Cognitive Bias in Business

The Many Ways Thinking Can Go Wrong


Our brains are incredible creations. They run on about as much energy as the lightbulb in your fridge, yet it’s responsible for making sense out of millions of details all day, every day.

Things go well so often that it can be difficult to remember how wrong your brain can be more often than you might like to admit. This is why I love optical illusions & magic shows so much; they’re a friendly reminder that there are definite limitations to your cognitive abilities.

If you ignore that point in business, however, the results can be disastrous. Think about it: you could have the most amazing tech in the world, but it’s the people who are the most important part of your business. Understanding where things can go wrong is infinitely valuable, so here’s a short list of my favorite cognitive biases to be aware of.

Confirmation Bias

We tend to remember, believe, or notice things that reinforce the things we already think about the world. This means we will ignore anything that challenges those beliefs.

In the business world this creeps up in beliefs about the the right strategies to marketing, employee retention, customer acquisition, and on down the list it goes.

Backfire Effect

This pairs nicely with Confirmation Bias. It’s what happens when you’re presented with information that completely disproves something you believe so you double down on your convictions.

You can show someone the right way to do something, but they’ll often dig in even deeper on the way they’ve been doing things.

False Attribution

“80% of all facts on the internet are made up on the spot.” ~Abraham Lincoln

This happens when someone wants an idea to appear more legitimate than it is, so they attribute it to someone trustworthy.

Correlation Is Not Causation

Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc: “After the fact, therefore because of the fact.” This is the mistake of thinking that one thing happens before another, that the first thing causes the second. Just because two things are related, doesn’t mean they’re causal factors.

Sunk Cost Fallacy

Also known as the Gambler’s Fallacy because you’ve lost too much money to walk away, and you should stay in order to win it all back. “We’ve already come this far, would be a shame to stop now.”

Cherry Picking

Think of this as Confirmation Bias on steroids. This is ignoring thousands of scientific reports and believing a single experiment that suggests the contrary.

Takeaway

We’re all victims of poor judgement, specious reasoning, and illogical choices at times. The trick is to identify it as quickly as possible, and take the appropriate steps to get you back on track.

This can be difficult to identify on your own, so it’s important to get outside viewpoints on all areas of your business.

4 Adventure Buddy Questions

I’ve traveled the world, been on incredible adventures, and lived a lot of life in my years.

Most of them were spent alone.

Traveling by yourself is especially difficult. Imagine you’re in an airport and you need to go to the restroom. When you’re alone, you have to drag all your bags & crap with you in there (and those stalls are not what you’d call “spacious“).

If you’re traveling with a buddy, however, you can each take turns watching the stuff while you both go to the restroom, grab lunch, or do whatever needs doing.

Pick the right partner, and adventures become much easier (and more fun by extension). No wonder Einstein said relationships are the most powerful force in the universe.

Whether you’re talking about your personal life, or your business life, it stays the same: picking the right partner is one of the most important decisions you can ever make.

Easier Said Than Done

How do you know you’ve picked the right one? How do you know the problems you’ll invariably have are healthy issues, and not huge red flags that you can’t ignore?

No matter how healthy your relationship, the road will get bumpy. Problems creep up, and cracks start to form in the perfect veneer. Maybe things get really bad.

It can be tough to know whether you should stick it out, or cut your losses while you can. Confusion sets in, and making a good decision gets more and more difficult the longer you stay frozen in indecision.

In a healthy relationship, challenges help you grow as a person. They foster communication skills. You’re forced to face your own shortcomings & work on improving yourself in ways you’d never need to if you were by yourself.

In an unhealthy relationship, you spend so much time on fighting, avoiding conflict, pulling the weight of two people, and much of your energy on being anxious about what fresh hell you’re going to run into tomorrow.

The very real impact of both of these dynamics ripples out into every single area of your life. (I don’t care how good you think you are at compartmentalizing. All areas are affected.)

To help you cut through the weeds of mental doubt, use the following 4 questions. If you answer “yes” to them, you’re heading the right direction. If you answer “no” it might be time to start looking at exit strategies. . .

