ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | DAN CASETTA
Dan Casetta is the host of CLSK. Many years ago, Dan was exposed to a group who was discussing the most valuable lessons they had ever learned in life. One lesson resonated at that time for Dan, and has stood out as being valuable ever since. Dan shares and discusses this lesson in this solo episode.
DETAILED SHOW NOTES:
Someone in my social media network posted recently: What’s the most valuable lesson you have ever learned in life?
This reminded me of being with a group over 30 years ago … it was a group of highly successful achievers in business and in life … and the same question was posed to this group. There was a wide variety of answers offered up, but ONE that has stood out to me all these years. I’ll share it with you here today.
Before I share the answer that resonated with me, think about what would be your answer to this question … what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve ever learned? Pause this right now and reflect on that question for a minute.
YOU CAN ENTER YOUR MOST VALUABLE LESSON IN THE COMMENT SECTION AT THE BOTTOM OF THESE NOTES.
The answer that stood out to me in that gathering 30 years ago was this: There are 2 sides to every story.
So many times in my life, I have found myself forming a strong opinion based on hearing one side of a story only to have that opinion shattered after hearing and understanding the other side. What I’ve learned is to reserve judgement, remain curious, and seek out information on the other side. Through this process, I feel like I’ve been able to evolve in some of my beliefs, strengthen others, and develop a fairly well-rounded and open-minded worldview.
Now I still have plenty of my own biases OF COURSE. But I’m definitely open to thinking and re-thinking about many things in life.
In fact, I’d like to amend the original lesson slightly to this:
There are AT LEAST 2 sides to every story.
Many prevailing issues are not two sides of a coin, but instead like multiple lenses of a prism. The issue of CLIMATE CHANGE is an example of this.
This is an example of where they are a RANGE of perspectives … at least 6 in fact. You could break climate change into believers and non-believers, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
Among the believers, there are:
Alarmed – Existential threat in the next 10 years
Concerned – That we could see major implications in our lifetimes.
Cautiously Aware – Believe in human-driven climate change, but not sure what effects
Among the non-believers, there are:
Doubtful – Probably part of a normal cycle of Earth, but not certain
Disengaged – Do not think we are experiencing anything out of the ordinary
Totally dismissive – Climate change is a hoax that is being used for political ploys.
Although the alarmists and those who are dismissive number less than 10% each in America, they are the ones who get the most press.
And it’s precisely these EXTREME views that push people farther apart.
Getting to truth in any complex subject requires a ton of curiosity, learning, and openness to change.
I want to credit Adam Grant — THINK AGAIN BOOK — for helping me crystallize a lot of the ideas that I’ll share here today.
One key point in the book is that a struggle we all have is that we tend to cling to our own long-held beliefs.
Grant points out that we laugh at people who use Windows 95, yet we cling to opinions that we formed in 1995.
Once we accept something as true, we rarely bother to question it.
Now think about how many of our beliefs and opinions are formed when we were in our 20s, or even younger. And for anyone listening who’s older than 30, how many of you can look back on your own self at age 20 and see at least some ridiculousness in what you thought back then?
Ray Dalio: If you don’t look back and say, “wow I can’t believe I used to think that,” then you aren’t learning and evolving much.
There’s a very valuable lesson in that for those of you who ARE only 20.
You WILL have an opportunity to learn, and with that comes an opportunity to EVOLVE, but only if you remain open to it. Some people are stuck with the worldview that they had when they were 20.
Circles of Knowledge Example here – Listen to the episode for this!
Merely acknowledging that there’s so much out there that you don’t know, and infinitely more that you don’t even know you don’t know, should spark some intellectual humility and genuine curiosity.
A great way to view this sort of open-mindedness and willingness to evolve is … CONFIDENT HUMILITY.
Marc Andreessen — Strong opinions, loosely held
So what are some habits we can develop to foster these qualities?
• Don’t assume, ask questions to develop a greater understanding, and seek out alternate perspectives.
I READ A STORY:
8th Teacher in Milwaukee named Erin …
Student complained that a history textbook was inaccurate.
To most teachers, this criticism would be a nightmare.
But Erin had assigned that particular textbook intentionally.
She knew the textbook was old and outdated.
