The Weatherman Phenomenon — How smart people become dumber, while looking smarter.
Is there a bigger fraudster in society than he who presumes to predict the weather? Let’s unpack that today, building on what we first discussed with the U-Curve of Certainty Theory and complex systems.
An angry rant about Weathermen (or Weather People, to be more PC).
It was New Year’s Eve. I can’t remember the year, what I can remember is the weather forecast — the weatherman said there was a ‘0% chance of rain.’
Not 2%, not 1%, but 0%. You can probably see where this is going.
Come New Year’s Eve, it rained.
What a bizarre profession, where you can get away with being totally inaccurate when forecasting the thing you’re employed to forecast.
What the weather person should say is, ‘the meteorology says this, but to be honest, anything could happen. I’m not too sure, but hey, at least I’m good-looking.’
But if you’re employed as a weather person, that’s exactly the last thing you can say. Funny that.
How and why do Weather People get away with this?
This ‘how and why’ is the theme of much of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s work (in long, head-hurting books like Black Swan, Antifragile, Skin In The Game and Fooled By Randomness). Taleb’s ideas helped inspire my U-Curve Theory.
Today we’ll expand the term ‘Weather People’ to refer to those experts who make a career out of being totally wrong most of the time — while being none the wiser (wiser here has a dual meaning).
They predict the unpredictable and advise on the inadvisable. They have high IQ points, but they still manage to justify being wildly off in their predictions, prescriptions and generalisations.
(Credit to this term must go to my brother, Oscar Wehbe, whose podcast is so named The Weatherman. But in fact, it must go to our other brother, Mitchell, who came up with the name.)
The first thing to say about Weathermen is that they are usually lovely people. They don’t set out to do harm, and they’re not actively trying to ignore the facts — they’re simply fooled.
Weather People pop-up in complex systems and non-linear domains — a complex system is basically a situation with so many contributing and interacting factors that it’s impossible to make precise predictions or neatly understand cause and effect.
There are tangible and intangible parts — for example, with the climate, we see clouds roll in and assume an indefinite period of rain. The clouds are tangible.
Pressure systems happening in higher parts of the earth’s atmosphere are intangible and happen outside our field of view. This, I feel, is where our high confidence but low understanding begins.
The human mind has three dangerous biases relevant to the Weatherman Phenomena
Let’s start with this tangibility bias.
In Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Road, he reports that Buddhism started introducing religious symbols so it could compete with other religions. Think about Christianity — it has the Mass, the Crucifix and the Eucharist, and I’d agree that these tangible symbols make it easier for people to buy into Christianity.
The human mind loves tangibles, and I suspect it’s because of the ease it has dealing with them.
The second relevant bias is our desire to judge and assume causality. Egos thrive on having control, they probably associate control with gaining power, status and importance. How important can you be if you don’t know what’s going on?
An ego that doesn’t know what’s going on is like an overprotective parent whose child just missed curfew or check-in. It’s freaking the heck out. It doesn’t matter if you lie and say you’re at Sammy Plankton’s place when you’re really out at a rave — they don’t really want to know where you are, they just want to feel like they know.
Whatever the reason, most of us can observe this in ourselves — our minds like to feel they know what’s going on and feel they understand why things are the way they are.
The third dangerous bias, which is built on the first two, is what I call the Iceberg Effect This is the tendency to observe part of a phenomena and assume it is the whole.
Despite the infinite complexity of things like markets, education, career, marketing, investing, art, creativity, storytelling, writing, podcasting, health, medicine and the human body, and least of all — weather — and despite the frequent warnings of wise people, we still like to form the idea we know what’s going on.
In short, the theory is that Tangibility Bias + Control-Seeking Bias + Other unknown factors and biases = Iceberg Effect = Weatherman Phenomenon.
It’s formed by these biases, then maintained by ego and an incorrect feedback loop.
The Weather Person (in this case a literal, evening news kind) is just so unlikely to say ‘this is what is predicted, but I have no idea.’ Imagine that?
Imagine an economist brought on the evening news who says ‘Rates will rise, but I can’t be too sure when. Maybe in the next few months, but don’t read too much into that. I could be totally wrong. Economics as a concept might be total b.s., but please keep that between us.’