The 4 Essential Adventure Buddy Questions

1. Do You Both Have the Same Fundamental Principles?

I don’t care how much you love each other. I don’t care how much you respect each other. If you do not share the same core beliefs about the world, yourself, the nature of relationships, or what you want out of your time on this planet, things are not going to go smoothly.

I used to be married to an incredible woman. She’s one of the smartest, kindest, most wonderful people I’ve ever known; it’s no wonder I fell in love with her. We got along great, and we were madly in love, so we decided to get married.

One hiccup: we didn’t have the same fundamental beliefs. Our core structures were not in alignment, and over time those cracks widened into a canyon that became impossible to cross. Cue major issues.

I put this question first because it is absolutely the most important question. If you disagree on this single issue, you’re doomed from the start, no matter how much you want it to be otherwise. So make sure you can answer this one “yes” without hesitation before even worrying about the others.

2. Are You Each Pulling Your Weight?

I get it. People get tired. You might fall down, and need some help getting back on your feet. But, on a broad scale, are you both pulling your own weight? You don’t have to both do 50% of every activity. Maybe you do 100% of one thing, and they do 100% of another. Strengths and weaknesses can complement each other in a healthy relationship.

What is important, however, is that you’re both committed to the success of the relationship. You’re both willing to put in the hard work required for even the easiest relationships. The instant you go on auto-pilot is when your relationship starts dying.

So each person should contribute according to their ability, and put in effort to sustain the relationship.

If you’re the only one putting in effort, you’re putting in twice as much energy for half as many results. Not good.

3. Do You Feel Challenged to Be At Your Best?

People say they want to be with someone where they can “just be me,” but you know what? You’re a procrastinator. You don’t remember birthdays. You can eat 3 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in one sitting (and often do).

In short, you’re basically an awful person.

Turns out, being that version of ourselves is not what makes us happy.

What does make us happy, is being with someone who challenges us to be our ideal selves.

This is akin to “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” But instead of “dog,” substitute “partner.”

Living up to that ideal will encourage you to go after those big projects. You’ll put more effort into making things happen for yourself.

As a consequence, you’ll wind up winning more often, which will give you something to talk about other than this week’s Netflix binge session.

Plus, you’ll get better at celebrating other people’s success, too, which is a huge marker of emotional maturity & relationship strength.

Win-Win-Win

4. Does Spending Time With This Person Make You Feel Safe?

Are they more like a harbor (calm)? Or are they a whirlpool(drama llama)? Do they help you feel calm when you’re stressed out? Or does the thought of being in the same room have you looking for an exit?

This can happen in all sorts of relationships.

Some clients are a dream to work with. They value your expertise, they trust your decisions, and encourage you to innovate.

Some clients are a nightmare to work with. They constantly change direction, tell you “some person you’ve never heard of said they don’t like that color, so I’m going to change the whole website design,” and try to get discounts.

Same goes for business partners. Same goes for romantic partners. Same goes for movie date partners.

Same goes for everyone.

Each relationship has the potential to be a net calming effect in your life, or a net stressor in your life.

If they’re an energy vampire, time to invest in some relationship garlic. #ForcedMetaphor

Relationship Audit

So how do the relationships in your life stack up? How many people can you honestly say are whole-hearted YESES on all counts?

I’ve worked very hard to make sure that I live my life in a way where I only spend time with people who are like that. Everyone in my life is a 10/10 on the awesome scale for each one of these four questions.

If they aren’t, I never see them again.

It takes a lot of courage, time, & energy to live like this, but the alternative is slow suicide.

Need help figuring out how to build your life like that? Let’s talk.

A Warrior’s Mindset

There’s no shortage of articles explaining how “business is war,” and they almost all start with pull quotes from Sun-Tzu’s Art of War. They go into granular detail about the strategies & tactics of warfare as a way to help you understand how to apply those lessons in the boardroom.

They explain how to deceive your enemies. Confuse your competitors. Outsmart those who want to eat your lunch.

But they’re almost all missing a key component:

Mindset.

The mind of a warrior is their most valuable weapon; this can’t be overstated.

