Posts tagged ‘influence’

August 11, 2009

Wrestling with intents – Why you want to check your email right now

I was tying my shoelaces, getting ready to go out and buy some food, when I realized I haven’t charged my mp3 player in a while. I looked up, and on the table was my laptop and, sticking out at places beneath the papers, my headphones’ cable, to which my player is attached.

“I’ll plug it in when I get back”, I first thought.

“But wait, why don’t I plug it in now?”

“Nah, I’ll do it later. Besides, I need to find the cable for charging it.”

“Wait, it’s in the bag behind me. If I could just turn around…”

“No, no, don’t turn around. Look, you said you were going shopping right now, so why don’t you just charge it when you get back?”

And that’s when it hit me. There really was no reason not to plug in my mp3 player right now – in fact, plugging it in right now would mean it would charge faster. But the strength of the simple intent of “you said you were going shopping right now” was strong enough to demand that I leave right now.

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November 29, 2008

dealing with the Curse of Knowledge

I have to stop myself from quoting Ben Parker’s famous line about power and responsibility, but I can’t stop thinking about the frightening change, and its consenquences, happening in my head after reading a certain book or two.

There is nothing special about my case. The same could happen to you. The same will happen to you, after you read a certain book or two.

In my case, it happened with Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick. Gladwell examines why social change can happen so suddenly (crime in New York in the 90s dropping suddenly, why teens smoke more and more, how an unknown book became a huge hit etc.), and the Heath brothers explore what makes an idea stick in our heads (whether it’s from advertising, education, humanitarian work etc.) and how we can shape an idea that will be as sticky as possible.

After reading these two books, I’ve had one of those moments where you’ve just been given loads of amazing data, connected in an extremely meaningful way, along with several insights which challenge you, no, force you  to both change your oppinions and form new ones about important things and issues you didn’t even know existed or didn’t deem important. You basically can’t stop yourself, once you read these two books in a two day period, so that it’s all bundled up really tightly. You can feel all that knowledge being integrated into the way you perceive the world, make decisions and act them out. And, there’s that ever growing thirst for more. Because now you’re even more keenly aware of how much you really don’t know how this world and you in it works.

The reason I mentioned Uncle Ben there in the beginning is because once you’ve read those books, you gain a big insight into how easily we humans can be influenced. Seemingly irrelevant things can significantly change our behavior, things that we would never in a million years accept could influence us so much; and once you know what some of those things are, you also realize that you have a new responsibility – you know how to use those things, and you know what effect they have on people. You also know that often you’re safe from consequences because they’ll rationalize it all away, since we all believe that we’re completely in charge of our choices and our destiny (even though so many people are into astrology… you know, just in case).

So, once you know all this, you have to really (re)define your ethical values and boundries, especially when you want to do something which will influence a lot of other people, and especially when you know that they’ll think that it was their idea to do what you said all along. Before, you sort of dimly accepted that it was fair, because you thought everyone more or less knows the rules of the game. Now, you know you’ve learned some new rules which a lot of people don’t know about. So what becomes fair now?

In addition to all of this, as I said I’m now keenly (not to say desperately) interested in finding out what other things are influencing my behavior. I think that once you know them, you can adjust your strategy in dealing with them, and reclaim a bit more ground in your internal struggle for control over your actions and your life. As Steven Pressfield quotes Dalai Lama in his excellent War of Art (which I’ll also write about) “The enemy is a very good teacher”.

In closing, a big thank you to Jonathan Davis from Combat Consulting and Ryan Holiday for recomending these books on their blogs.