Like many others, I have been watching the financial markets go up and down and around and around in the past few months. A spasmodic like reaction to real life events.
Hertz files for bankruptcy and the share price goes up. Then they release a statement saying, everyone that newly purchased shares, will lose their money – and you guessed it. The share price went up again!
We base so much of our truth and meaning on models that try to make sense of world. They try to predict the future by only looking at a limited number of fixed variables of the past.
Occasionally, they are ‘on trend’, yet even then, it’s under fixed parameters of data that, with a closer look are often not even contextually accurate. Meaning the outcome is more by chance than by design.
I’ve been wondering why, despite reality, our way of prediction (that’s built into systems like the financial markets, political marketplace and relationships) stays basically unchanged, even after things (as in pretty much everything) have clearly, overtly, changed.
We can see it now, under the current conditions, in the way the markets are modelled to predict trend within a spectrum of “normal” that’s based on outdated past behaviours. The centre point (or mean) it’s pegging its “normal” point to has moved.
Yet here we are with a model that’s still operating based on the past.
Reality no longer fits the model.
It’s hard not to ask. Did it ever?
It all feels so strange to watch because, at a primal level, we all feel that the model for predicting anything should be led by reality not the other way around. Yet we are watching a society (not just relating to financial markets) be led by a model, that runs in spite of reality.
Is this the lived experience of post-truth?
Our political systems are modelled on a time, social structure and environment long since passed. Our education is modelled on an industrial system that has gone through a revolution, (and about to go through another) and our models for how we gather, assess and understand information have been broken open by digital connection and technology.
It all needs a hard reset.
Has the time come where we need to re-write all our models of reality?
If so, what is it that is important to us, as individuals, groups, collectives and countries, that we wish capture within this new sense making foundation?
In a world where our most precious resource, our time and attention, are up for grabs do we all need to learn how to write our own sense making models in order to survive?
To create strong models for sensemaking we need to get really good at one thing; telling ourselves the truth.
This sounds really basic, however, at its core we are speaking to the foundations of human behaviour.
Trust, empathy, connection, decisions. They all stem from what we think is true about the world. The better you get at understanding the way things really are, in any situation, the better you can trust, the deeper the empathy, the stronger the connection and the clearer the decision.
The key to using information as a decision-making ingredient, is accepting that there is a good chance, that some part of it, is incorrect. The minute you fully accept this notion, it becomes much easier to be objective about what you are hearing, how you decipher it, and how to make decisions accordingly.
It’s a willingness to accept that most of the time, we base our decisions on what we believe to be true, what we hope to be true and what we think might be true. Not on what’s really actually happening.
I recently read this discourse by Kapil Gupta and at the end he says –
What a serious man will do well to understand is; That what actually happens . . . Will always be the product of Truth.
Not the product of belief and opinion and hope. Therefore, if the thing that is going to happen, Is going to happen according to The Truth, And not according to one’s beliefs, opinions, and hope,
Then does it take overwhelming intelligence to devote oneself to learning The Truth, Rather than continue to pour his life into his beliefs, opinions, and hopes?
There are lots of techniques to check your bias and correctness. I’m sure there are countless books and courses on the topic. Which, if this is your way of learning, I encourage you to pursue them.
Personally I like to keep things pretty simple. The easiest way I’ve found is to simply observe how I react to things and then investigate why. One I often use, is to check my own excitement.
I listen to a fair number of podcasts. For me podcasts are compelling as a medium because they are firsthand. You get a first-person view into someone’s thinking with tonal nuance.
I often find myself deeply moved by podcasts, especially long form style interviews that have the time and space to get into the detail of where ideas came from. I noticed in myself that I would often finish a podcast, of this style, with a sense of excitement.
Some may think ‘that’s great’. You are excited, motivated… all the “good emotions”.
Excitement is a visceral emotional response.
If I was feeling another kind of visceral emotional response, like anger, I would immediately question it, question myself.
Excitement on the other hand is, pleasurable.
It’s difficult, to instinctively separate what is true, from what we desire to be true. To seek truth above the seeking of that which is pleasurable to know or experience. It’s easier to be hedonistic than honest.
So, I set up a trap of sorts, to catch and check my excitement.
Whenever I’m feeling excited about a podcast, I instantly seek out 2-3 other interviews with that same person, and listen to them.
I have found that this has been the fastest way to understand if the person/ idea I am excited about is a sales pitch. Someone that says the same thing in three slightly different ways to three different people is not spontaneously talking to you. It’s rehearsed, practiced and about persuasion.
If someone can talk about the same concept, from three different perspectives, whilst in real time stumbling across new aspects as they are talking. That is something to get excited about!
That’s where I dig into the research, buy the book, reach out to connect and have a conversation. Then, for me I am no longer excited about what the person themselves have said, but about my own curiosity to dig into a topic, learn and understanding something new.
There’s a whole industry on daily gratitude habits, and an even bigger one on daily mediation practice. What about creating one to check your own sense-making? A sensemaking habit to fact-check the information you took in that day.
We base so much of our lives on the output from models that are themselves based on false signals from situations that are not even real. So much of what we experience in the world is a result of us outsourcing our foundational sense-making to systems that fail us by being based on models of sensemaking that are manipulative and largely incorrect.
Like Seth Godin recently said
“we persuade way too many people to lower their expectations”.
We do this by naming hope, belief and theory – truth.
If we are open to realising just how bad our models are at predicting the future, let alone knowing where we are at present. If we can be open and curious enough to find ways to trip ourselves up, to tell ourselves the truth over pleasure or sedation, or apathy. We might just stop looking at the false cues and clues long enough to take what actually is and turn it into the countless possibility it could be.
Who knows, we might actually build some new systems as a by-product.