To achieve the mood of a warrior is not a simple matter. It is a revolution. To regard the lion and the water rats and our fellow men as equals is a magnificent act of a warrior’s spirit. It takes power to do that.
~Carlos Castaneda

A warrior understands to underestimate an opponent could spell disaster. Treating everyone & everything as your equal is a way of respecting their potential to teach you something (like you’re mortal).

3 Aspects of a Warrior’s Mindset

1. Focus on Victory

The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means.
~Miyamoto Musashi

Complete focus & dedication to success is absolutely essential in making it a reality.

If your mind is concerned with anything other than the job at hand, you will lose.

Most people are “interested in being interested.” They dabble. They dip their toe into the water. Their mind is always distracted with “what if.”

They have crippling FOMO.

Those who lack total commitment to their goals wind up drifting through life. They never enjoy the benefits of a hard-earned reward. They go for the easy route.

You, on the other hand, can sustain a laser-like focus on what you want. Dedicate your incredible willpower to making it happen, no matter what stands between you and what you want.

There will be people who will tell you ambition is unsustainable. This is their own fear of failure being projected on you. They love you, and don’t want you to suffer the pain of disappointment when it doesn’t work out (like what happened to them).

Don’t limit your life to someone else’s comfort zone.

Be of a single mind that is solely focused on success.

2. Know Your Capacity

“I was just doing what anyone in my situation would have done.”
~Every Single Hero on TV

There’s more inside you than you realize. You are capable of amazing things; both good & bad. Familiarize yourself with your potential, and then train it to a high degree.

This takes incredible mental strength that is already inside you.

The trick, then, is to create a safe setting where you can explore your inner warrior so you can learn how to call on it. Just like you can find yourself in a state of flow, you can develop a sense for your own inner warrior who is capable of fighting tooth & nail like your life depends on it.

Because it does.

What would you do differently if you found out you’re dying? Would you call the people you love? Would you finally start that hobby you’ve been putting off?

Because you’re dying. Right now. And so is everyone you know.

None of us is getting off this ride alive.

Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.
~Miyamoto Musashi

So don’t hold back. Don’t wait for a better time. Train your mind to be its best.

Now.

3. Advance

Approach the enemy with the attitude of defeating him without delay.
~Miyamoto Musashi

It’s an unnatural thing to move towards danger. Our first instinct is to withdraw to a safe distance.

This helps those who would do you harm.

If, on the other hand, you move towards a person/situation, it will surprise them. It stifles how much room they have to maneuver around you.

In life, every action you take has the potential to be good or bad. Only move if the odds are heavily in your favor; otherwise, stay put.

Moving with no clear purpose only serves to expend your energy, and cloud your ability to see the most advantageous options available to you.

When making a big decision, don’t rely solely on momentary consideration. Really lay out everything that could go right & wrong.

Want to start your own business? Make a list.

Want to pursue a new relationship? Make a list.

No matter what the decision, make a list.

This will keep you from reacting to momentary distractions. This will help you consider all possibilities, and avoid the pitfalls of moving for moving’s sake.

To ignore this detail is to invite disaster.

So move when it’s in your favor. Stay put otherwise.

Retreat only when absolutely necessary.

Conclusion

Most people are content with their lives. They’re fine with cruise-control, and letting others set their course.

This article was not for them.

If you’ve made it this far, it’s likely that you understand that you have to fight to stay human, & the most important part of that process is the mental part.

Hopefully you’ve gotten something worthwhile out of the article, and if you think someone you know would appreciate it to, be sure to share it with them.

Sidenote: You might have noticed several of the quotes were from the same person, Miyamoto Musashi. He has a fascinating story. He was a samurai who fought his first duel at age 13, killing his much more experienced opponent. He eventually won 60+ duels before retiring from a life of fighting where he spent years reflecting on the nature of life. You can read his book, “the Book of the 5 Rings” to find out more.

Life’s Most Powerful Force

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Einstein spent most of his life unlocking the secrets of the universe, and trying to understand the forces that shape our reality.

What did he think was the strongest? Electromagnetic forces? Gravity? Quantum entanglement?

I had a dream last night where I got to ask him.

Imaginary Einstein and I were sitting at a diner, and here’s what he said:

The most powerful force in our life is the nature of our relationships. ~Einstein of my dreams

Imaginary Einstein is right; relationships define the very quality of our entire lives.

Not just romance

When most people hear the word “relationship,” they only think about the romantic kind. While it’s true that who you choose to spend your life with is one of the most important career choices you’ll ever make, we’re not just talking about that.

Self

How’s your relationship with your self? Do you constantly criticise yourself? Do you over analyze opportunity to the point you’re paralyzed? If someone else talked to you like you talk to yourself, would you choose to spend time with them? How’s your physical health? Do you exercise? Do you feel like you’re a mind driving a big old meat puppet that’s poorly equipped to do even the most basic tasks?

Problems

Do you see problems as obstacles constantly preventing you from happiness? Are you seeing the same issues over & over? Does it feel like no matter what you do, you wind up in exactly the same place year after year? Are your biggest problems with ideas, people, or things?

Business

Are you constantly looking for new clients because the old ones stop coming back? Do you wonder where the next sale is coming from? Do you believe in what you’re selling? Does work consume every waking hour? Do emails & texts interfere with your ability to be present with life outside the office?

Personal

Do the people in your life (family, friends, coworkers) make you laugh? Do you find yourself trying to avoid them? Are they constantly criticising you? Do they try to tear down your accomplishments?

Is this you?

If you’re nodding your head along with every single one of those questions, you’re acknowledging the power of relationships to shape your life.

You are a part of this universe. You do not exist in a vacuum. From the instant you’re born, your reality is shaped by your relationship with/to it.

Improving the quality of your relationships (with yourself, your friends, your family, & your business) is the single most important project you’ll ever work on.

Where do you start?

There’s no shortage of gurus who will tell you what to do. Maybe they’ll tell you to start meditating. Maybe they’ll tell you to start a gratitude journal.

But none of that really tells you what’s at the heart of improving your relationships.

There’s as single skill you can work on that will improve your life across the board.

What is it?

Answer: Communication skills.

Relationships define your life, and the quality of your communication skills dictate the quality of relationships. Improve your communication skills, and it pays off everywhere.

With better communication skills you’ll be a better friend, partner, leader, salesperson, and on down the line it goes.

So if you’re looking to improve your life, don’t chase the latest “hack” or “trick.” Focus, instead, on being able to clearly express yourself, and understand others.

Knowing how to do that is the only secret worth knowing.

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Marginal vs Full Cost

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: That was the curious incident.”

That’s an excerpt from Sir Conan Arthur Doyle’s “Silver Blaze,” a Sherlock Holmes novel, and it highlights a particularly curious hiccup in how our brains work: we’re exceptionally bad at noticing what’s not there.

In the story, detectives search everywhere for clues. They dust for fingerprints, look for fibers, etc. They’re looking for the presence of evidence.

Sherlock is the genius because he identifies the absence of a clue; thereby making it the most important clue of all. The dog’s silence means it recognized whoever was committing the crime.

What this costs you

Every time you’re making a choice, you’re evaluating what it is going to cost. There’s the marginal (or face value) cost, and full cost.

Here’s how it plays out, and trips you up.

Consider you’re starting a business, but you don’t have a big budget so you get free business cards from VistaPrint.

At face value it’s very low cost. There are no dollars involved.

You hand them out to prospective clients who you’re perfectly suited to work with. They have a huge budget, want the service you’re providing, and you guys would do amazing work together.

They look at your card and see the watermark on the back.

Get your free business cards from VistaPrint, too!

They’re considering putting you in charge of a massive project involving a lot of money, and you’re showing them you’re not willing to invest in the essentials.

They never offer you the job.

You won’t know why. The phone just won’t ring.

The dog’s not barking.

You’re paying the full price of your decision, but you’ll never see it.

Every choice you make is paid for in full whether you know it or not.

Every time you choose to do it the cheap way instead of the right way, you wind up paying more.

“If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it”. ~Henry Ford

Value

When I talk with potential clients who would rather do it on their own, I see that they’re signing up to pay twice for results they’re not going to get. They think, “Boy, that’s expensive! I bet I could do it myself!” Cut to 3 years later and they’ve missed out on all the payoff from investing in themselves compounded by 3 years. (You’re not just farther behind: You’re farther behind multiplied by how far you could have gotten with what you learned in those 3 years.)

Penny smart and a pound foolish.

Every time you consider investing in yourself, it’s difficult to identify the costs you’re not going to see. Trust the people who have been where you are & can tell you. They’re desperately trying to save you from making a costly mistake trying to avoid a marginal expense.

You can’t afford not to.

Like vs Trust

If I’m going to have surgery done, the single most important factor in deciding who my surgeon is (besides what insurance I have), is whether or not I trust they can get the job done right.

I don’t care how terse they are in the consultation. I don’t care that they didn’t ask about my hobbies.

Trust is all-important.

But that’s not the end of the story.

High School Debate

I took debate as an elective in high school a whopping 6 times, and participated in tournaments enough that I earned a membership in the National Forensics League (NFL).

NFL debate tournaments were hosted at a variety of surrounding high schools (complete with trophy ceremonies, and everything). This is where I learned how to be comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.

The set-up is like this: There’s a “should” statement called the Resolution. For example, “We should respect the right to life.” Then you’re assigned the Affirmative role (you support the resolution), or the Opposition role (you argue against the resolution).

The Affirmative debater would go first to build their case. Then there’s 3 minutes for cross examination where the Opposition could ask clarifying questions. The Opposition could choose to go with the straight refutation strategy (only focus on why the Affirmative’s case doesn’t hold water), or the Refute & Build strategy (argue against Affirmative, and then present their own case to go against the resolution). Then Affirmative has a chance to speak again before the Opposition has the closing remarks.

That’s my whole world from 9th grade on through into college.

What does all this have to do with liking & trusting?

Everything, really. The question of whether trust or likability is better is a perfect example of a beginner’s debate tactic:

The false dichotomy: A logical fallacy that artificially assumes there are only 2 outcomes when there are, in fact, many other possibilities. Often called black-and-white thinking.

The question “which is more important” tends to direct your thinking into focusing solely on one or the other, instead of realizing you’ll do a lot more business with both.

Turns out, doctors who spend a little more time with patients, being personable, paying attention (instead of only looking at their charts), etc. are sued less often than doctors who are more to-the-point.

It’s in everyone’s best interest is the doctor is, in fact, trustworthy and likable.

Same goes for you.

Sure, I can do business with someone I don’t like if I trust they’ll deliver what they promise, but I’m going to continue doing business with someone I like and trust.

Being one doesn’t preclude your ability to be the other. It’s not a binary system. Being likable and trustworthy will gain you business, as well as prevent you from losing business in the long run.

Most Interesting Man at 30,000 Feet

 

On any plane, at any networking event, or any cocktail party I’m usually the most interesting person in the room.

I used to think it was because I travel the world, have great tour stories, worked on multiple TV projects, or have famous friends.

Nope.

Couldn’t be more wrong.

Here’s how it happens. Someone asks me what I do for a living, so I say, “I’m a mind reader.”

There’s a pause, and then 99% of the time the person says, “What am I thinking?!”

And that’s the secret. It was staring me in the face for years before I understood it.

They don’t care about my travels, they don’t care about my TV appearances, they don’t care about me. They care about what I can tell them. . . about THEM.

There it is. There’s the secret to being the most interesting person in any room.

I’ve spent 2 decades becoming an expert on their favorite subject: them.

Their first reaction isn’t to ask about how genuine mind reading would have on the field of physics. Or how cognitive scientists are just now digging into why this stuff works. Or how mentalism is part of a millennia-old tradition starting before the Oracles of Delphi.

No, it’s to demand I tell them about themselves.

They want to be seen. They want to be told they’re special.

We all do.

When we find someone who actually listens to what we say. Who isn’t constantly distracted by their phone. Who cares, we feel it.

That can be your superpower.

By completely focusing on learning as much about the person right in front of you, you instantly become one of the most important people in that person’s life.

That’s how I make indelible impressions on people who remember me for years after. It isn’t the trick. It isn’t the fact I can tell them what card they’re thinking about.

It’s that I show them they’re important enough to warrant my full attention.

So, for yourself, figure out how you can use your experience to dive into someone else’s experience, and you’ll finally have the secret to being the most interesting person in the room.

Be their mirror and they’ll love everything they see.

Never Blame the Audience

Everybody’s had a bad day at work. Usually that doesn’t involve a room of 2,000 people watching you have a bad day.

As an entertainer it’s easy to tell yourself that it was the crowd’s fault. They were too drunk. They were too busy texting. They were too this. Too that.

Whose fault is it?

Yours.

One of the most valuable pieces of advice I got from a fellow performer is “never blame the audience.”

Anyone can do the easy shows. It takes a true professional to pull through a rough environment with a successful show.

How do you get to that level?

Never blame the audience.

Blaming the audience allows you to ignore what you did (or didn’t do) that you could have to have a successful performance. If you have an off night, ask yourself what you could have done to avoid whatever problem derailed you.

Did you focus on the one person texting and forget about the 1,999 who were having a good time? Did you give the mic to someone who was completely wasted?

You’re responsible.

As the performer, your job is to take control of the experience for the audience so they feel comfortable putting their attention in your hands. They have to feel secure in your leadership before they can relax enough to enjoy whatever you’re about to lead them through.

Your Company

I can’t tell you how many CEOs, owners, and upper management folks blame poor results on consumers, crappy sales people.

Everyone but themselves and their poor leadership.

Have an amazing product that you know will change lives, but nobody’s buying? It’s your fault.

It’s your job to find where the breakdown in communication is, and fix it.

It all boils down to communication.

Your focus is not on finding the solution. You’re busy blaming every one else which allows you to continue ignoring how your website is difficult to navigate. Your sales process feels like a scam. Your employees are checked out because you’ve shown them you don’t value them.

Whatever the issue, it’s your responsibility to find a solution, get the results you want, and move on.

How do you fix it?

Take an honest look at how you run your business, and that’s difficult to do. Sometimes you’re too close to a problem to find the solution.

(Or you don’t know you’re looking at the problem when you’re staring it in the face.)

That’s why it’s important to get an outsider’s perspective. (Good) performers have directors. They have a whole creative team to provide feedback. They probably have a mentor or coach, too.

Who is in your mastermind? Brain trust? Advisory board?

Find a team of high quality people who can help you take responsibility for how you’ve been doing things, and help you find better ways of doing them in the future.

It’s the only way things will get better is if you know better.

Then do better.

Remember. Never blame the audience. It’s on you.

Magic of Success

Magicians are in the business of creating experiences that are absolutely mind blowing. No matter how impossible it seems, however, tricks work by making use of natural principles of nature.

If you look at people who are massively successful, it can seem like it happened as if by magic. They started a company and *POOF* they’re incredibly successful.

Success, no matter how incredible, is the result of effort applied in accordance to certain fundamental principles. I’m going to explain how magicians do what they do to help you understand what it takes to be successful in your own way.

I’m not supposed to do this.

I’ve consulted for Criss Angel. I’ve performed at the world-famous Magic Castle in LA. I’ve entertained United States troops stationed overseas.

I’ve been in magic my whole life, and I know my way around the world of mystery.

What I’m about to tell you is absolutely forbidden in the magical community; I’m going to reveal the secret to every single trick you’ve ever seen in your life.

Not only that, once you’re in the know, I’m going to explain exactly how you can use that knowledge to conjure results in your personal & business life that will look like pure magic to outsiders.

Anyone looking in won’t be able to comprehend how you can get incredible results, but you and I will both know there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Here Goes

Magic is boring.

There, I said it.

That’s the biggest secret in magic; just how simple it truly is.

People want magic to be this exotic thing that lives in a secret dusty room holding arcane knowledge, rituals, spells, and even a hex or two. But when it comes right down to it, magic is actually elegant in its simplicity.

Sure, there are magical masterpieces requiring feats of engineering and technology that are phenomenally complex to create, but no matter how complicated the machinery every single trick you’ve heard about is built on fundamental psychological principles that work across all cultures.

Those principles reveal truths about how we, as people, navigate the world, make decisions, & think about ourselves.

I’m going to dive into what it all means for business, relationships, and beyond.

*pulls a book on the shelf which swings open to reveal a dusty room, and walks in*

The Secret To Every Magic Trick Ever

 “The magician creates the context for logical assumptions that are later shown to not be true.” ~Jonathan Pritchard

Forgive me for quoting myself, but I want to make sure the world knows I said it first.

There’s a lot going on in the quote, so let me break it down piece by piece, and explain how it applies to other worlds outside magical performance.

The Magician…

This is the agent of action. This is the person who is making things happen. This is you.

Since prehistory, magicians (shamans, spirit guides, etc) have fulfilled a very important role in societies as someone who understands the forces of nature, and uses that knowledge to bend reality to his/her will.

They are considered to be in possession of knowledge that is beyond ordinary comprehension, and capable of creating miracles.

I love that idea because it is so very close to reality. Everyone knows something that seems so obvious to them, but appears completely mystifying to anyone else. In this way, we are all magicians of our own lives. We understand the world in a unique way, and we can all use that power to create amazing results.

…creates the context…

Context means everything. Context is the reason a comedian can call someone a name and everyone in the room laughs, but if you try it at a bar you’ll get a lesson in manners outside in the parking lot.

Context is the basis for relationships. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything exists in relationship to everything else in the universe. It’s the circumstances and facts around an idea or situation that helps shape its meaning.

How context is built, and used, has far-reaching implications.

A magician is on stage in a theater. People know that the magician is going to be performing tricks, and that it is a performance. These are all parts of the puzzle that come together to provide a context for the audience to enjoy the magical performance.

The experience is further crafted through the performer’s words, actions, music, lights, and every other tool of stagecraft at his disposal. Every element in use helps create a context which creates a reality where magic lives.

Just like the magician, you create the context in which other people perceive you. Everything you do, everything you say, everything you wear, etc. creates the context in which people can understand you.

Once you realize you are in control of how you are presenting yourself to the world, you can start taking ownership for the results you are getting (or not).

…for logical assumptions…

“I am turned into a sort of machine for observing facts and grinding out conclusions.” ~Charles Darwin

The magician shows a coin in his right hand, drops it in his left hand and closes his fingers around it into a fist. With the wave and snap of his fingers the coin vanishes.

Magic!

Your eyes saw the coin in his right hand, and watched the hand turn over above his left palm. You know the coin drops into the left palm because gravity is a fundamental force of nature. Logical.

And that’s where the magician leads your mind astray.

It’s logical to assume that if you turn your hand over, the coin will fall to the floor.

What’s not logical is to think a person has spent 20 years learning how to hold a coin with the muscles of the hand in a way to make it look empty from above.

The magician doesn’t announce, “Behold, my empty right hand!” He just behaves in a way (creating the context) that would make you think it’s empty (logical assumption).

If he were to state “My right hand is empty” he knows you would immediately challenge him immediately. Instead, he behaves as if the hand is empty, your mind tells you it’s empty, and you believe it. After all, why would you lie to yourself?

To help us navigate the world, our minds help build guidelines and general rules about how the world works (like gravity will make a coin fall from an open hand when turned over), and uses these as shortcuts to decision making.

These assumptions operate at a level that precedes conscious thought. You aren’t even aware that your mind is doing that for you. If you want to discover what kind of assumptions you’re working with, look to the major points of conflict in your life. You’ll be sure to find beliefs and ideas about what is true about the world that is out of alignment with reality.

The most powerful way to change your perception of the world is to challenge your beliefs and fundamental assumptions about reality. It can be uncomfortable, but if you want change in your life, you’re going to need to work on the assumptions that are dictating your reality.

…that are later shown to not be true…

In the example of the coin disappearing, your assumptions about coins dropping towards the floor creates a narrative in your mind that tells you that the coin is now in the magician’s left hand.

The more you trust your own conclusions (based on “logical” assumptions) and the longer you hold those beliefs, the stronger the magical effect will be when it’s revealed that things aren’t how you thought they were.

