The Pursuit of Learning - Howard Rankin
10:17PM Apr 18, 2021
Welcome to the pursuit of learning podcast. I'm your host, Clint Murphy. My goal is for each of us to grow personally, professionally and financially, one conversation at a time. To do that, we will have conversations with subject matter experts across a variety of modalities. My job as your host, will be to dig out those golden nuggets of wisdom that will facilitate our growth. Join me on this pursuit. Today on the pursuit of learning. I had the pleasure of talking to Dr. Howard Rankin. Howard today is written 12 books, in his own name, co authored another eight and ghostwritten 25 others. He is a health coach, consultant, and speaker on communication, cognitive bias and brain health initiatives. On this episode, we talked about his most recent book, I think, therefore, I am wrong. We talked about cognitive bias, political correctness, fake news, divisiveness, racism, and how to cut through all of the noise. I could have talked about these topics for hours. I hope you enjoy this conversation. Howard, thank you for joining me on the pursuit of learning today. Before we dive into, I think, therefore I am wrong. What I wanted to do was chat with you about the writing process itself. For those who are listening, Howard has written 12 books, co authored eight books, and ghostwritten an additional 25 books for a total count of 45 books. So my first question on that Howard is over what time frame? Have you written those books?
Well, I'm, I started publishing my own books about 23 or 24 years ago. And so I did four or five, going back 20 years. And it's more recent, and I had done co authored a few of those books two, or three or four of them back about 10 years ago, had a big change in my career, and really then focused on writing and ghost writing. And so a lot of those were virtually all of those ghost written books have been done in the last eight or nine years. And also at the same time, I've done two or three of my own, and some of those ghost writing projects ended up as a co writing project. So that added to the list of CO written books. So most of the ghost written ones are really all of them the last eight or nine years, some of the CO written books, and then two or three of my own books also in the last few years.
And so when you're deciding to write a book for yourself, how do you know what topic that you're going to write about? How does that come to you? Well, it's
interesting, because, for me, I've had ideas for books that have been sitting around on the back burner, as it were, for a number of years be I think, therefore, I'm wrong really came out of my interest in cognitive neuroscience and looking at the development of what we know about thinking in the last few years. And so that was sort of a natural one for me to do. And then I'm just pulled out a second edition of a book on communication that I wrote, like 20 years ago, because it seems just as relevant, maybe more so today than it was then called power talk the art of effective communication. I have other books, nonfiction books, in the same vein, one called the tyranny of victimization, which looks at the psychology of victimization. And interestingly, the motive for that or the impetus for that came while I was co writing a book with an interesting guy who was a military physical therapist in Germany, and his exploits trying to help wounded combat soldiers and what he had to do. And the gist of what he had to do was sort of go against the medical model, and push them as hard as he could, because none of these guys wanted to be destroyed. They all wanted to go back. And so he had to show them they couldn't, but in devising this program, he found actually some amazing results. These guys are just incredible. I can't wait for his book to come out, which I'm helping with. But the implication of that is not just for neuromuscular injury. Pain. It's about life in general, about how you have to adapt, you have to cope. Look, people have horrendous circumstances and situations. But really the last thing you really want to do is make put them in the victim mode. that mindset is destructive. Now, that doesn't mean we don't have compassion for people. But what we should be trying to do is help them adapt and move on, you know, better like treating teaching somebody how to fish rather than just give them fish. And the interesting thing is here is you look at some of the people that he treated, fair drones, who lost limbs, eyes, everything. The last thing they would want is somebody come up to them and say, Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. Because that's automatically makes them feel that you think they're inferior. And they're not. I mean, some of the stories are incredible. We can get into them, I don't want to divert from the main theme. But anyway, that's by way of saying here I am, right, helping Jeff write this book, another book really comes out of it.
and so is part of that, then simply curiosity. As you're writing that book with him, it starts to pique your curiosity to to say, Well, what about can what you did with those veterans? Can we do that same thing with sexual abuse survivors? Can we do that same thing with someone who's survived a horrendous car crash?
Absolutely. That's exactly right. And so it comes from that curiosity, the so many of the things particularly in the nonfiction area, of course, that I work in psychology, neuroscience, and stuff like that, there are generalizations that you wonder about why could this not be used for this problem? Or, you know, what is the mindset here that seems to be most productive? Why can we use that here? So those questions inevitably lead to perhaps there's another book there on this, or a different aspect of that.
And we will be talking about generalizations as part of our conversation today. And why sometimes you can generalize and why sometimes you can't. So once you have your topic, what is your process look like? Do you have a specific writing spot a specific amount of time per day that you write, to be able to generate so much content?
Well, fortunately, work from home. And the nice thing about doing that, and there's pros and cons, of course. But the nice thing about doing that if you're creative, and you're a writer, you can find the best times for you to write, right? So it's not like, well, I gotta get up at eight o'clock, and I got a, I got a write, you know, whatever, 2000 words, by midday, it isn't really like that, although for me, it falls into there are times of the day actually, where I find myself more creative. But you know, that helps. It's not, it doesn't put an arbitrary time frame on, I know, I've got to get so much written. You know, I might do that at nine o'clock in the morning, I might do it at nine o'clock at night. And so that structure in that flex, that flexibility, I think is very helpful for me, because creativity, you know, ebbs and flows during the day, depending on all sorts of things. So you know, I might say, Oh, you know what, I need to go out for a jog or a walk and come back and homeboy, now I know I'm really into it. And I've been doing this a long enough time as a profession, that I know that even if I'm a bit stuck, I gotta start, I've got to start somewhere, and just let it just let it flow. So I've always been a hard worker, and I've always been pretty dedicated. So I now visit the things I've got to get done in the next three days. And when the time is right, I will do that. And of course, it is, me as a writer, you know, that's an evolving process. So even if I'm not feeling like writing, I'll still write because I know I can look at it tomorrow, I'll see some good things in it or say, say, you know, this is off track or what have you, but it will be a start. And I think the problem that many people have writing is actually just starting, it's so much easier if you've got stuff to look at, even if that's just an outline.
It's a very good point. And I think that applies to more than just writing in a lot of the conversations I've had with guests so far. And what I see in the work I do, a lot of the problem people have in general, is just starting, taking that first step for you. Do you set a due set any sort of minimum time or word count goal? And would that be per day? Or is it over a longer durations? For example, you said, I know what I have to get done over this three day period and I'll get it done. Does that mean day one and two maybe not doing something? Or is there always a specific?
No, no, it might mean day one or two, not doing much. But because I'm fairly motivated and driven and In love what I do, and that is I'm in a fortunate situation that I'm not just a writer, I'm writing about things that I'm passionate about and topics that I'm interested in. So from that perspective, it's not a big effort to really get to sit and write this, that doesn't really come up. And you know, I may have hit the goals for the next few days, and I might knock them out in, you know, first eight hours of the first, first day. So I think a big part of that is undoing what I really enjoy doing. I love doing it. And as always opportunity to think about the ideas development more, even if you're not, actually, you know, writing specific number of words, but typically, that works for me.
And when in your life, did you realize that you had this ability to put pen to paper to put fingers to keyboard and get out this amount of content?
That's a really good question. What's interesting was, for a long time in my career, I thought, you know, what's the point of writing about, you know, psychology and stuff. It's all been said before, you know, the Greeks said, the Roman said it, you know, there's really not a whole lot to cite as a kazillion, self help books. And then I realized, well, that may be true, but everyone would say it in an individual way, in a different way. And so it's not necessarily that you're saying the same things. Men probably are saying, I mean, it would be perhaps a little egotistical to think you've come up with some brand new take on you know, human behavior. But you're saying it a different way, in a way that might motivate people who've either don't know about the other stuff or didn't weren't Move back. So that was a big shift. And I was, you know, well into my career when I did that. Now, interestingly, I did have a very specific natural style to writing, which was, you know, depending on what the topic was, but it could be a little cynical, I mean, constructively cynical, a little funny and a little sarcastic, and a little bit, do you really think you can do this stuff, you know, and my mother was moving out of our house and moving into an apartment after my dad died, and we were clearing out stuff. And I saw something I'd written in the first grade. And it was exactly the same style. And hair, I thought, oh, I've developed the style over, you know, 40 years now, here I was, you know, eight, writing the same sort of thing. And you know, that, although that's a default style, and obviously, you learn to ride in many different ways, and voices, and so forth. I just, I found that was interesting. And I did, I did a lot of writing in school. And yeah, for that potentially, could be a career. But at that time, in the UK, writing really didn't seem to be like a very promising career, perhaps different today, I would hope, but then it wasn't. And I ended up going into psychology.
And I think, therefore I am wrong covers a lot of psychological ground, which I really enjoyed about it. So there's probably no way we're gonna get through all of the questions I have for you, because a lot of them will lead to digression. And I think good conversations and some things that are happening today. So where I wanted to start with you, the first few questions form some real foundational work that's then embodied throughout the book. And one of the early things you say, is beliefs are not knowledge, specifically, the concept of establishing facts, over beliefs, can you bring our listeners up to speed on what you mean by that?
Well, and this has become, I mean, obviously, this is nothing new. But it seems to have been accentuated today by a number of factors that probably we will get into. But, you know, as a scientist, and as trained as a scientist of factors, and a reality is something that is shared and established and agreed upon, you know, the limits of it may be a little blurred, but but basically, we agree, agree on that. And it's got to be shared. And so an opinion isn't based on fact, opinion is based on what I believe, to believe what I believe what I want to believe. And when I do that, I will look for all sorts of why we use all sorts of biases to convince myself I'm right. But it's it's not a fact in the sense that it's a reality. It might be shared by other people, but it's not substantiated as a fact, and I think that's important. Because today, I think people tend to think because they have a right to an opinion My opinion is right and and unfortunately, that's not the case, but There's a problem then is anyone can create their own quotation mark reality. And in the book early in the book, there was that discussion of Plato saying, Well, wait a minute, he have the if you have relativism as a as a philosophy, which is everyone what anyone believes is true. If you have that, and therefore, I don't believe in relativism, therefore, it's true. Therefore, that can't be that can't be the case. Because, you know, if anything anyone says goes, that doesn't make sense. And it's not a reality. I'm not sure I actually brought this out that much in the book, but this the use of the word reality, and I totally understand it, in a sense, you can't have a personal, individual single reality, it's got to be a reality. The reality is something that's agreed upon and shared. Now you can have a personal experience, you can have personal perceptions, you can have all sorts of things. But to call them realities is a little misleading.
Something that jumped out at me, as I was reading this, as I was preparing for our conversation, I was watching Bill Burr as a stand up comedian. And one of the things he first I saw him talk to Jerry Seinfeld, on comedians in cars, getting coffee. And what he said is Jerry, the moment I say something, it's no longer mine. It's now gone into the audience. It's in their head, it's being played through the lens of what their childhood was, like, what the workweek was, like, what happened to them on the way to the show today, and that become their belief in what I said, does that line up with with what you're saying here, and that really gets exacerbated on social media, divisiveness, etc, which we're going to talk about later when we get into fake news and this type of area. Okay,
yeah, so exactly right. Everyone's got their own filters, and how they see things. Now, again, it's a little misleading. And I understand why people do is a little misleading to say it might read my reality, because you just you can't have just your reality. It's your perception. It's your experience, how that's hitting you. And that will vary based on experience and all a whole range of factors that some of which you just mentioned. So, yeah, exactly. As soon as you throw something out there, it goes through the filters and lens of all people listening to it. And and that's where the biases then come in, is how do you interpret How do you think of that? What's your initial reaction? What's your reaction to your reaction? And when we go, right,
for sure, and you also just mentioned, relativism. And in the book, you make a distinction between moral relativism and cognitive relativism. And those seem to also play an important role in the conversation throughout the book, can you bring the readers up to speed on the difference between the two? And how we may use them throughout our conversation or in our daily lives?
Well, in the sense of moral relativism, and the view there is that the morals of there aren't any fundamental, moral morality or morals, they're determined by the group, the subgroup, the tribe, the culture and what have you. And and in the same way, you could have cognitive relativism, which is, oh, well, this is exactly what we were talking about. This is my reality, not your reality. It's my reality. But then is it really a reality? It's your experience, for sure. But can you call it a reality? And as some people may think I'm nitpicking over the term reality. But I think it is important, because, you know, we live in what's called the Post truth era era. And part of that is, there seems to be this drift away from an agreement about not only these terms, but what actually is happening, or what is moral, or what is. So we've sort of entered this relative space. But we need to be careful. That's what we're doing. Right?
Something that jumps out at me with this one is I feel like we're seeing more and more situations where a group, I'm not going to try to pick a specific group, but a group, there's enough of them that share the same view. Whether it's the view of the majority, whether it's the view of science, regardless of what it is, you get enough people together saying, This is our group view. And in that sense, they almost are abiding by the well. There's it's not just me, but there's there's millions of us who share this view. So clearly, it can't be wrong.
Yeah, absolutely. And that definitely is one of the impacts of social media. Especially curated social media, which is trying to put people in a similar opinions together that you do. It's it's so easy now to create or become part of a tribe, as it were, where this is what we believe. And there's so many of us believe it, we must be right now, lesson from third grade, for third or fourth grade spelling, or doing classes spelling teacher says, I can't remember what the word was, who spelled it this way. 24 hands go up. Okay. Oh, then they say, yeah, we spelled it. She's a woman who spelled it the other way. For me in somebody else's hands. She said, Well, they're right and the majority wrong, which is a really a good lesson. And just because a lot of people happen to believe something, it doesn't make them right. But there is no question that we are made so that in our tribe, if we feel supported, and we see other people believing and saying what we do, then it just reinforces the notion that we are right.
Right. And depending on where we see that, the next step that that to your point, curated media does through echo chambers, is it just reinforces it further.
And all of a sudden, we don't have many people anymore in the middle gram, nor what we'll talk about later, do we have the ability to separate people from their opinions, so all of a sudden, it's us. And then and there's very defined lines, I find it fascinating that on almost any topic we pick, each of those groups has the opposing view, I find it absurd that there's there's not this where, okay, on these six to eight topics, we can share the same view and on these 20 will will be different, but it seems to be on all 26 topics, just using an artificial number, they have to have an opposing view.
Yes. And, and part of the identity of creating this sort of reality, the tribal reality is that it's very sort of extreme in the sense, there's no this or that, and we get into the binary thinking notion. And I think that's part of it. In a complex world, binary thinking wins, really. And so that then it not only becomes sort of ossified, but it now becomes, there's no flexibility in it whatsoever. And moreover, because it represents us versus them, I am not going to give any credit to the other side. Right, which is very unfortunate. I see this all the time. You see it on media, there was one post I saw on Facebook, just I think it was yesterday, where I saw that the post was Starbucks are apologizing for the way they treated? The cops, you know, way back when they throw them out of Arizona, one of our stores wouldn't let them go in. And they've apologize for that. And so there were a lot of comments. Wow, that's too late, you know, and, you know, what have you and I well, surely if that, you know, if they're actually saying what you would like them to say why would you know, reinforce that? Why would you not appreciate? They've moved, you know, and there was all sorts of arguments, like, they don't really mean it, or you know, where it's just business and what I mean, also to justification, but we see this all the time, and we see that, you know, in our daily lives, people make an apology. Do you say okay, I want to meet them where they are, they have moved, they have moved, and that's what I wanted. And so I want to reinforce it, but typically, certainly in politics, you don't see that at all. I say, Yeah, well, he's saying that now. But why didn't he say, you know, two months ago? Oh, yeah, I really did do we believe in? And so all we're doing is just simply looking was where the biases come in, looking for ways to justify our view, and not give any ground on it? whatsoever? Right. And so that is part of binary thinking. How many posts have you seen in social media that say, masks are useless? They don't work? If masks work, we wouldn't have all these props. No, nobody said the masks were perfect. They reduce the risk unbeliev near enough, we go again, in the separation. There's no discussion about well, okay, how much do they seem to reduce it this much? Well, is that worth it and blah, blah. You don't get even to the second level of discussion, because people are not prepared to meet people where they're at now. Sort of a prodigal son is a story that comes to mind. You know, he goes off and blows all his money and what I mean he comes back and Is this his dad mad? No, he's pleased to see him because he's coming back. I was once at a demo. stration of a police dog training, and the dog wandered off into the crowd. And then it came back. And the demonstrator gave it, you know, said, Oh, good dog and gave it a treat. And somebody in the crowd say, Why do you do that? I just wandered off. He said, Well, if I yell at him screaming it, if it goes off again, he's not going to come back. Right?
It's a great, great example, the whole thing. And we don't necessarily talk about it in the book, it reminds me very much of growth mindset versus fixed mindset. And quite a lot of people don't believe that they themselves have a capacity to change and to evolve and to be different today than they were yesterday, which is interesting, because they probably went through the same premises school, the same secondary school that we did. You know, if you look back at yourself in kindergarten, and looked at yourself at 20, I hope you see a vastly different human being. And I think people think a lot of people and you talk about this a bit later. And I meant to look up the word but didn't find it. You talk about illiteracy, you talk about a numeracy. And there was something I read recently, and it was a little bit different than illiteracy. But it was the concept of the people. Because once a certain number of people graduate high school, they never read again. And so if it was almost a chosen form of illiteracy, the words escaping my mind right now, but to the extent that I don't believe I can change, I may be stuck believing that even though you've come forward, and you've apologized and you've offered a bit of a different viewpoint, I'm still stuck that you have to be the same person who made the conclusion you did when we had our fight, because I can't believe that you have that ability to change. Does that make some sense? Absolutely.
Absolutely. And not only do you not think that I have the ability to change you're not. And really the reality is you're not entertaining, any possibility of change. And again, when you're in the group and belonging to the group is important here. And perhaps that discourages change, because oh, man, now you'll be like, what will you do? You'll be left out of the group, you know, which is a very painful thing. For a lot of human Yeah. Well, actually all animals but human beings to to be the outsider to be left out. And so we have this dynamic of creating this strong group with all these beliefs and what have you. Leaving that exiting that is difficult, as you know, we've seen from people who've been in cults and you know, took them years to escape or, or get away, it really fashions your psychology.
See, you talked a bit about binary thinking, what I had in through the book was three terms that tied to this issue, you had binary simplicity, the contrast effect, and group attribution errors, those three together, when combined, seemed to be a major player, to me in the divisiveness, prejudice racism that we see in our modern world, can you give our listeners a crash course in what each of those concepts is? And then we can dive even further into this impact they're having?
Absolutely. So the brain is a pretty busy organ that uses about 25% of the energy we have. And it's looking to conserve energy wherever possible, because its main goal is survival. And you never know when, you know, a lions gonna jump out and chase you. Okay? or stress. So we're programmed to do that. And actually, critical thinking takes up time and energy, you know, if you and I walking along, and I said Clin, what's 10 times three m divided by six plus five, and you would stop, because you can't walk and do that at the same time. All right. So it's very, you know, some big use of time and energy. So anything that can be a shortcut works, right. And so in thinking that is binary thinking, like it's either this, or it's that it's either this or that make up your mind, right? This or that. That's all it is. The world is way, way, way more complex than okay, but we like to do that. And in fact, the brain likes to do that, too. And when the brain is confronted with two things, what it will do is it will seek the difference rather than than the similarity. That's the basis of quite a lot of illusions and magic, and stuff. You know, if I show you four cards, and three of them are Queen, and one is a two, you'll notice the two. Okay? And I can pretty much bet that's what you will, you'll remember, because it stands out and you've looked at the difference. And then you look at that in human beings, you know when 99 point whatever percent the same, but what we look at is What's the difference between us? What's the difference? And so you know, skin color, eye color, I mean, you name it, you could find those differences. And that's unfortunate. That's unfortunate. Because unless you really think, first of all, you're aware that your brain does that. So you can minimize that impact. And secondly, you're aware of that. So I can't do that i what i really need to do is, is look for the similarities and not be pulled off by this arbitrary difference. And that really involves, hey, getting to in the case of people getting to know them better. One of my I think it was my first undergraduate psychology essay was, how may group conflict be reduced. And the way you reduce it as you get people together, get them to know each other, and break down those sort of artificial binary distinctions. So they now know them as real people with similarities to them. And so binary thinking is a big problem. It's, you know, so many decisions in life, that critical, like, Well, you know, where are we going for dinner tonight? Well, you know, you don't have to go into a 30 minute, dive into, you know, all the variables that might influence you can, binary thinking is appropriate there. But in major issues in your personal life, and in life, generally, that doesn't work. It's, it's too simplistic, you're not understanding and getting to the core of the issue. An example I use, in my book in sports, we're watching a football game or soccer game or a tennis match. It's binary, one team, a person on one side, one team person on the other, and we can see it going back and forth, and who's winning or what have you. But most topics, particularly complex ones away, you know, it's a bit like watching 15 teams on the field competing, can you imagine that? How could I sort out 15 different teams and, and there's probably another 20, we don't even know about that we can't see. And so there, there's the complexity. And that's what we have to learn. I mean, that understanding that is very important part of thinking, education, wisdom. And I would like that to be taught very specifically as that not abstractly, like chemistry or science. And that's great. But why not just go straight to the plane, and show how we think and get people aware of that process? Because most people aren't.
And once they are aware, what are some tools and some paradigms that they can use to not be trapped over and over and over?
Well, I think part of it is to understand that developing that is going to be very beneficial to you. Because otherwise, you're going to have a very simplistic view of the world. And some of your decisions are going to be pretty poor, unless you're very lucky. And you're going to probably live on the extremes. You know, if you see the word is either on either I'm going to be late, so I'm going to be there. And no in between, well, that's too radical in a way. So there, people have to understand there's a benefit in learning how to do this, in learning to suppress, you know, the instant thing that comes up. When you see something and say, Yeah, no, I don't believe that. No, stop. How much do I really know about this? I might want to believe that. And that's fine. But how much do I really know, climate change? Oh, I don't believe in climate change. Well, how much do you really know about climate? Okay, do you know about vectors? Do you know about you know, all the gazillion things? No, you don't know. Okay. So a lot of the time, what you're saying is what you want to believe, now whether you actually really want to find out what's going on. And that's how so much of this operates. But when you are able to say, I need to think more about this, I need a little more research about it. I'm not going to jump in, I'm not going to be so extreme. I think that has a lot of benefits, not just in your decision making but in your consciousness generally. Because you are going to be I think, more enlightened, I think you're going to be wiser, you're going to know what you don't know, which is actually what wisdom is about. You're going to be more open minded. And as I mentioned in the book, what that leads to is, you know, the basis of wisdom is really values and morals. It's about being compassionate, forgiving, humble, respectful, kind. If you operate on those principles, you're going to be thinking very differently. You're not just going to dismiss things or accept them. You want to know what what's the truth. So, you know, that's where the binary thinking and the bias definitely comes in. And that's what we're seeing so much today created, definitely encouraged by social media and, and the media in general. And that's unfortunate.
I'm not sure if you've heard or read how Charlie Munger talks about forming an opinion, or holding a point of view. What he argues, and paraphrasing, because I don't have it in front of me is that before you should be entitled to hold an opinion or view, you should be able to state the other side's view or opinion as well or better than they can? Right. And effectively what I think he's saying, and what I'm hearing from you as well is, before you hold that opinion, before you hold the view, do the work to ensure that you're holding the right view the right opinion in you're not just taking for gospel, what your eighth grade friend who's never gone on to post secondary education is telling you about COVID vaccines, right?
No, that's right
you're actually listening in doing research, you might conclude the same thing. Right? That you're doing the work?
Yeah, that's exactly right. And, and again, if you take the position of sort of moral value, and you say, Well, I want to find out once, in the case of vaccines, I want to find out what's right, because there's a potential has an impact on other people, while they may do, I may end up convincing somebody not to do something that is detrimental to them. And so then you then there is an obligation for you, if you're going to have us particularly a strong opinion, to do the research, really to do the research.
Something else that I picked up in what you just said right there as you were talking about choices. And one of the things you talk about when you first read something, you have a choice in how you react to it, you also talk about the fact that your emotions are your choice. And that's the key concept in again, resonates throughout the books, both stoicism and Buddhism, or mindfulness, if you if you choose to phrase it that way. And you talk about the fact that we all have two choices. First, we get to choose the emotion. And second, we get to determine how we act based on that emotion we chose. Can you take our listeners through what you mean by that? Howard?
Yes, yes, very much. So. And this is really key. So I'm grateful that you brought that up. So what are emotions, emotions, typically, a signal that something is happening, okay, in your perception. And you can break these down, you know, anger is the perception that you've been treated unfairly guilt is that you perception that you have violated some moral code, frustration is the perception that you can't get something done. So the emotion is there. Now, the example I use, the metaphor uses an alarm. So the amount you get angry by the alarms gone off, okay? Now, what most people will then do, is, what they want to do is I want to turn the alarm off, rather than wonder why the alarms going off. I mean, if your fire alarm goes off, he really need to go check out where the fire is, rather than, you know, whack them fire alarm, so it stops making a noise. So that's part of it. So we get controlled by these emotions. And we know that neuro from a neuroscience point of view that happens to you know, the emotional areas conflict with the rational areas, and, and we do have to develop and learn the tools for managing those emotions. Because if you don't, they're gonna control you. And so the first thing is, so there are several things. So that one is recognizing what emotions are. Secondly, going beyond the feeling and saying, Well, what, what am I getting here? What's my perception? What's the problem that this is telling me about and looking to try to solve. And the other thing is, of course, to turn down the emotion to be able to not allow it to control you. And that's where meditation, mindfulness comes in as a so nice story that I heard of a student practicing meditation with his master, and he looks at him halfway through the session. And his master is sort of grimacing and kind of laughing at the same time. And as the session was over, the student asked that Master, I saw that What were you doing? He said, Yeah, that was interesting. I was laughing at my anger. You know, he could detach the feeling the anger, he could detach himself from in a way that he could look at it objectively. Now, that's phenomenal ability to do that. But it's something that I would encourage the listener Today, because it's a very interesting experience, if you say, Well, wait a minute, I'm standing back from this. I could, yeah, I'm angry. But you know, and then once you've been able to turn that down, then the more rational parts of your brain, the higher functioning parts of your brain and consciousness, you're able to step in, and then deal with that much more effectively. If you just let the emotion go and not gonna think about it. Anything can happen. Really? At that point?
Yeah, I had a friend Howard, who, in the last week, or two to synchronicities with the writing in the book, the first two, he had someone in his life who was told that they had a certain amount of time to live. Well, just last week, someone came forward and said, a further specialist said, No, I think we can treat this. And so it really highlighted for me what you talked about in the book about probabilistic thinking. And the second one was, he messaged me a few days ago, he was messaging me about meditation incident he had, and he separated from himself. And he looked at what was going on through his mind. And he just broke out into laughter over what was happening. So I sent him a photo of the page of the book on set you have where you were talking about that, that example you just gave, I thought it was incredible that within a week or two of reading the book, someone that close to me was experiencing in real reality, based on the things we're talking about, probably everyone I know, is experiencing some, some some form of what's happening in the book on a daily basis. But his two examples really jumped out to me as as pretty vivid.
Yep. You know, I personally have seen quite a number of examples of misunderstanding of communication, particularly around the the seriousness of a major illness or disease. I've known a few people who've been told you've got, you've got pancreatic cancer, you know, it's advanced, you're not going to live more than, you know, six months or eight months. And I know a number of cases where people said, I don't believe you. I mean, I believe the diagnosis, but you know what, I'm gonna find it. And I'm not going to accept that that is inevitable. And they, you know, they still live in 25 years later, I think there's something to be said, for what is that? I mean, if somebody tells you, you've got x months to live, and you believe it, then probably that's what's going to happen to you. And we do have to understand that these things are probabilities, they are not 100% certainty, right? There are a number of people, regardless of the diagnosis, it could be a few, it could be many, it could be 1%, it could be 20% of people who do not follow. So the question then be well, what did they do that I could do that would allow me the same outcome live longer? And this comes down to how information is communicated to us.
And that's where it often falls down is that communication of information? You hear 95% of the time, this is the end result. And you say, oh, gosh, that's the end result, instead of saying, Well, wait a second, five out of every 100 people end up with a different result. How can we work on me being the five versus the 95?
That's exactly right. That's exactly. Exactly right. And yeah,
it's an incredible way to look at it.
Yeah. And so that is important as as I think it does have major implications for how particularly doctors present things to their patients. And, as far as I'm aware, and doubt there are very many of certainly not extensive courses in communication in medical school. Yeah. I mean, even as a psychologist and was well trained, and bestplaces, no one ever gave me a course, in communication on the things we're talking about, which seemed to me absolutely essential for what you know, for this job. And that's really why I wrote me a communication book and this book, as why aren't we Why doesn't everyone know about this? Because it's so important.
Yeah. The, on the communication front, I have a friend who I share books with, and we shared one book last year that we both just were so motivated by and it was so enlightening. And then I also shared with him nonviolent communication. And he read that one and he said, this one is just as valuable is the last one, but it feels worse, because instead of driving me and giving me something to go towards, it's showing me everything I've always done wrong.
Well, that's good. Sometimes you have to pull back. Yeah. But again, for me that that wisdom, and there's a difference between being wise and smart. Wisdom is recognizing what you don't know. It recognizes how you can easily get saved how you can easily sidetracked himself, so that you're aware of those things. And you don't fall into those sorts of traps, which are just so common for everybody. It's interesting. I work with doing a book right now with a guy, really interesting guy who has taken the concepts of cognitive bias and applied it to a AI predictive models. So instead of basing his predictions simply on logic, he has incorporated 12 key biases into the programming to make it to simulate, like ideal human decision making, not just logical human decision making. And he's been doing this for 25 years. And the results are really, really good. Really good. And so we're writing this book and we're using Sherlock Holmes as an example because the mythical Sherlock Holmes was the person who understood not allowing bias to get in my way. I can't allow that because it's too easy to follow an investigation that has a bit of evidence Oh, it fits perfectly. Oh, um, right. Now, we haven't got all the data. And it's been interesting going back and reading some of those detective Sherlock Holmes stories. That's exactly what they're about people, other investigators falling foul of different biases in him just saying, I'm not going to allow myself to be pulled there. So it's interesting, we just need to be aware that as smart as we think we are, we never have enough data, we never have all the information on critical things. And we need to be aware of how much we don't know. And that's not putting ourselves down, actually, that setting ourselves up for being much more aware.
In you're also, just before this talking about emotion, and control. And one of the things I recall is that you can't let someone else get you emotional, because then they control you.
How does that work? Howard?
Well, it's true. You hear people say, and I think I use as an example on it. But oh, that guy really is made me mad. No, you actually have a choice about whether you want to be mad, that guy make you mad or not. Now your instinctive and intuitive, you know, millisecond reaction might be on mad. But that's where your control your consciousness, your mindfulness comes in. When you say, Oh, wait a minute, wait a minute, I don't really need to be mad at this, right? I really don't. I don't want to be mad at it. I don't care. I don't want to let this person influence me. I'm going to be bigger than that. And when you start doing that, wow, that is amazing. You know, you start to recognize, hey, I actually do have control. I have control. Yeah, automatically, because of habit or all sorts of environmental circumstances. I might feel an emotion. But I have the ability and the responsibility even to stand back and look at that and say, Well, I don't really want to go there. Do I really want to go there. And that's another thing that we see in the divisive society is that people just wind each other up. And they're very often very hypocritical. You know, they end up doing the same thing, but they complain somebody else did now is terrible. I didn't, it was terrible. They didn't listen to me. I'm never gonna listen to them. Well, hello, you've just been a big hypocrite, right? Max again, where the value comes in. I say, I understand that. And I can see what I might feel that but wait a minute, I have, I have the ability to make a decision. Say I'm not, you know what? I'm not going. I don't. And it feels good when you do that. I've had some experiences, where I've done that there was a guy locally, who was a friend of mine had worked with him. And then something happened. And he started, you know, spouting off all sorts of negative stuff. And it wasn't very pleasant. And I saw him, hadn't seen him for a while. And I saw him for the first time. They happen to be in a church. So so the context there was important. So he was in church, and I think one of his sons kids or something was getting baptized. And he was there and I was then offered the service. I'm thinking, What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do? Am I just gonna tell him what I think I'm gonna ignore him? In a word. It's not worth it. It's not worth it. You know? I don't care. I just don't care. So afterwards, I went up and I shook his hand asked him how he is congratulated and smiled and all that and he felt really good. It felt really good. It felt mature in a way to say, Okay, I don't even know what's going on. I'm not even sure that my narrative about you is right. So the heck with I'm just It's not worth it. And fact is something that you have to work on for most people,
and how can you teach it? So it's something that, you know, obviously, I try very hard to reinforce with my children when one of the boys fighting with the other boys, and he did this and he made me scream, it's, well, no, you you chose to scream. He didn't make you scream, he might have done something you didn't enjoy. But you chose to scream. I don't know if even if I'm emphasizing that on a daily basis, weekly basis, if that's enough for if I'm approaching it in the right way, Howard to get him to see that it is his choice?
Well, I think there are a number of elements. One is to articulate that. So they understand that, but then would be to get them to practice some of this mindfulness stuff, so that they can see and they can feel Oh, man, yeah, well, I'm that I'm, I'm feeling more in control, I'm not feeling so you know, I feel that I can make decisions and I have control and I can respond, not react. And, you know, that's certainly, I think, a good case to be made for introducing mindfulness into schools. So that kids can learn this, because you need to learn it, the sooner you met, you learn it, the better. Most people never learn. But you know, there is, I think they would, I think it would be a good argument to say that, when kids in any environment, particularly schools, or wherever, you know, have this to say, okay, just Let's calm down, assess closer eyes, you know, and enable them to see that, you know what, I could keep that going if they want, but they really don't, that they have a choice, I have a choice of, you know what, I'm not going to go. And now I can decide how I deal with this person who has upset me. But I'm going to decide that I'm not going to let my emotion just drive me to do stupid things.
The school my boys go to it does start them in mindfulness around grade one, I think, you know, I don't know if all schools are doing it. I know they've been doing that. And they they also, I don't remember this from when I was a kid is they have a teacher who teaches emotional regulation, from basket, and so that she does that with all the grades, but also some of the kids and I have one son who works with her on us more one to one basis where it's okay, take an hour away from your class once a week. And we're going to work on your emotional control and emotional regulation. And I find it absolutely incredible.
Absolutely. You know, if you think about the skills, the life skills that could be taught in a school, that probably would be in the top two or three things probably along the lines of also thinking and bias and but emotional regulation is key. Otherwise, you're going to be running, you're out of control. Your primitive brain is controlling you now do you want that? Or do you want to control that? Because you have the ability, you can learn to control it.
And I think the top four or five things now that you're saying it in you do talk about the school system. So so we can dive into that is the top four or five things that jumped out at me that a child ought to know in life, a lot of it's really not taught. There's there's no real teaching on critical thinking. cognitive skills, mindfulness, financial literacy,
communication, these are all things that as a grown adult, can move you so far ahead in life. And yet, it feels like we teach, spend a lot of times teaching things that I don't know that it absolutely moves the needle when you leave high school.
But I really don't think that it does, I don't think it prepares you. To some extent, I think it's very Victorian, and way out of date, the education system. You know, it works for people who've got good verbal skills, you know, and can remember things and, you know, write the essay and all that. But there's so many other people who don't have, but they're still smart in other ways. But I don't think the education system recognizes that. It doesn't recognize different ways of learning. It doesn't recognize different cultures and contexts. I mean, you could teach almost anything, and get people engaged if you were able to meet them where they're at, and talk about and frame what they needed to learn in their own experiences and their own preferences. I had parent one time say are my kids not interested in school he just the only thing he's interested in in basketball. Well, you know what I could teach Math, English history, geography or using basketball metaphors, and I bet the kid would be interested in it.
Right. Okay, so while you're here, let's dive into this because you do talk about the school systems. And you talk about illiteracy in numeracy. And I don't think enough people actually know you what you've already mentioned that early, or what a numeracy is. Can you take our listeners through the issue with both of those? And do you have any suggestions for parents that are listening to this show, on how they can supplement the school system that their kids are in to improve both of these issues?
So numeracy is the ability to understand numbers and manipulate them. And typically, what's what happens in the school system, as people tell by times table, you know, two times two, you know, here's a heading, and here's multiple in his division. The problem with that is it's very abstract, very abstract. And so it doesn't really translate very well to life unless you really focused in and that attempts to appeal to you. And one of the problems with numeracy that you find is many people are very poor at compounding. They just don't understand compounding, just don't get it. They just don't. And one example of that is if I say to you, you know, I'll give you a penny a day, but each day, I'll double the amount that I gave you the day before, or I'll give you $3 million at the end of the month, which would you take
as an accountant, I'm going with the pennies because I think it's something like a billion dollars
at $5 million.
Yeah. Okay, sorry. But yeah, 5 billion pennies.
But most people wouldn't even have a clue that if you doubled, you know, one cent and it's two cents, and it's four cents, at the end of 31 days, it's going to be turned out million dollars. And just don't know that they just don't. And that has implications for all sorts of things, certainly financial planning, compounding mortgages, and all of that. And so, how would you teach that in the classroom? Well, one example I gave in my book is you would have a classroom, and you would divide them. And you would say, Okay, you guys, I'm gonna double what I give you, and you're gonna get it for a week, right? And then you guys are gonna get it for two weeks. And I can't remember what it works out is that after a week, I think it's like 200. And something after two weeks is 1002 is even way more. Right. And if you said, you can trade these in, people have done that for just one week, when they see the two weeks, as I Oh, my gosh, look at the difference ads. So it's got to be practical. It's got to be meaningful. If it's abstract. For a lot of people, a lot of kids, they're just not going to get it. And interestingly, during the course of my counseling and psychology career, when I had students of all sorts, kindergarten to university, I would ask them, what's your favorite subject? And very often, they would give the same answer. And one time I was at a think tank at Yale, with some highfalutin educational si awesomeness. So what is the answer they gave me? He went to ask them, what's your favorite subject? And it's not recess? I can get it? And the answer is the subject taught by my favorite teacher. Because if you're my favorite teacher, I'm engaged with you. Now I'm listening. Now it means what you're saying, to me means something to me. And if it doesn't, I'm gonna switch off. Right. And that's the key, I think, for learning and education, it's got to be presented in a way that is meaningful to that person, so they can relate to it, they can understand it. Otherwise, you know, math is just symbols. Big deal
is, is that a key component you mentioned right there, Howard, so that they can relate to it? effectively? What makes that teacher that is their favorite teacher? Is it a belief in the student? Is it the way they present the materials? Is it a combination of all of the above?
It could be anything? I think I'm probably the things you mentioned, prominent, but I think what it is, is I've got a connection here, and this person understands me, and that they're probably communicating and saying it in a way that I liked to hear, and makes me understand. And and I think that's really important. I forget the context of this conversation I was having very often, you know, it was someone who was telling about that school experience, and they would say, Oh, I don't understand what you said, right? And the teacher would get cross. What don't you understand? Well, actually, that teaches a fault because his, his or her job is to explain it in a way that they do get right, not in an abstract way. And that's what Again tends to be fossilized, in a sort of bureaucratic approach to learning. This is how you teach it and, and what have you. But that's not how you engage people, necessarily.
And you're hitting a nail on the head for me here. Because earlier when you talked about the reason why you still write some books, where it may have been said, a number of different ways is sometimes it just needs to be said slightly differently. And even if I'm at work, and I feel like I'm a moderately intelligent person, and three people in the leadership team are explaining something to me, and I'm feeling really dense. And I'm, I'm not able to see it. And then one of the people on the team says, Well, let me take a shot at this. And they start whiteboarding. And they're very articulate, we know each other well. And they explain it in a way where I say, Oh, I see it. I get it in and I don't think necessarily, and I may look around and see a couple other people kind of nodding like oh, yeah, now I get it, too. It's maybe I'm not alone. Maybe it is, Oh, no, it's sometimes, right. It's sometimes just takes that one person who can turn it. And now you see it.
And that actually is the essence, we go back again to communication, okay, most of the time, communication isn't telling somebody, it isn't telling. Suddenly, in the therapy business where you're trying to get people to change, just telling them, it's not gonna work, or just isn't, what you've got to do is you've got to engage them, you've got to get them to own it, and understand it and own it. That's what you have to do. And so, so often you see this, and it's understandable where this happens, but it shouldn't happen with professionals, they will go head on somebody, and that just puts up their defense, and there's no way you're going to get across to them, just ain't gonna happen. And so in my book, power talk, the art of effective communication, just put out the second edition. That's what that book was about. And that's why I wrote it. Because I understood that for a long part of my career, I didn't understand that and that was critical. That was critical. And one of my favorite, and there's a psychiatrist called Milton Erickson is dead now. But he was famous for his technique in trying to engage people. And my favorite story. There's a good book by a guy called Jay Haley, which is about Erickson. One of my favorite stories is a female client came to see Erickson. And she was she was frigid. She, the notion of sex just turned her off. And he found out that her mother had died when she was 12 years old. And she had told her that sex is bad, evil, and terrible. Now, mother died now she's died and she's glorified. So, you know, the natural thing for anyone saying that guy, your mom's? Really? She was really screwed up? Oh, my God. No, that won't work. That's not gonna work. So what Erickson did, and this is just brilliant. Isn't You know what? Your mom's right. Sex is evil, and bad, are all the things when you're 10 years old. Unfortunately, she didn't live long enough to give you the 15 year old message about sex, and the 20 year old and the 25 year old. And this is what I think she would have said, Now you allow that person to say, oh, mom's still great. But I can take in a different message. Isn't that clever? Isn't that brilliant? It's just, you know, and that's, I mean, that's what we need to do. And we want to communicate people. It's not about me, it's about them. And I need to know, how do I reach them? When people came to me to quit smoking? The first question I'd ask them as well, why the hell do you want to quit? Because I know everyone starboard. Oh, you need to quit. You need to do this. You need to do that. Are you an idiot? It's lung cancer. That's their reason. I want to know your reason. My reason then map. And so that became very important to me in terms of communication. When you are trying to convince people to change or see things differently. You got to get them to own it. And that, that one of my favorite stories about quitting smoking was there was a guy and I worked in the addiction research unit in London for the first 10 years of my career. There was a guy who was not a very good quitter. He had come to the smoking and he never, never worked with them, but I didn't know something about him. He was a very avid socialist. And this was at a time where in Britain we did have we still do have a Labour Party, but we actually had some Labour government. So he was he was on and one day I happened to see him putting money into the cigarette machine pulling out his cigarettes. And I said Oh boy, Joe, those capitalists, tobacco companies that really got he bought. He got so mad he quit.
All right, because you played to the emotion,
play to his emotion that was already inside him that he already had. That was already a big motivation for him. That's what you have to find. Sometimes not as easy as that. But that's where you have to find, then you find, okay. So it's not about me saying, Hey, I'm the expert, you should quit. It's, do you want to quit? And if you do, how do I make that known? How do I get you to own?
In flipping on its head? How are people using that against us?
Mm hmm. That's exactly right. That's exactly right. They do use it against us. Because they know, they can seem like they want you to do X. But they know actually, they're just driving you further and further away from doing that. And there's some good examples. I was thinking about this talking somebody about it last night that some of the people on social media who seem to be very anti whatever, are actually those people. And what they're trying to do is manipulate the opposition, feeding them stuff by over what riling them up by what have you, you know, I think there was a very anti democratic guy who was actually a Democrat, just trying to wind up and learn more about, you know, the people that were really against him and use it against them.
And when you think of fake news, and you think of disinformation, these are effectively the techniques that are being employed against us.
Absolutely, absolutely. Especially at a time when companies know so much about us. I mean, I don't know whether you've seen him, I suspect, you have the social dilemma. Whether Yeah, well, those experts talk about, you know, what these companies are doing, they're trying to find out as much about you as an individual as possible, because they can sell. So if I know that you are an anti vaxxer adamant about that, boy, I can sell that. Right? I can sell that. And I can and I know how to reach and manipulate, you
know, in their ability to do it, Howard, it's getting faster and faster and more and more accurate. You and I could have a conversation right now. And we could pick something we could talk about Titan fitness equipment, and probably within 24 hours. on my Instagram feed, I will have an advertisement for Titan fitness equipment. It's absolutely incredible. How quickly these programs are now moving. Yeah.
And for me, that's happened not in 24 hours. But in like 10 minutes, I had a conversation with my doctor about something and I got online, and suddenly there were all these ads about the condition we were talking about what?
Yeah, yeah, I was trying to give it I was trying to give it the benefit of the doubt. But you're right, you leave the doctor's office and you already you already have a, an advert for three competing medicines that will address it, address your need. It's absolutely incredible. The something that helps take us away from all of that, and we've talked about it a bit throughout, is the concept of Buddhism or mindfulness, what is your mindfulness practice look like?
Interesting. So, for a long time, going back to my university days, I was really interested in this and I was into Zan and and would practice mindfulness just sitting maybe not specifically meditation, but just sitting, just sitting quietly, and stopping the processing, you know, trying to process just sit and experience. And one easy way of doing that is just listen to all the sounds you can hear. Don't try to analyze them. Don't try to remember them. This is not a test just experienced. Just just what's that? What is that? Hey, that bird singing now, just experiencing what's hard is calm down downstream, okay, whatever, it doesn't matter, just experiencing them. So you can begin to distance yourself from the experience and you that you can look at it. And when you can start to do that. And you ask my mind, that's sort of what mine is. I've done different forms. And honestly, it's not it isn't even like I take 10 minutes a day to do that. No, I do it. Because Because you hear people do that. But it's not the 10 minutes while you're sitting in the living room. Very comfortable doing that. That's important. It's the rest of the time. Are you able to bring that in? Are you able to bring that in? Yeah, sure. You can sitting comfortably on your couch, you can do that. But in the middle of an argument at work can you do right? So the importance is to be able to take that wherever you are and So I do that, and I, whenever that happens to me, I find that unbelievable, I find it incredibly, I'm not even sure what the word is liberating or whatever, you know, you're walking down the road or whatever it is. And suddenly you just see things differently. You're not looking at the cars. You're not, you know, you're on the bike path aware. I mean, you're obviously aware, people, you know, not not going to get run over. But you experience unfortunate I live in a place where there's a lot of beauty in nature, you just, I mean, you're not trying to do anything. You're not saying, oh, wow, look at that beautiful tree. You're just experiencing it, you're quiet. And it's an amazing experience. It really is.
brings you back to being part of something bigger than yourself. You're actually you're part of that. Environmental social cosmos.
Absolutely. That's exactly, exactly right. And the same thing happens in some ways, when you reach out to help people, it can be small, we could be, you know, could be any give you a you know, I'll let you go first, it's seeing the bigger picture, and allowing yourself to see the bigger picture.
And something that you said about the bigger picture. While we're there is I found your 10 reasons to believe in higher power and lightning. And as I was reading it, it reminded me of something that really stuck out to me quite some time ago, which was Pascal's Wager, where he argues that a rational person should live as though God exists. Because if God does not exist, little is lost. And if God does exist, there's a massive benefit to living in that way, do you want to share some of those 10 reasons or 10 ways that someone should act as if God exists for our listeners,
I need to get a copy of my book to remember to remember them. But again, part of it is part of that is getting outside yourself and seeing and seeing a bigger picture. And I think that is, is really huge, very, very important. And unfortunately, in our world today, we're encouraged in a way not to do that we're encouraged to be, you can do anything you want, you can you know, etc, etc. And interestingly, you may have you I'm sure you know, about mahle Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And most people know about it, it's five levels, you start off with the basic ones at the bottom, and then you build up to self actualization, which is you manifest success, just before he died, he actually came up with a new level, that very often is not found in textbooks and, and work about him because he died, and he wasn't around to talk about it much. And that that next level up from self actualization is self transcendence, where you go beyond yourself to the world outside. And I think that's true. I think that's really important. And when we do that, I think those are probably some of our best moments when we do that. So part of that is, hey, recognizing there's something bigger, here, much bigger. And then the other thing is, well, if they're, you know, how does this all come about? We still need to be open to the notion of we, you know, human beings are limited. How do we know we're limited, we have a brain, that's pretty remarkable. But still, in the grand scheme of things, pretty limited. You know, we like to think, oh, we're brilliant. But what do we compare ourselves to? cats? And by the way, the interpretation, and I mentioned that in the book, of course, the interpretation of some animal researches, is, I think, misleading, we tend to look at some of that as, Oh, look how smart we are, when perhaps we should look at No, actually the animals are kind of outsmarted us on that one. So I think that that's an important one. And again, it's the most of all, it's a recognition that of self transcendence. You live in something that is way bigger than you that you might not ever human beings might ever understand. You know, we're we're smart. But, you know, what do we got that to measure against? There's got to be some limitation in our brains of what we can and can't do. One of the things that our brains can't do really very well, even though people try is to attend to more than one thing at a time. And, you know, people say, Oh, yeah, that's multitasking one now because they're multitasking. You focus on something for a bit and you move to the next one, and you move to the next one, the ability to actually hold and really focus on 10 things at once. We don't have yet which would be phenomenal, because if you go back to what I was saying earlier about contrasting we can only when we only hold two things, we see the contrast the difference. Can you imagine it If you were indeed able to see not things as binary, but you know, at a much greater level, that would be, that would be a big, a big step forward.
Well, it ties to my next question, because you, one of the things you wrote about is to think like a sage, we need to be thinking in four ways, or have training in four things, awareness of the thinking process, emotional control, logical training, in spiritual training, when we talk logic, and we talk about our brain, how do we unlock more of it?
That's a really good question. That's a really good question. I think the way you unlock it is obviously, by doing things completely differently than they've been done before. Because at a personal level, if you keep doing you know, you're going to train yourself, and that's something that perhaps people don't realize that we train ourselves how to think, you know, we think in a binary way, and and that's what that's, we've programmed our brain to think in those terms. And we have to make a very decisive conscious effort and a plan to change that. So that's part of it. That's part of why we have the binary thinking we've trained our brain thinking of it as a computer that we have trained. Now, is it possible to train it to be non binary? And it's interesting with kids in the US, I think the example in the book, if you say to a five year old, well, you can have the cookies, or you can have the ice cream, and may come back with Why can I have both? That isn't necessarily a sign of a greedy kid. It's a sign of a kid who doesn't understand why you're dividing the world in a binary way. Why can't I have both? Right? very reasonable question. And that's why very young kids seem to be so creative, because I don't think they have yet conditioned, been conditioned or conditioned themselves into making the clinking, this simplified. And so it's that creativity is fantastic. Up to you get a certain age, and then we go into the system. So is it would it be possible to escape binary thinking and literally be able to think of half a dozen things. At the same time? I don't know whether the brains capable of doing that. I suspect it is, but it would take doing it to change it. I mean, I'm one of the things about evolution that I hadn't thought about was, you know, the notion of evolution, especially, you know, goes back 1000s and 1000s of years, is the notion that, oh, at some point, this animal's brain changed. So they could do this actually, the way I think it works, because this is what we see today in science, that some animals did this, and it changed their brain. And then enough of them did it. And then everyone's in that species brain changed. But I think the action came first, not the brain change. And that's what you see in in science is you teach animals to do or even human beings to do different things, they develop a different neural pathways in their brain, then they can do it. And presumably, that could be passed on through teaching and genetics over
that, that path seems much more logical to me than than the brain changing first, more of the action that they were taking rewired the thinking. And now it's a little bit outside the book, but it ties into some of the work you've been doing through your career from a, from a neuro plasticity perspective, has there been much work and much forward momentum in the ability to rewire our brain in a way that we have more access or are using a greater percentage of our brain than we otherwise, were before we undertook said treatment or medicine or exercise
right? Now, also, all the evidence is that with action, okay, not word action. With actions, you change and program, your brain of you doing the same things, you're just reinforcing the habit, if you do different things enough of the time, you create neural structures and pathways that support that and therefore a different end. So that's, that speaks to the question of action. And so interestingly, that is, well, what what about therapy, for example, well, that's fine. And you might give people insight, but unless they actually do things differently, nothing's going to change in their brain. So the talking might get them to the next level. But all the evidence is you can talk all you want, but action is what changes your brain doing things differently.
So as an example, some of the things I've done differently, and maybe I just need to do them more regularly and more often is writing with your opposite hand or reading a book upside down. Just teaching yourself how to do things differently that are tricking the mind to start forming. Oh, wait, that's different. Maybe I need to form new pathways. And hopefully I don't lose the old pathways, but by forming new pathways, maybe those won't just help me write with my right hand. Right, but may allow me some higher thinking on an average daily basis.
Yeah, absolutely. And that's why, you know, a lot of the skills that neuroscientists recommend for people are challenging, sort of like the thing you're talking about. They're all learning a new language, which is a very common one, or learning a musical instrument. All of those things require practice, practice, practice, but you can rewire those areas of your brain. And that's been been proven. One of my favorite stories is about a you familiar with Donald cash. He was a Australian boy, two years old, blind, Daniel, patients, blind two years old. And for whatever reason, he started making clicking sounds, and basically taught himself echolocation basically taught himself echolocation. And even though he couldn't see he could ride a bike and all this stuff. And when they looked at his brain, the optical areas of his brain, which normally would be dead in a blind person had connected with the audio areas of the brain, and given him the skill of echolocation. And that's a great example of neuroplasticity, I mean, really amazing. He's taught it to other people. So when we say Can the brain do this? You know, we should probably never say no, it can, we should say no, we've never satisfactory, given it enough input to be able to do this.
So what I'd like to do now that was fabulous, by the way, because it also reminds me of Wim Hof, who has done things that we all think are impossible and has trained other people how to do them. So he apparently is not just an aberration, but it's it's teachable. I thought I find that entire domain. absolutely fascinating and want to go down that rabbit hole. But I'd like to just as we start to wrap up, ask you a few questions that I asked many of my guests. And one of the first ones is what is your superpower our
stroke of cynicism, which might be another way of saying awareness that there are other ways of doing things. It's interesting. One of my podcasts, I had a guy on who was actually it was a radio show before my podcast, had a guy on he was sort of a psychic and pretended, you know, he said he had just give me the date and time and your birth. And I'll, you know, I'll tell you, I never met this guy. And I gave it to him before the show. And then he came on and said, Now, Howard, you're often the smartest guy in the room. But you're also often the most sort of cynical in a constructive way. And I thought, you know what, no one's ever said that before. But he's dead, right? I'll be the guy sitting there thinking it through saying, well, I see the obvious things. But what about the not so obvious things. And so that has led. And it's been rewarding, because it's creative, and it's fun. And it's also has trained me to think a little bit outside the box.
And if you look at what you did for your first career before, you're really focusing on what you're doing now, it was all driven by the desire to dig deep to ask questions to understand not only how the world works, but how individual people who you're treating as your clients work. So that really drove what you've done with most of your life.
Yep. Yeah, no, absolutely. So the numerologist nailed it. I'm not quite sure how or why Medina?
So let's flip that coin on its head. What do you struggle with on a day to day basis?
Hmm, that's a good question. struggle. Part of it is, I think, concerned that all these ideas and things and books and stuff, I just won't have enough time to, to do them. You know, which is okay, I'm really okay with that. But that's, that's part of it. I don't believe in the concept of retirement. And in that sense that you reach an age and then you stop. I mean, that's stupid. I think that you carry on in many different ways. But perhaps that's part of it is I've got all these ideas and all these books on the back burner. Will I ever get them all down? So maybe that's the biggest struggle and frankly, if that's the biggest struggle I've got, I'm a lucky guy.
I agree, a great spot to be in when you're operating at your best when the words are just coming out when the ideas are coming forward. What routines habits or rituals are you following that you think contribute to that
exercise? Honestly, I you know, walk jog on a very regular basis. I've had some of my best ideas and When doing that, it allows me to, you know, get into that level of consciousness where things are coming up rather than me imposing things on it. Because let's face it, you don't have to think about how to put one foot in front of the other. So that frees you up your consciousness to go wherever you want it to go. So that that is important. And I know from a brain health perspective, that's important. So fortunately, I've always been like that. And I've continued that even more as I've aged. And I fortunately live in a lovely place where, you know, I can walk three miles to the beach, run for a mile on the beach and walk three miles back, as I did the other day. And yeah, pretty good. So definitely, that is definitely one of them. One of the most important things for creativity, I think.
And as a final question, what is one problem that you wish you could solve?
One World problem, right?
I think really, it would be to help explain what we've been talking about, to people to help them understand the thought process to help them understand how to expand their consciousness, and not to get caught up in the immediate present, and the trivia and all of the things that we get caught up in, in the attention economy. I think, you know, I found that to be so liberating, that I want people to share that, and I know we wouldn't be will be better off, if we were able to do that.
Absolutely. So many barriers would be broken down. And so much less than divisiveness would be in our world. That would be a great spot to be in. And how can our listeners find you,
I've got a couple of websites they might be interested in. Several actually, I think, therefore, I'm wrong.com that does talk about the biases. And there's as an intro to the book, psychology writer calm where some of my work is displayed, most probably two easiest ones. And there are ways there to reach me, or people can reach out and email me directly at Dr. H email@example.com. And I also have a YouTube channel that I'm been developing. So again, that would might be a good place to look for me on YouTube. And I put up a variety of videos, some of my podcasts, and some on different things are on directly.
So we'll put all those in the show notes, including a link to your YouTube channel. And you also in the back of the book, you direct people to digital defined d f ynd.com. Best critical thinking courses as a way for people to really start to work on that critical thinking. So we'll put that in the show notes as well. Thank you very much for joining me today. Is there anything else that we missed that you want to want to get out to the listeners,
we could go on? indefinitely? Thank you for being such a great host. It's been an honor to be with you now. And I think Yeah, I'd like people to think about and explore these options, whether it's critical thinking courses, I am actually creating an ecourse around this, this topic because I think it's so important. And yeah, just think about this, just think the consciousness that we've been given is our greatest gift. And we need to use that and not wasted with sort of emotional and automatic reactions.
Such a great way to end it. Thank you. Thank
Thank you for joining us on the pursuit of learning, make sure to hit the subscribe button and head over to our website, the pursuit of learning comm where you will find our show notes, transcripts and more. If you like what you see, sign up for our mailing list. Until next time, your host in learning Clint Murphy