Because these domains are complex, it’s easy to think we’ve formed an understanding when we discard the intangible, the invisible, the hard-to-see forces and interaction effects (base of the iceberg), and concentrate only on tangibles and easily observable things (tip of the iceberg).
In the example of education, Nassim Taleb calls it ‘Teaching Birds To Fly.’ It’s impossible to determine whether schooling or education improves things for people — but it’s easy to form a feedback loop that it does.
When all the birds learn how to fly, we conclude ‘The school thing works! Send in more birds!’ And hey, maybe it works, or maybe it doesn’t. But who actually knows?
The Film School Thought Experiment
Let’s say students who go to film school are 20% more likely to have professional careers in film. What does this stat tell us? Are we to presume all film students are the same? That all schools are the same?
What is the benchmark? What if the students in film school are just desperate to enter the industry at any cost, and the education has no impact? That is, what if it’s just a station they all pass through on their journey, and not the actual train that’s taking them?
What if it makes people more likely to get into the industry, but shrinks their potential? What if, without schooling, they’re destined to become Martin Scorsese, and with school, they end up making cheesy 5/10 Rom-Coms?
This raises a whole other question around… what exactly is ‘making it’, and is ‘making it’ the thing to optimise for? What if people learn that film is not for them and rule it out? Isn’t that a good outcome? It would probably lead to less shitty films being made.
The teacher of an acting course made this clear to me many years ago, and I am grateful to him for it. After doing this weekend course at NIDA in Sydney, I realised acting wasn’t for me — that was a good return on investment!
Now put yourself in the position of the staff at said film school, who see 20% of their students going into the industry. Do you question this number? Do you question what you’re doing?
Why look for a more complex story? Why not fall head-over-heels in love with the idea that you’re helping 20% of your students get into the industry? ‘Now, how do we get it to 30%?’ is the logical next step, but this is unlikely to proceed from a place of logic, but rather a silo, a bubble of logic.
Has the point now shifted? Has it become about making the film school staff feel like they’re getting people into the industry? Is it like the overprotective parent?
Perhaps answering all these questions is not the point. Perhaps the point is caring enough to ask.
Not clear-cut is it?
We don’t know if nothing is going on, if something great is going on, or if something terrible is going on.
There’s probably nothing wrong with film school — but there’s probably everything wrong with…
… Over-selling film school, insisting film school is essential, clinging to statistics to prove film school’s efficacy, thinking you’ve found the winning education formula, taking your role as a teacher too seriously… and not being able to concede that it might be unnecessary for some, many, or most.
I think it’s possible to be employed at a film school without falling into all the above traps except for the last one. Imagine… ‘Welcome to our open day, please don’t expect much from this place, apart from being a lot of fun and the chance to meet some people, we don’t know if the rest is total horse-manure that you can learn on Youtube.’
Wouldn’t it be great if Universities offered this disclaimer? And while we’re on it, economists, doctors and other medical professionals, pharmaceuticals, soothsayers and… weather people.
In the example of education, this is why my current thinking is that a combination of genuine non-attachment to one’s profession and love for those it seeks to serve is the only mitigation against total uselessness and harm.
But isn’t this joyous my friends? Focusing on love for those you serve is so… simple. It just won’t satisfy the ego, that’s all.
Zone One — The Mitchell Zone (Left side of the U).
When are inexperienced people more valuable, insightful and accurate than ‘experts’?
Elsewhere I explained the U-Curve of Certainty Theory — the idea that, for complex domains, we can be certain about the Micro, specific, personalised and short-term (left side of the graph), as well as the opposite — the Macro, generic, non time-bound (right side of the graph), but almost nothing inbetween.
To help you reconcile this Weatherman Phenomenon with the U-Curve Theory, understand that the Weathermen are sitting in the dip. People who are inexperienced and don’t think they know tend to be on the left (I call this the Mitchell Zone).
For example, take the young people I got to know in the Constant Student Community. If I asked one of them about something like marketing or education, when they had no experience in either (or so they thought), they were likely to respond ‘I don’t know.’
How unknowingly wise.
What they would share was a raw insight from their perspective and experience. For education — ‘I find university good in this way, but bad in this way,’ or ‘I got a good mark at school, but I haven’t had to use it.’
For marketing — ‘Your website confuses me. What is this thing?’ (feedback trumps elaborate marketing theories) or ‘I want to meet other people who are interested in philosophy. Do you help with that?’ (I find anecdotal insight more useful than surveys, statistics and complicated ‘market research.’ The latter give you numbers, the other gives you a story).
These people are at the top left of the ‘U’ — they can be very specific, but only about the incredibly Micro — their own experience. They make no attempt to generalise. Seems limited until you realise they do the most important thing — they avoid leading you down the path of false certainty.
‘It’s just my experience though,’ they sign off. ‘Fantastic,’ I think, ‘because that is all I need, and thank you for reminding me not to generalise what can’t be generalised, for now I’m dealing with the truth.’
Experts are more confusing and dangerous than ‘lay people’ in these matters.
Much more confusing to deal with generalisations, false extrapolations and theories disguised as facts or perfect explanations. It’s why fiction can be truer than non-fiction and why nothing has less reality than Reality TV.
(In both examples, one thing is trying to call itself reality while the other is so un-reality that it enables you to take from it what you need, without so much confusion.)
In other words, don’t look for perfect answers where they can’t be found (in complex systems, i.e. finding purpose, education, marketing, politics, over-controlling your future etc.) and also, avoid over-complication like the plague (in complex systems… i.e. finding purpose, education, marketing, politics, over-controlling your future etc.).
Zone Two — The Weathermen / No Man’s Land.
How it all goes balls up.
But take any of my lovely Constant Students, and look at them once they’re five years into some field or other, once they have some experience and runs on the board.
This is where most people start to think they know something, or anything (hint, they do know things, but what they know is blurred in with a lot of baloney. They live in a bubble of sorts, a sub-reality detached from the real one).
The two biases we earlier discussed kick in, the Iceberg Effect seems to do its thing, and without wanting to admit it, people tend to identify with certain ideas or theories (I’ve done this many times, especially the first time one of my Youtube videos got a thousand views. I thought I’d found a formula… idiot).
Suddenly, everything gets tainted.
Now they’ll believe they know something from a place of pure ego. (In the Youtube example, I started giving other people pointers… yet my ‘formula’ didn’t work again for me. Whoops.)
It’s not limited to professional life. People will also identify with insecurities or evils they’ve had to endure or been subject to, and begin acting in a Weatherman-like fashion.
For example ‘Beating kids makes them resilient,’ (someone who was beat as a child themselves), ‘Owning property is the only way to build wealth,’ (someone who sacrificed tremendously to break into the market) or ‘University alone creates success,’ (someone who dragged themselves through six years of study, didn’t enjoy it, and didn’t use it professionally).
The Weather Person does not claim to understand weather in its entirety — we might call that person the fully deluded cult member.
Rather, this Weather Person area is a spectrum, where people know they don’t know everything, but still underestimate how much they don’t know. In my Youtube example, I wasn’t saying ‘this is the answer for everyone!’ but I was happy to give pointers — the pointers were still off.
How much don’t we know? We know almost nothing in a complex system — I picture this as the area under the U in the diagram.
The art of becoming dumber while looking smarter.
‘Success’, runs on the board, or momentum in a field might actually make people dumber while they’re looking and sounding ‘smarter’, ‘more credible’, and compounding in said success. (Weather People on TV really sound like they know what they’re talking about. Politicians and academics usually do too.)
If I’m now getting more Youtube views, I must know something right? Not everything, but something (this is me looking smarter). And I’d believe that myself (this is me becoming dumber, because the formula is a trick of ego and the Iceberg Effect) — and if you heard me talk about it, with all the terms and strategies and breakdowns, it sounded so smart.
In truth, there were so many factors behind the series that got more views, that they were quite impossible to recreate. But because it’s so complex, we think it’s just complicated — and we also think, for that reason, we need someone to help us because there’s so much to it.
Remember that ‘complicated’ refers to things like building a plane — there is an exact process, you’re producing the exact same plane every time, but the process is elaborate, so most people don’t know it. They trust the experts, and that’s fair enough. But if there’s a flaw with the plane, you’ll be recreating the flaw.
On Youtube, if you recreate what someone else has made, you’ll have created something totally useless. Someone teaching you the ‘steps’ on how to woo a women sounds smart, with all their tips and tricks, but all they’re teaching you is how to woo their partner, and only if you were them, that is, the instructor — same height, political beliefs, income level, sense of humor, etc.
Turns out becoming someone else and recreating exactly what they’ve done is incredibly hard work, which is why we need their help doing it.
The exception of course, if we believe the U-Curve Theory, is personalised, contextualised advice and fundamentals.
The dip of uselessness (No Man’s Land).
The danger is compounded by everyone thinking a Weatherman is smarter when he or she is not. This is a crazy loop, because now that everyone else thinks the Weatherman is smarter, he/she thinks they’re even smarter.
It’s so hard to discern because there are fragments of the truth thrown into what Weathermen say, after all, this person will roll back and forward through the U, but it’s hard to distinguish and it’s effortful listening with two minds. The worse the Weatherman, the more it feels like the truth is a needle in a huge haystack.
This is why I only risk encountering a Weatherman when I absolutely must. Not for a bit of light reading or interest — but in matters of health and — basically just health.
Using the U-Curve to filter medical and health-based Weathermen
And even within the domain of health, I think so much of is just noise and haystack. I don’t buy into blanket statements like ‘chips are the worst things for you,’ and ‘sushi is healthy,’ when a few months later someone else says ‘sushi is not healthy.’ The worst was ‘COVID vaccines are for everyone, at all costs, and as soon as possible.’
I was not ‘Anti-Vax,’ I was just in no rush to get vaccinated. I was accused of damaging the community, yet I was staying in isolation. Meanwhile all these vaccinated people, who could still spread COVID, were carrying on in society, feeling protected. Who was more likely to spread COVID?
So, what to do? We can use the U-Curve idea and look at fundamentals:
- Everyone is at least a little different, including physiologically.
- Health and the human body are complex. There are so many interacting systems in the body.
So it’s no surprise that my father, who eats TimTams and hot chips, but no fruits, and barely any vegetables, is pretty healthy, when my mother, a health nut, has constantly poor health. What does that mean for nutritionists and experts who swear off chocolate?
And why are there 90-year-olds who smoke a pack a day and drink to their heart’s content, but non-alcoholics and non-smokers who die young, and suddenly?
Maybe because there are a string of factors that no one zoomed in on health might consider or factor into health — maybe because of the Iceberg Effect. They could be less tangible or noticeable, or they might appear to fall outside the discipline altogether, while being incredibly relevant.
This is where outsiders have an advantage. The outsider is less biased, and can observe more factors — like stress. In the case of my parents, Dad is never stressed, but everything stresses Mum. I can’t assume causality here, but we know enough about stress to know it can be impacting physiological health.
We can continue with a holistic approach and next ask, ‘what is causing this stress?’, and there we start going into their respective childhoods, family backgrounds… sound familiar? Probably what you’ve seen doctors and nutritionists who give you a good gut-feel do.
Are most of us, including doctors, educated into becoming Weathermen?
My friends who are becoming doctors tell me a bit about their education, and say it is a lot of wrote-learning. That is, memorisation — they make medicine sound like the FAQ section on a tech company’s website.
‘If this exact problem has happened enough times before, it will go in the book and we can share it with others.’ But what if it hasn’t?
Does the doctor accept they don’t know? Or, do they try to fit your symptoms into one of the existing FAQ articles? Well, the FAQ didn’t let them down before, and their super-smart teachers swear by the FAQ.
If all they do is memorise, then stuffing you into an existing box is the most likely reaction. But how smart will they sound if they know the whole FAQ?
I heard Anthony DeMello say, in his book Awareness, that real wisdom is looking at things not with your experience, but despite your experience. He says that, sometimes twenty years of experience is the same mistake repeated twenty times.
Real wisdom is looking at a situation and acknowledging that it might be totally new.
The deadly mistakes come from… attachment, tangibility, and treating the complex as if it’s complicated.
The risk with a Weatherman doctor is that they treat the body like an aeroplane, like a complicated system, when it is really a complex one. They are hugely biased towards tangible factors, so are unlikely to see or appreciate more complex dynamics.
I’ve seen it with doctors and psychologists when approaching mental health, I’ve seen it with marketing gurus who become attached to metrics and ROI’s who can now no longer understand branding… I’ve seen it in myself, when getting attached to podcast views and click-through rates took me away from making episodes that were actually quality.
It is incredibly anti-creative as a force — which is I think why so few big companies are good at branding or continuing to innovate.
Tangibility sucks us into the short-term and obvious. ‘Don’t give me love, give me casual sex’. ‘I won’t write my book, I’ll post on Twitter,’ and my personal favorite, ‘I need more money.’
The tangibility bias is most exacerbated the more attached and insecure we become as people, because when we’re desperate for something to cling to, when it feels like survival, we take the first thing we see.
The trick is cruel, because that mythological thing we call ‘success’ can continue to trend up and to the right, but it’s only because we’ve broken the feedback loops. Every bubble eventually pops, but the Weatherman is not always around to foot the bill — often, as in the GFC or in medical misdiagnosis, it’s others who pay.
How to spot a Weatherman.
It turns out there are nutritionists and there are nutritionists. There are lawyers and there are lawyers, there are financial advisors and there are financial advisors.
Weathermen have trouble explaining things to you from first principles. They think they know first principles, but they’re much more reliant on received wisdom and faulty conclusions than they acknowledge. They can’t make things simple for you — they’re dangerous in that they bend logic to their will, and they can be very convincing.
Take Jordan Peterson for example — despite his huge intellect, I find what he says more confusing than clarifying. I worry he’s more on the Weatherman spectrum than in the Sage Zone, and that his views on personality, psychology, meaning, ‘life is suffering’ and being a man are cruelly overcomplicated and confusing. That’s academics for you (shit Joe, don’t generalise!).
Joe, if it’s not simple, it’s suspicious — Gilly.
You can mainly spot Weathermen by the blanket statements they make — absolutes, generalisations, prescriptions — whereas the legitimitate financial advisor won’t answer the question ‘what’s better, stocks or property?’ They’ll say ‘it depends.’ Same for the legitimate nutritionist who is asked about chocolate or chips.
Yet, in saying ‘it depends,’ to everything, it looks like they don’t know. But friend, they’re the ones who do! The ones who make specific claims sound smart, but they’re the ones who aren’t!
It’s tempting to know right now what your issue is… it’s tempting to know exactly what food to avoid and be healthy… it’s tempting to know the one simple thing to do to fix your business, career, or relationship… and that is the market that creates Weathermen. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Zone Three — The Sage Zone.
Crossing the U — the wise sage who once again knows they know almost nothing. Here, things are simpler.
Usefulness dips when you leave what I call ‘the Mitchell Zone’ (named after my non-ambitious brother, who doesn’t pretend to know much about anything, and never enters a place where he can become a Weatherman).
But usefulness picks up again for those who are Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett-like, those who understand just how little they really know — I mean, how what they know is almost nothing. This makes things simple again.
The sage deals in fundamentals and first principles rather than assumptions, received wisdom, and tactics. They are easy to listen to and understand. They don’t prescribe or push very often. The more you insist they’re intelligent, the more frightened they become, for fear of being dragged by ego into the Weatherman spectrum (No Man’s Land).
The simplicity of the sage.
Charlie Munger has three buckets when he considers and investment — ‘yes, no, and too difficult to understand.’ Jeff Bezos, the driving force behind Amazon, told the world that he focuses not on what changes, but what doesn’t change when thinking of business.
People in his market are always going to want better prices, better service and so forth… those are the sort of Macro, generic, widely applicable fundamentals that we can all invest in. I think Amazon is extractive and toxic but I like the principle underpinning this.
Seeing these simple fundamentals requires great humility and an acceptance of one’s limitations, which is why I think that the happiest people we know, as well as those who exceed in fields, are so often philosophers as well as a good businessmen, actors, investors, writers, singers, lawyers, doctors and so forth.
The importance of failure and bubble-bursting.
It might also be why so many famous investors have had huge losses on their records — this is true for Ray Dallio and Charlie Munger. There’s no greater gift than having one of your formulas, theories or predictions painfully shat on by Reality.
But failure and humbling experiences are sadly not enough. I find the greater the hunger for ‘success’, the greater a person’s tendency to attach to and identify with tangible things, then the less likely they are to register the lessons of failure or bubble-bursting.
It can actually reinforce them — they see it as a challenge to ‘rise above,’ like someone in a religion who is expecting to have their faith tested. Try arguing them out of it, you might strengthen it.
This is all easier said than done. Knowing how much you don’t know is like opening up a never-ending line of those Russian Dolls — just when you think you’ve reached the last one, there’s a smaller one inside. I would have sworn to you six months ago that I knew incredibly little, yet I had layers and layers of B.S. beliefs still to burst. Safer to assume this never ends I think.
Find the point where the trees are just trees again, and the mountains are just mountains.
I think this journey to ‘cross the U’ is best summarised by an Anthony DeMello quote:
“There are three stages in one’s spiritual development,” said the Master. “The carnal, the spiritual and the divine.”
“What is the carnal stage?” asked the eager disciples. “That’s the stage when trees are seen as trees and mountains as mountains.”
“And the spiritual?” “That’s when one looks more deeply into things—then trees are no longer trees and mountains no longer mountains.”
“And the divine?” “Ah, that’s Enlightenment,” said the Master with a chuckle, “when trees become trees again and mountains, mountains.” — Anthony DeMello.
Do you see the pattern of three here again? The carnal stage reminds me of the Mitchell Zone, where the world is simple and there’s no deconstruction of it. The spiritual reminds me of the Weathermen and the divine is the Sage Zone, where we’ve surrendered and accepted the parameters of Reality.
Once again, I defer to Gilly:
If it’s not simple, it’s suspicious.
Where to watch Sages vs. Weathermen, to appreciate the difference.
If you watch interviews of Buffett and Munger, you see them frequently annoyed by Weatherman-like questions from Berkshire Hathaway shareholders and journalists. They concede incredibly little despite questions that so desperately seek precise answers and formulaic strategies.
It’s also fun to observe this when watching sage sporting coaches — say Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool. Journalists can have very Weatherman-esque careers (as failing to be totally accurate or sage-like is not critical in their field).
Especially in sport, where they are forever making wild predictions, assumptions, writing people off, talking things up, coming to conclusions, calling crisis after one loss, or heaping praise after one win.
Even the most expert pundit is normally wildly off with all of the above — yet none of this jeopardises their profession. As long as they somehow entertain or help sustain attention, they’re good to go. As our dear friend Taleb would say, the journalist has little-to-no ‘skin in the game,’ whereas the coach has nothing but skin in every match.
This is why the questions they ask Jurgen Klopp, or the Buffett’s and Munger’s, are normally so infuriating. Coaches and investors are usually on the other end of the spectrum — their careers are the least Weatherman-like, in that, if they think they know too much, they’re doomed. If they’re overcome by biases, the team is more likely to lose. The more the team loses, the more imminent their sacking.
As such, they refuse to give anything away in interviews.
How reporters interview sporting coaches (Weathermen vs. Sage).
Reporter: ‘Do you think you can win the title?’
Coach: ‘I don’t know. Our focus is the next game.’
(The immediate and specific is the Coach’s focus. If he or she thinks too far ahead, they are doomed. Meanwhile, a lot of reporters hope for soundbites or quotes they can use to sell headlines.)
Reporter: ‘When will your star player be back?’
Coach: ‘I don’t know yet. It looks bad. We will have to figure out an alternative solution.’
(The reporter is chasing information that will garner attention, but the coach doesn’t need to know anything just yet, until he or she has more information. He or she doesn’t need to pretend they know what’s going on.)
Reporter: ‘Do you think the team has turned a corner now?’
Coach: ‘I don’t know, it would be bad if we try to tell ourselves we’ve turned a corner if we haven’t. Let’s see in the next game.’
(In other words, I have nothing to gain by trying to understand the ‘weather’ right now, and everything to lose, so I’m staying away.)
Reporter: ‘Why is the team not performing? Is it the disappointment of last year?’
Coach: ‘I’m not totally sure. That could be a factor, all I know is we need to keep working at it, look back over the game, do our best with the information we have.’
(Yes, the coach wants to know why the team aren’t performing, but he/she can’t afford to find the wrong explanation and become certain about it. That would only mask any deeper issues.)
Reporter: ‘We think you’ll win today. What do you think?’
Coach: ‘I don’t know. Winning would be great, we will have to do our best.’
(Even if you’re the favorites on paper and have better players? This is classic Iceberg Effect — people use this information to predict who’ll win a game, only because it’s the most tangible and easily observable information. But how many factors go into determining the outcome of a match? Team chemistry, combinations on the field, the tactics for that game, conditions, culture, pressure… journalists exemplify the Iceberg Effect, good coaches are most wary of it.)
Navigating life in a world full of Weathermen.
Why leave the Mitchell Zone?
If you are my brother, Mitchell, who lives on the short end of the U-Curve, you don’t need to worry too much. Mitchell basically plans his life 30 minutes ahead at a time.
How do I know? Because I once asked him, ‘Mitchell, what are the typical thoughts that run through your head during the day?’ And he gave me an hour-by-hour recount, from the begrudged feeling of waking up to the excitement at dinner time and the freedom of watching movies or gaming after work.
As I mentioned above, he doesn’t agonise over complex matters he can’t control — things like career planning, complicated investing decisions and trying to time markets, trusting the evening news or aggressively seeking a woman — so he has a simple life, and spends most of it immersed in the present.
You can stay pretty safe by staying in the Mitchell Zone, without compromising any of life’s great joys. What you will insure against, however, is misleading self and others, becoming dumber, and doing harm.
Despite life’s complexity, this resolution is simple.
My personal changes — advice.
I no longer seek ‘how to’ advice for anything complex. After all, no one has done the things I’m interested in doing in the unique way I’m going to want to do them.
But I love listening to people’s experiences — even if they’re Weathermen. It’s when their theories come in that I lose interest.
For simple and complicated things, I ask for help. No need to reinvent the wheel. Want examples? Fixing an internet connection, recording a podcast with cleaner audio, getting heart surgery… that sort of thing.
I don’t give ‘how to’ advice. I try to give as little direction and instruction to others as possible, and even then, it comes with disclaimers.
I don’t put anyone on a pedestal. Doesn’t matter if they’re famous, ‘successful’, rich, smart, whatever. I find ‘inexperienced’ and simple-thinking people more valuable.
My personal changes — information.
I don’t watch the evening news. I don’t read academic or theoretical non-fiction books anymore, only biographies and memoirs (because they’re people’s experiences). I also read fiction books.
My personal changes — writing and business.
My own writing is falling into the same patterns. I’m less likely to think what I’ve found works for me will work for others. Gone are the formulas, procedures, boring frameworks, ‘three step methods,’ and other horse shit.
I’m avoiding generalisations, prescriptions, extrapolations and assumptions of causality as much as possible. Sorry if I dropped the ball anywhere in this piece.
I no longer find entrepreneurship, marketing or business ‘cool’ and ‘interesting’ anymore. They used to feel like a sport or a hobby, but was that just ego and the constant dopamine hit of Weatherman tactics, making me feel like I could be more than I am now?
My personal changes — what I’m pursuing.
I don’t have tangible goals. Any project I work on, I think of in terms of service. It does not deserve to be ‘big’ just because I’m working on it, or because I think it’s clever. If it is good, then simple attempts to serve those connected to it will see it spread as far as it should spread, and over a healthy time frame that I can influence but not control.
I don’t have causes I chase. Nor do I seek or offer answers, just, ‘what’s the next, best question to ask?’ or ‘what’s an important conversation to have?’
I believe the way of the truth is the no-sacrifice way to a simple, enjoyable, and prosperous life. So far, it’s felt so much better.
There’s only one problem…
And that is, I have no clue what the weather will do tomorrow.
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