavior changes (on a communal level, from constructive or building on the right, to surviving, to destructive or taking on the left) depending upon how much “Self” is coursing through our minds, either consciously or unconsciously. At the far right of the curve, well into the constructive behavior zone and being more focused on the well being of others, there is still a measurable component of “taking care of myself” that is there. No one can be so completely altruistic that they are 100% other-oriented.

And this ever-present component of “Self,” even if it is only 20% or 30% of our subconscious concern, is enough to sway or alter our behavior. Why?

Because, even if we are Givers (to the right) and not Takers (to the left) and feel we are constantly in a “serving others” mode, it is sometimes virtually impossible not to hold ourselves accountable to – ourselves. No matter how hard we try.

I’m a little late and there isn’t much other traffic on the road, and there’s no indication that there are police around to “hold me accountable,” so I’ll be accountable to myself and speed up to make up time.

And I’ll pad my charitable mileage deduction because it still costs me the same to drive as it does for business, and look what I’m contributing so that the government doesn’t have to step in. Besides the fact I deserve it and am ultimately accountable to me, the IRS will never waste time to identify something that small….

So, here’s the outcome: so long as we are living a world focused on the here and now and our responsibilities can be associated with a common here and now good, defined by imperfect laws or expectations that have been written or created by and will be enforced by imperfect people, there will always be a possible and probable recourse to Self. Sometimes admirable, sometimes despicable, but always depending upon stresses, forces, or crisis circumstances, the magnitude of this accountability may vary, but it is there. Because we, too, are imperfect people.

Two simple but recent examples come to mind.

The producer of The Crown (Netflix, 13 Emmy nominations), Peter Morgan, expressed the following (Variety),

… he appreciated that Netflix was as good as their word in their promise of creative freedom. “There is slightly a promised land, except that I feel a greater sense of responsibility perhaps,” he says. “I recognize that this is a golden opportunity, and I think writers and directors have yearned for and fought for this level of autonomy. So that when you actually get it, I feel a sense of collective responsibility. I feel the weight of my colleagues on my shoulders. Because if I overspend and get it wrong … [If I] make a show and don’t get it right, they’ll want to interfere more to secure their own investment. And I want to show that artists can be trusted. Financially and creatively.”

Here is recognition of responsibility, first to Netflix, for meeting their expectations, financial as well as creative, and second a collective responsibility to creative colleagues. Then there follows accountability to himself in terms of creative expectations. This is a socially admirable “self-accountability” and, judging by the results, well achieved.

Then consider the volunteer rescuers for Hurricane Harvey, part of a “whole-community response” that FEMA has moved towards since Hurricane Katrina, recognizing volunteer rescuers as a valuable resource to make use of. Craig Fugate, former head of FEMA, said (The Atlantic),

“It’s something that responders, whether they’re in the private sector, or they’re volunteer, or they’re in government—it’s this compelling nature that, I want to help them because it makes me feel good. The more I do for them, the better I feel. But, it’s not good for them!” Fugate said. “It doesn’t really make sense to people: But they need us! They need help. But they also need to be in control.”

There is this compelling nature, a responsibility for the common good, but there is also a recognizable accountability to self, doing something that makes one feel good (and possibly also regaining some control). While a bit self-serving, it’s only slightly self-serving considering the contribution made to all those rescued.

One would have a hard time criticizing people for being this “selfish” in these two circumstances, but one can recognize a respectable accountability to Self in each case. We admire them, even though Self benefits to a certain degree.

I think the disappearance of Trust described last time should be viewed as the unintended consequence, the long building result of the overt removal of prayer from public places, coupled with the consequential and more covert slow decrease in open respect for religion and faith in a higher power.

The Behavior Curve considers only Values and Self in its construction. But when one removes or minimizes the highest external driving force that established these fundamental values, then values begin to “float” and become determined primarily by the here and now and the social Dunbar Bubble of culture that dominates one’s life. This “floating” happens because one has also removed the highest external focus of one’s accountability for these values, and replaced it with an internal, relative one.

Instead of God, it is now Self.

Yes, but… research from the Pew Research Center indicates that ~90% of Americans believe in God to some degree.

If that is the case, at whatever level that “belief” is, it apparently doesn’t do a very good job in influencing Values, which then translate into Attitudes, which by Choice then become those rather overt selfish Practiced Behaviors everyone observes. Attitudes become Behaviors by Choice.