Some students just accepted what was presented as fact, they had come to take it for granted that textbooks told the truth.
Others were shocked by errors and omissions.
But only one student mentioned it, and this sparked a lesson for the class.
The lesson was for the kids to think like scientists and question/evaluate what they read/learn. Is there possibility or a perspective that is left out?
Discuss what you’re learning with people who you respect.
Ken Coleman: “I ask questions, not because of what I believe, but because I think they deserve to be asked.”
The purpose of learning isn’t to affirm our beliefs, it’s to EVOLVE our beliefs. So don’t assume, ask.
Second habit …
• Refuse to let your ideas become ideologies.
– Scientists search for reasons why they might be wrong.
In an uncertain or debated situation, I have often asked others …
“What evidence — if it existed — might change your mind?”
Anyone with a scientist mode of thinking could probably come up with some answers to this.
If the answer is nothing, then the other person is already fixed into one side of the story. We have to be able to recognize when/where we are fixed, and consider what evidence MIGHT actually change our mind.
We also have to learn to recognize our own biases.
One big one is called Desirability bias
– Our beliefs are shaped by our motivations.
To go back to the climate change example, I am neither an alarmist nor someone who’s dismissive, but I might be more dubious than others about this issue because I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to respond to any challenges as they arise. But I have to recognize that this is a form of desirability bias, and therefore, should not hold onto my beliefs too tightly in the face of conflicting evidence.
And I should be willing to go along with measures that might reduce climate change to some extent because of this inherent doubt that I have in my own view. Strong opinion, loosely held.
The fact of the matter is that I just don’t know enough about this issue …
Another form of bias is even more difficult to recognize, because it forms inside of us slowly over time … it’s based on our influences.
Jim Rohn: Subtle, yet powerful. Push vs. Nudge
We gradually adopt the beliefs and habits of our reference group.
The great potential of the internet is to expose ourselves to different views. But the troubling reality of the internet is that it becomes an echo chamber of our own homogenized networks.
HOW do you give yourself the opportunity to be exposed to worldviews that are outside your own?
• I engage in both left-leaning and right-leaning groups.
• The Flip Side emails
Refuse to let your ideas become your ideologies.
When something surprises you (in terms of maybe you were wrong about that), how do you react?
Great thinkers genuinely enjoy discovering that they were wrong, because it means that they are now less wrong.
To unlock the joy of being wrong, we need to DETACH.
3rd habit …
• Detach your opinions from your identity.
Think about how ridiculous it is to have a set-in-stone ideological checklist that you MUST abide by …
If you are a Republican, you MUST believe that:
– Raising taxes on wealthy individuals is bad.
– Abortion should be outlawed in all circumstances.
– Covid vaccines are a sham.
– Climate change is a hoax.
– The US has to serve as the world’s policeman.
– Everything Joe Biden has ever done is wrong.
If you are Democrat, you MUST believe that:
– Anyone who isn’t vaxed against Covid is a renegade/idiot/worse.
– We need to stop climate change or we’ll all die in 10 years.
– We must have universal government-run health care.
– Our whole society is racist.
– Lia Thomas should be able to compete in women’s sports.
– Everything Trump ever did is wrong.
These sorts of ideological checklists turn beliefs in religions.
Who you are should be a question of what you VALUE, not what you BELIEVE.
I value FAIRNESS …
Therefore I espouse the left-leaning belief that a highly-profitable, super wealthy individual or corporation should contribute a higher percentage of what they have to ensure a better society. Amazon has been built on the backs of the regular-folk of the world, who are their customers and their employees. They SHOULD give back. I’d say the same for myself, and my wealthy friends and neighbors. The idea of a flat-tax, for example, which some might view as the ultimate in fairness is, in reality, not fair. So I might take a left-leaning approach to how the wealthy should contribute financially for the good of society. To me, that’s fair.
But, in valuing fairness, I also espouse the right-leaning belief that a person born male should not get to compete in women’s sports. Doesn’t feel right to me.
Now if you can show me through actual evidence that there isn’t an advantage to having been born male, I would reconsider. Not trumped up evidence that was written by a source with massive self-interest.
One thing I find helpful as I read information is Checking Sources.
And if you could show me through actual evidence that shaving an extra few pennies off every dollar of my wealthy Silicon Valley neighbors and myself would NOT be helpful to the greater good of society, I would reconsider that view as well.
I do recognize that our government poorly spends many of our tax dollars, by the way, and that brings greater taxation into question. That’s another episode.
There was a recent spark up of the gun safety debate in the wake of what happened in Uvalde, TX.
I would encourage you to consider … What do you value in this debate?
– I would hope that every single person listening would say “well I certainly value people’s lives here.” But not all do … there are those who simply turn away and say “this type of incident is like a cost of doing business … it’s a part of life in America.”
– Now most of us —myself included — also value liberty and freedom and self-reliance … these are sort of bedrock principles upon which the USA was founded.
So the question then becomes, “How can we support these values while also valuing the many lives that are lost to gun violence in America?”
Are there answers that could potentially meet BOTH of these needs?
And I’m sure there are … most sane people probably don’t value the simple instrument of a weapon over the values I’ve mentioned here.
So the nature of the weapon itself is secondary to the values.
One should not view him or herself as a “gun owner” above these values of liberty or self-reliance.
We have to detach our opinions from our identity.
Define your identity in terms of your values, not your opinions.
Value: Curiosity, learning, mental flexibility
4th habit …
• Value Criticism as a tool for greater awareness.
We learn more from people who challenge our thought process than from those who affirm our conclusions.
At A16Z, they would often assign a partner to deliberately take up an opposing view on a deal so that they could carefully consider both sides of the story.
One guy in my network was dubbed “VP of BS” in his organization because he typically challenged the common thinking. He would “ask questions because they deserved to be asked … “
Find people in your life who are willing to challenge or critique your thinking, and who do it in the right way. This gives you an opportunity to either strengthen your own thinking or evolve into new beliefs.
Build a Challenge Network
Who are your thoughtful critics?
Show them that you value their push-back.
When I argue with someone or critique someone, it not a display of disrespect — it’s a sign of respect. It means I value their views enough to contest them. If their opinions didn’t matter to me, I wouldn’t bother.
Seek information that is counter to your perspective.
Follow people who make you think.
LET ME MAKE SOMETHING CLEAR HERE …
This does not mean you have to give airtime to the lunatics who are out there. Clearly, there are things in life that are beyond debate. I’m not going to waste my time with a flat-earther, someone who thinks Covid was a hoax, or someone who denies that we even have any problem with gun violence in America.
If someone knocked on your door, you opened it, and they dumped a bag of garbage inside, you might be very careful if they knocked again. And if they did it twice, you’d stop opening the door, right?
This is how I view those people out there who have PROVEN, through their past interactions, that they are utterly one-sided to an extreme or that they NEVER argue in good faith.
You DON’T need to expose yourself over and over again to these sorts of lunatics. But this doesn’t mean to shut yourself off from everyone who sees things differently from you. In many cases, the conflicting views of other intelligent people in your network are opportunities for you.
The last habit I’ll mention today …
• Engage in Re-Thinking (Adam Grant)
Forecasting contests – international contests where people are asked to predict the future … elections, economic and technological events.
They choose a prediction and a level of certainty, and can update from time to time. Most important factor in success is how often people update their belief.
Donald Trump winning the R nomination in 2016 — and the election — is an example of where most everyone was wrong, but the people who allowed themselves to update their view based on changing information found themselves on the correct side of this one sooner than others, while most people were blindsided on Election Day that November.
We ALL have roles in which we teach, educate, pass on knowledge.
Re-thinking from time to time is an important part of being great at that role. Intellectual humility and curiosity is more important than always being right or having all the answers.
The focus is less on being right, and more on building the skills to consider different points of view and argue productively about them.
TO WRAP UP …
Think like a scientist.
Treat your emerging views like a hunch, a hypothesis.
Ask questions because they deserve to be asked.
Don’t let your ideas harden into ideologies, or your opinions become your identity.
Find the joy in being wrong sometimes.
Leverage your challenge network to help you grow and evolve.
Never stop re-thinking.
In this way, more often than not, you’ll be able to recognize all sides of the story.
To learn more and get access to all episodes, visit our podcast page!
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