In the context of a magic show, this experience is fun. It makes people laugh, clap, and gasp with wonder.

In the context of the real world, this experience can be devastating. You thought you had the contract and your client (seemingly) suddenly goes with another agency. You thought your partner was faithful, and you find out they’re not.

The list can go on forever.

And, it can be incredibly empowering.

You thought you couldn’t depend on anyone else, but the whole community shows up to help you (The plot behind, “It’s a Wonderful Life”).

Things aren’t always as they seem, and if you find yourself in a reality where things don’t match up with how you thought they are, then it’s your assumptions that need revising.

Conclusion

That’s the secret to magic and success.

Context is everything, your assumptions dictate your perception of reality, and sometimes life isn’t what it seems (and that can be a great thing!).

If you’ve found this article helpful, I’d sure appreciate you sharing it with your friends. Let’s help make the world a better place by promoting great material!

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns feel free to leave a comment, or message me directly. I read everything that comes through the inbox.

Let’s start a conversation.

Make Better Decisions

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” Charles R. Swindoll

Whether it’s figuring out whether to take the job offer or not, who to date, where to go to school, or what to have for dinner, every day is full of choices.

The quality of our lives are the results of the choices that we make. We actively design our life with every decision we make.

No pressure, right?

We often have very little information on what the outcome of our choice will be, and we can have a difficult time weighing the pros & cons of a particular choice we’re faced with. That’s why it can be easy to get “paralysis by analysis.”

That’s why I want to share 3 psychological elements that influence the choices that you make, and once you understand them it will help you make better choices more quickly.

“One should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths.” Lord Takandobu

Element 1: Loss Aversion

As much as we’d like to believe that we’re noble creatures driven by logic & reason, we’re actually weak apes who are terrified of having things taken away from us.

When we think about the future, we’re much more concerned with what we could lose instead of being excited about what we could gain. Our motivations are more about what we can keep than what we can get.

This is why it’s easy to get stuck in negative mental loops about how everything is going wrong in our lives instead of appreciating all the amazing things that are actually going right.

When you consider a decision, ask yourself if you’re deciding to keep what you’ve always had, or if you’re opening yourself up to getting what you’ve always wanted.

Don’t (only) think about what could go wrong. Think about what could (also) go right.

Element 2: Intrinsic & Relative Value

Everything is relative.

“When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s two hours.” Einstein

It’s the same 2 hours in both cases, but your perception of its value is different. The same goes for making choices.

Think about the proportional value of what you’re going to win or lose when making a choice. If you stand to lose $5 and you’re a millionaire, it’s a (relatively) low risk decision. If you only have $20 to your name, though, suddenly $5 is a significant amount of money.

The intrinsic value is the same (near worthless paper), but the relative value is much different.

If the stakes of a choice seem high right now, take the course of action that will increase your relative value the most.

Element 3: Anchor Points

Anchoring is a cognitive bias that deals with our tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information we have when making a decision.

Think about buying a car. What’s the first thing the sales person does? Takes you to look at the most expensive car on the lot.

He knows you’re looking for something sensible for your family of 5. He knows they’ll never all fit into that shiny sports car he’s showing you. He also knows that when you see the price tag of that sports car, your mind uses that as the set point for how much cars cost.

It’s now the anchor point.

Now, when you look at the minivan, its price appears much more reasonable, relative to the sports car (see element 2).

That technique is a powerful 1, 2 punch to your psychology, and it works.

This is why a sales person will help you buy your suit first, and then the little stuff later: your mind uses the price of the suit as the anchor point for making price-based decisions later (relative to that anchor point).

So when you’re evaluating a decision, and how it will play out, understand that your emotional connection is directly linked to the first piece of information you consider. Use this to your advantage by anchoring yourself to a positive outcome, and go from there.

Takeaways

Decision making is a messy system with a lot of fuzzy math involved. Our conscious brain plays a much smaller role than we’d like to admit, so take the time to really understand how your non-conscious mind influences your choices.

Take control of your choices, and you’ve taken control of your life.