The truth is, belief in God at any level doesn’t translate very well into “Godly” behaviors, and not just in the US.  Research shows (Pew Research Center) that in Eastern Europe belief in God is quite high, but because the Orthodox Church does not emphasize translating doctrine into daily behaviors affecting interpersonal relationships, practiced behavior has for centuries focused on simple survival and preventing further personal “losses.”

It seems over the world there are very different levels of “belief,” ranging from a Consumer level (nominal belief), a Culture level (participatory belief), to a Commitment level (Practiced Behaviors actually based on Values) (here).  Historically, it seems religious organizations haven’t done a very convincing job of explaining to people “why they are still here.”

Apparently the key is not just belief in a higher power, but accepting that external higher power as the anchor for one’s values, the focus of one’s accountability, and the source of one’s behaviors.

Rather than holding oneself accountable to external here and now authorities (police, organizational management, the IRS, our subculture) only when they are really present, one understands accountability is to one’s internal values as established by an external and ever-present Authority: a proper understanding of an ongoing relationship with God. And therefore because one chooses to hold oneself accountable.

Why will this become even more important to understand?

At the moment most of us still work for organizations that operate within a location and hierarchical framework. We have an office (or if we telecommute, there is an office somewhere to which we are connected), have a manager, and probably work within a team. We have connectivity, and we execute our responsibilities understanding we are accountable to something in the here and now, something tangible, external, and measurable: management, a strategic plan, goals.

(Even if we excel at tangible objectives and goals and contribute significant value added to the organization and customers (and are tangibly rewarded for this), the Behavior Curve shows that there is a still small but significant need to provide for the Self. This is where recognition, gratitude, and unexpected appreciation play a significant role. Ignoring this intangible need probably contributes significantly to the fact that ~60% of employees dislike their jobs and/or their bosses.)

According to experts, how will this change in the near future? Here are some thoughts from Dr. Bob Johansen as expressed in his book, The New Leadership Literacies, and shared recently on the Leadership Freak blog,

Ten years from now, you could be a leader in a distributed organization. It will have no center, it will grow from the edges, and it won’t be controllable.

Hierarchies will come and go in shape-shifting forms resembling a swirl. Rock-star leaders will be rare.

In our increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, simple will be great, but simplistic will be dangerous.

“How do you thrive?”

In a new world such as this, for both leader and subordinates, where the traditional here and now external accountability anchors have disappeared or been significantly altered, where will people’s anchors drift to?

They will drift to the only currently “admired” alternative, the internal anchor we call Self, and the slow behavior slide we’ve seen over the last 50 years will accelerate.

We can almost formulate another Fundamental Principle here, that of the Conservation of Accountability:

Accountability to (Godly Values, Organization, Subculture, Self) = 1

As you eliminate the anchors to the left, you are eventually only left with the last remaining anchor: Self.

We can see the negative effects of this already when monitoring the shifts in higher education to more online classes where the success of collaborative projects often depends upon team members who are dispersed all over the country and who never meet face-to-face. Invariably there arise more “slackers” (self-serving agendas supersede the common good) than “workhorses” (very capable 2nd in commands), and fewer “saviors” (those who drive themselves and the project to completion with excellence, with a side dish of personal satisfaction).

What’s Your Anchor?

It is the “nature” of Human Nature that, looking at the Behavior Curve, our Human Nature acts like gravity and pulls us to the left, down the slippery slope towards greater accountability to Self, and thus towards more potentially destructive behavior. History doesn’t record many individuals who have overcome this gravity and moved up the curve to the right. Too altruistic, and, according to philosophers and psychologists, not a natural human characteristic or behavior.

The capability to think and behave in a constructive way must be instilled and reinforced from outside. By parents, family, clan, tribe, subculture, by those who already possess enough of this attribute. Believing in God isn’t enough. Understanding and accepting His expectations and choosing to hold oneself accountable to live by them is a good start.

Then we could expect to see a revival of our common Necessary: Trust, at first within our Dunbar Bubble, then our community, then in our culture, and finally in our country. And then we might constructively influence the rest of the world.

Trust is the belief in Behaviors for a Common Good, the expectation of things not yet seen.

 

Posted in 09: Doing, 10: Integrity, 13: Values & Self, 14: Behavior, 16: Culture, 17: Choice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment