Tag Archives: Psychology

The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life by Kevin Simler


  1. Human behavior is not always what it seems as it tends to be driven by multiple motives and some of these motives are subconscious or we are at least not fully aware of them. We are designed this way so that we can chase selfish motives while attempting not to appear selfish to others. Our brains try to get past this by keeping us in the dark – the less we know, the less we’ll give away. We are strategically self-deceived – individually and as a society. In a word, the “elephant in the brain” is selfishness and this book shows why only by confronting it can we begin to deal with it and what’s really going on. This book shines the light on certain real world examples where self-deception is rampant 

Key Takeaways

  1. Elephant in the brain – an important but unacknowledged feature of how our mind works, an introspective taboo
  2. We pretend like we know what we’re up to but we often don’t and this gets us into trouble 
  3. People are judging us all the time. Namely, our motives. Because people are judging us, we downplay our selfish motives and make our selves look as good as possible. This applies not only to our words but also our thoughts. In some areas of life we are more likely to point out selfish motives (politics) but in others (medicine) we are more likely to gloss over and act like everyone’s intentions are pure 
  4. By studying primates we can get a good idea of what our social interactions really mean. Distance gives perspective. Social grooming in apes is about hygiene but also politics, prestige, status, hierarchy, and reciprocation. Similar for humans 
  5. The major social interactions which fall into this category for humans is sex, hierarchy and politics. Inter-species competition is at the root and is rarely discussed. Collaboration is the flip side of the same coin. A lot of energy is wasted with competition. Imagine how much shorter redwoods could be and how much energy they’d save if they could agree on a height maximum. This is one of our species superpowers – turning wasteful competition into fruitful collaboration. Norms define these behaviors and is part of what we try to deceptively overcome. We hold ourselves back collectively for the greater good. The norm isn’t defined by how it is explicitly defined but by which actions are punished and to what degree. Weapons originally and later gossip and reputation helped keep people in line and follow norms. However, everyone cheats and it is intentions even more than actions which are judged. Humans are incredible at spotting cheating because our brains are adapted to it – meaning humans have always cheated as it gets you the reward without the cost if you can pull it off. A little discretion can go a long way if you’re trying to cheat – think of the brown paper bag used when people want to drink in public. 
  6. The most honest signals are expensive to produce but even more expensive to fake. 
  7. We deceive ourselves but blame others and project our own failings or guilt onto others. Self-deception can be used to protect ourselves but if our mental models help us navigate the world, why would we have evolved to react this way? Information is the lifeblood and you’d think that with less or incorrect info we’d be worse off. This is the old school of thought. The new school is that self deception is used for manipulation and is self-promoting. We deceive ourselves to better deceive others. Lying is hard to pull off, is cognitively demanding, and we are afraid of getting caught so not admitting it to ourselves is easier. We are not as opaque as we believe and our thoughts can be quite transparent to others but if we don’t know something, others won’t be able to see it. Modeling the world accurately isn’t the be all, end all of our brains. It is reproduction and in this case self deception helps us further this goal 
  8. 4 types of self deception in mixed motive scenarios 
    1. Madman – you’ll do anything to attain your goal and others know it. Intimidation
    2. Cheerleader – a form of propaganda where you try to change other people’s beliefs 
    3. Loyalist – shows commitment and belief and will go along with the party or person no matter what. Earned trust 
    4. Cheater – turning a blind eye so you have plausible deniability. Throw people off our trail 
  9. The main cost of self deception is that it can get us to act suboptimally
  10. Our saving grace is inconsistency as one part of our mind’s “system” can be aware of something but be hidden from others. Our brains architecture keeps some of our baser evolutionary motives hidden from full view and allows us to act hypocritically without truly realizing it. Our mind is built to help us advance socially. Shame, guilt, and other negative emotions is our brain’s cue to avoid those neural pathways, putting our true desires even further out of grasp 
  11. The most important self deception is about our own motives. 
  12. We don’t always know the “why” behind what we do but we always think we do. We can rationalize anything we do The brain can be thought of as a press secretary – giving internal and external interpretations of the experiences. Your brain is not the king of decisions like we’d like to think, but merely the rationalizer of them. Every time we give a reason we may just be making it up. We know ourselves less than we think. We cherry pick and celebrate our most pro social reasons and hide away the anti social ones 
  13. We are also intentionally blind to many non-verbal cues such as body language because being consciously aware of and in control of them would give away too much and make us feel too manipulative. Body language is an honest signal and is it the sense that it is more costly to fake them produce so we can use it effectively and should rely upon it in many different situations to get a better feel for how others are feeling rather than relying on what they’re saying. Eye contact (an even ratio of eye contact while listening and speaking conveys dominance and high social status), open postures, contact, lean in or back, pheromones, proximity, touch, how relaxed we seem, social status, and more. The beauty of nonverbal communication is that it allows us to pursue illicit agendas with a smaller risk of getting caught and accused as the actions are harder to pin down than outright actions are. That is why being aware of them is slightly dangerous and is why we don’t teach them to our children 
  14. Laughter is designed for social situations, it is a sound which is always used for communication purposes, and laughter occurs in other species. This inter and intraspecies communication indicates to self and others our playful intent and happy mood. This allows for safe social play even when the behavior could technically be dangerous or serious – it is a play signal. Flirting with violating a norm or actually violating it tends to be found funny. Context is extremely important as the same event can be seen very differently. Humor is extremely informative and showing us what is acceptable and what is transgressive, showing us where the boundaries are and are norms and how far we can push it. Since laughter is in voluntary and deniable it is a great window of truth because we can’t hold it back as easily as we can with language and it gives a safe harbor to be able to explain things away if what we laugh it seems inappropriate to others
  15. Language and speech 
    1. Speaking gains you social status if you prove you’d be a powerful ally who knows something which is new and/or useful to you. When you speak you can show off your verbal and mental “tools” which make you a strong ally. That is the subtext to every speech. Speaking well gains you prestige as prestige can be equated with being a strong allies others want to partner with 
    2. This may be why people tend to speak more than listen although listening might be the best thing you can do as you can learn more 
    3. People are more impressed with others who have something interesting to say regardless of where the conversation goes rather than being led to a specific topic the speaker knows a lot about 
  16. Conspicuous consumption influences everything we do, what we buy, how we judge others, it conveys our status, values and priorities
  17. People have forever been obsessed with gossip, news, and media. And although they may say it is for staying on top of global events, the subtext is that they want to be able to know what others are talking about and chime in in conversation 
  18. Art is an impressive display in the sense that it is meant to impress others. Evolutionarily it is hard to describe or explain because it is costly takes a lot of time and does not directly do anything to enhance our survival but one thought about what it signals to potential mates the fact that we have surplus time, energy, health, and wealth to pursue these sorts of things it makes more sense. The gower bird is a great example because the male builds some impressive structures and collects hard to find artifacts and colors to put within the structure which shows the female he has surplus energy and proves he is a qualified mate. What makes this even more interesting is that after they mate the male does not help raise the young at all. His pre-mating structure speaks to his genes more than anything else he could do. Art therefore needs to be impractical in order to succeed as it shows the fitness of the individual who is performing it
  19. Charity, like everything else discussed, is not done for pure charitable reasons or else people would donate differently. There are five main factors which influence what we do and how we give it including: visibility, peer pressure, proximity, relatability, and mating motives. Being generous signals that we have a surplus of wealth time and fitness and we want our leaders to be generous because it shows that they don’t play zero-sum games, that they know how to share, and that they are socially aligned 
  20. Education in large part is the signaling mechanism to show that you have the capability to learn a broad swath of information, prioritize and work hard. It does not necessarily mean that you know these topics very well. Education is a form of conspicuous consumption too as it tends to be expensive and going to college shows you can afford it. It shows which students can learn well but not necessarily how much they know. Colleges also are in some fashion propaganda machines and also serve to “domesticate” young people
  21. As is this case with many of these hidden mode of explanation, things which seem like flaws for the stated function are in fact features of the hidden one
  22. Bringing food to people who are sick is a universal but in today’s age, far more important is that it is homemade – showing you took time out of your busy schedule to make this
  23. Americans spend too much on medicine in an effort to “keep up with the Joneses”. It is hard for most people to act in the belief that doing less or maybe even nothing is the best course of action no matter if it has been proven that it can be better. More is thought of as better because it signals that we care and are cared for. People don’t actually care as much about if something works – they want the best doctors doing the most expensive treatments. Sleep, rest and eating well is not received well when we’re sick. 
  24. We worship and believe in religion because it helps us socially by forming a cohesive community. We become accepted by a group which helps us survive and reproduce. While the skeptic may think of religions as delusions, it is hard to argue against their benefits. Sacrifice is very socially beneficial to show your loyalty and fitness. The boredom experienced in sermons may be a feature and not a bug – you are conspicuously sacrificing your time for the group 
  25. Groups of nice, trusting people tend to out compete groups of nasty people. This has deep implications if you think about it

What I got out of it

  1. Fun read with deep implications. We keep ourselves in the dark to many of our selfish motives in order to better deceive others

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

  1. Robert Greene draws on a multitude of different resources to highlight the laws of human nature. The examples are timeless, universal, and profound. By acknowledging these human universals, to what extent they impact you, and how they are prevalent in others, you will become more aware and better able to mitigate and control them in yourself and others. “Human nature is deeply ingrained within our genes, within our brain’s structure, and has evolved over millions of years. It is partly responsible for how we make decisions, how we manage our emotions, and it controls, unknown to us, the vast majority of what we do and think. Human nature has helped us survive and determines much of our emotions and how we think and behave.  Understanding how we are wired will help us better deal with others and better see through when they’re trying to manipulate us, take advantage of us, charm us, or otherwise. We developed extreme sensitivity so that we could better read and judge others and to this day, although we don’t realize it, we are finely tuned to register how others react, to their voice, their body language, and more. This book is an attempt to draw together the vast store house of knowledge from many different fields to describe and give examples of some laws of human nature. They are laws in the sense that people tend to react quite consistently in similar situations. Becoming aware of these laws will make you a calmer and better observer of human nature, more able to notice and decipher the subtle cues everyone emits, and become a greater judge of character.”
Key Takeaways
  1. It is important to realize that these laws of human nature impact, affect, and influence you as much as other people and by truly understanding them, they will help build your empathy, allowing you to simply see other points of view better and more clearly, giving you the opportunity to focus on what’s important – helping others and having having an impact. You will be able to train yourself to be present, to let go of preconceived notions, and to continually adapt your understanding of the people around you. This understanding will help you become more empathetic and more effective in everything that you do
  2. The Law of Irrationality – Master Your Emotional Self
    1. Realize that people often act the opposite of how they feel – someone loud and obnoxious is often insecure
    2. Emotions taint our thinking and behaviors, not allowing us to see and act in accordance with reality, leading to bad decisions, pain, and stress. By admitting and embracing this rationality we can slowly tame our emotions, become more rational, thereby making us more effective and insightful as we can align with reality, to see things as they really are and not as we wish they were
    3. The first step to tame your rationality is to admit that you are irrational. As you become more introspective, the calm inner voice will grow more confident and louder, allowing you to see things more clearly and accurately. You first recognize the biases in yourself and work towards giving yourself the space and time to think and act how you want, and not simply react emotionally
    4. The goal of rationality is not to eliminate emotion, but to channel it in order to become aware of why you are feeling what you are feeling – to take advantage of it and use it to further what you want to do
    5. You can become more rational by becoming more aware of low grade irrationality or what happens in the subconscious, and high-grade rationality (what happens in your conscious). Over time, you will be able to train your emotions so that you become be less reactive over time. You improve your rationality by first knowing yourself thoroughly – knowing your strengths and weaknesses, how you react under pressure, and when you’re flattered. Next, you must improve your reaction time giving yourself space to think and not just react instinctively. Then you must accept people as facts and not try to change them but just accept who they are, understand them, and how you have to deal with them
    6. We must learn from our mistakes. The point of memory is to not repeat mistakes but so few people take the time and energy to really dive into what caused him to err.  We have to become aware in the moment of things that make us react and dive into why we feel that way – is it a childhood trauma, something our parents told us, or why do we just react emotionally?
    7. People‘s true character and ability shine through under stress. You have to find time, space, and quiet in order to be able to think and gain perspective. Don’t think you are above stress and that it doesn’t impact you – it does!
    8. Be weary of groups as it doesn’t stimulate rationality and independent thought but rather the much deeper and more ingrained part of us that wishes to belong – leading to herd behavior
    9. Don’t think that we are in a steady path towards rationality as a species. The pendulum swings back and forth between rationality and irrationality. It is part of the cycle of human nature. Irrationality won’t always look the same but it will always come back. Improving rationality is something to be done at an individual level and not at a species level
  3. The Law of Narcissism – Transform Self-Love into Empathy
    1. We must be honest with ourselves and grow and come to love a cohesive self or risk falling into narcissism
    2. Turning your attention outwards to others rather than inwards like most people do will help you grow your empathy muscle and give others the attention they so gravely seek
    3. Shackleton in the toughest of times drew out very specific daily tasks to give everyone meaning and focus. In addition, he understood each man so well that he knew what to talk to them about, when, and how to keep them happy, their morale high and content. This empathy was literally life and death as it is for us, although it’s not as clear
  4. The Law of Role-Playing – See Through People’s Masks
    1. People hide their true feelings and intentions so you must become an expert reader in other people and at the same time learn how to play your role as convincingly and consistently as possible
    2. Milton Erickson was diagnosed with polio at a young age and to occupy his mind he observed others extremely closely and through this knowledge and pattern recognition came to see an incredible world of nonverbal cues, motions, gestures, the importance of tone of voice, and everything beyond what is simply said. Observe, observe, observe. People tell you so much with their walk, tone of voice, how they sit, their micro expressions, and more.
    3. Negative emotions leak out through body language and they must be observed and weighed more than whatever mask people put on
    4. Be authentic, humble, open minded and generous – “saintly” and above reproach
  5. The Law of Compulsive Behavior – Determine the Strength of People’s Character
    1. Gravitate to those who display strength. One best reads people’s character in stressful and difficult times
    2. Character comes from the Greek word meaning “stamped upon”. Our character is ingrained in us and is composed of our genetics, our earliest relationships and quality of attachments, and from habits and experiences. We can learn to compensate any harmful traits but for the most part they’re hard to rid
    3. People are quite bad at judging character but the most reliable way to assess someone is through their actions (people never do anything just once, actions are truer and can’t be rationalized by words), how people handle small and simple affairs, how people handle power and responsibility. Try to only work with people of strong character for those with weak character will negate all their other good qualities and will cause more headache than you want. People who are strong of character are as rare as gold and you should hold onto them is if you found treasure
    4. It is impossible to change one’s or others’ character but you can mitigate them by going deep within yourself, admitting your flaws and weaknesses, and doing all you can to strengthen them up and act in such away to emphasize your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. The goal is not to become someone else but to be thoroughly and authentically the best version of yourself
  6. The Law of Covetousness – Become an Elusive Object of Desire
    1. Realize that most people, no matter how often it is said, don’t really want truth and facts, they want their imagination lifted and their ego boosted
    2. Realize that the grass is rarely greener on the other side
    3. Learn when and how to remove yourself. You also want to be a little cold and ambiguous so people can’t get a great feel for you
    4. It is not possession but desire that drives people. By becoming a scarce commodity and playing on other’s covetousness, you can become highly desirable
    5. In the end, what you must covet is a closer relationship to reality, bringing calmness, knowledge about yourself, an understanding of what you can change and what you can’t, and being OK with both
  7. The Law of Shortsightedness – Elevate Your Perspective
    1. Learn to judge people by the breadth or narrowness of their vision and seek to surround yourself with those who can understand the consequences of their actions and have a bold vision
    2. With an elevated perspective, you will have the patience and clarity to achieve almost any goal
    3. When people’s horizon shrink to days or weeks, they lose the ability to see the consequences of their actions and they become manic
    4. 4 signs of shortsightedness:
      1. Unintended consequences (have at least one person focus solely on consequences)
      2. Tactical hell happens when you can’t back out of everyday battles to get detachment, perspective and the long-term view (strategists will always beat tacticians)
      3. Ticker tape syndrome (need to know instantly drives short-termism, avoid the noise as much as possible)
      4. Lost in trivia (know what’s most important and spend most of your time on that)
  8. The Law of Defensiveness – Soften People’s Resistance by Confirming Their Self-Opinion
    1. Learn to tame your stubbornly held positions and come to see other’s points of views and beliefs. This will open them up, making them more open to your suggestions
    2. It’s hard to ignore a man who makes you feel good. When you have valuable information and can get things done on top of it, you’re a force
    3. LBJ knew he had to rein in his more aggressive and bullying qualities in order to win over key allies and learn from them. Having one key ally near the top of the mountain can make a lot of things happen. He never asked for favors but did others favors, if his allies had any interests he would cultivate an interest in that too, he was always willing to help and work hard, knew what others wanted and needed and figured out how to make himself the gate between those things, he made it in other’s interest to hand over power to him
    4. Influence over people is often gained in the opposite way than we imagine. Put the focus on others and make them the stars of the show. Always step back and assume a subtle inferior position. Then do some small favors for them and they’ll begin helping you, expanding your influence. Bring out the cleverness of others and make them feel good when they leave you
    5. People have a self opinion and it doesn’t matter if it’s accurate. 3 universal traits: I’m autonomous, intelligent, good and decent. These affect everyone’s self opinion and playing into these and validate them make them feel good. Avoid confronting people’s self opinion.
    6. 5 strategies of master persuaders
      1. Be a deep listener and be aware of subtle nonverbal cues
      2. Infect people with the proper mood (acceptance of others unconditionally, calm, enthusiastic)
      3. Confirm their self opinion (people choose to help you)
      4. Know what people are insecure about and compliment that
      5. Use people’s resistance and stubbornness against them (channel their aggressive energy in order to make them fall on their own – use their emotions, their language, their rigidity)
    7. Praise people for their effort and not their talent
  9. The Law of Self-Sabotage – Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude
    1. Our attitudes are self fulfilling and paint everything we see, experience, learn and do
    2. See yourself as an explorer – always curious, open to new things, having weakly held convictions, you are always trying new things and want to learn
    3. See adversity as opportunities to improve and to get better, not something to be avoided. Understand that you can’t change people – embrace and enjoy who those people are and make the most of it. When you do this people, come to love you, accept you, and see you as a leader
  10. The Law of Repression – Confront Your Dark Side
    1. Embrace your dark side and integrate it into your personality. You’ll become a more complete and authentic person and radiate that to others – attracting them into your circle and influence
    2. Depression and anxiety comes from not being aware of your dark side and not letting it shine through in a positive way. By denying that side and repressing it, it only becomes stronger and comes out stronger in ways that you will come to regret
    3. Most hatred stems from envy and is a way for the subconscious to release some energy
    4. Steps to bring about and integrate the shadow:
      1. Become self aware and see the shadow (others can often see your shadow better than you can so ask them for their opinion)
      2. Embrace your shadow
      3. Show the shadow
  11. The Law of Envy – Beware the Fragile Ego
    1. You must become a master decoder of envy and those who are predisposed to being envious.
    2. People are status-seeking animals and constantly monitor their relative position in the hierarchy. People must have an adequate position to be comfortable and happy
    3. Always emphasize the role of luck in your life. Enhance your flaws in order to make yourself more relatable and to mitigate envy. As you gain power, keep humbling yourself and asking for the opinion of those below you
    4. Be wary of mass – spread the love, the relationships, and the wealth and you’ll have people pushing for you to rise rather than trying to put you down
  12. The Law of Grandiosity – Know Your Limits
    1. You must be aware of your tendencies towards grandiosity and how important that is for you. If you feel the temptation, you must mitigate this by realizing your weaknesses and how big a role luck has played, becoming more realistic and grounded
    2. Be aware of your grandiosity needs, concentrate that energy on a particular task or goal, create a dialog with reality and be open to the flaws in your plan, find appropriate challenges which test you but aren’t too much, occasionally let yourself take on huge challenges
  13. The Law of Gender Rigidity – Reconnect to the Masculine or Feminine Within You
    1. By blending in the opposite side, what you’re most lacking, you’ll become more complete, fluid, whole, and authentic, drawing other people to you as you merge the different sides of your personality.
      1. This is a far more effective tactic than trying to become a purer version of what you already have
  14. The Law of Aimlessness – Advance with a Sense of Purpose
    1. We must be open to our internal, primal traits that make us unique. They not only help set us apart and get us on a path towards mastery but also helps the community at large as it fosters diversity and helps spur creativity and innovation in others
    2. Operating with a high sense of purpose which aligns with who you are and what you want is the force multiplier – allowing you to achieve more and have a more meaningful and impactful life. Discover this sense of purpose and find as many ways to connect with it as possible – this will draw others towards you and open up opportunities that you would have thought impossible
    3. Discover your calling by going back to your roots, your childhood, the primal inclinations which set you on fire – the things which you got very enthusiastic about and couldn’t stop thinking about. Things which are so fun or easy for you are good signs.
    4. Surround yourself with as many people as possible with the deep and true sense of purpose. They will help teach you, guide you, energize you, and motivate you
    5. Have a long term goal but also build in small, shorter term goals which build up to the ultimate goal. This will keep you moving in the right direction and mitigate anxiety
    6. You must get into deep flow as often as possible in order to progress quickly and in the right direction. It takes a lot of work and is difficult as it takes sacrifice and dedication but is the only way to get there
  15. The Law of Conformity – Resist the Downward Pull of the Group
    1. Develop self awareness and the changes that occur to yourself and others when in a group. One of the greatest threats to our survival thousands of years ago was being ostracized so today fitting in and being accepted in the group is one of our greatest concerns. We fit in by accepting the norm and imitating and following the group. The danger is that we stop thinking for ourselves and simply imitate the group and lose what makes us unique and gives us power
    2. All people have evolved to see hierarchies and this gets exaggerated in groups. We lose our rationality and go with the herd, often leading to dangerous or poor outcomes
    3. You must be aware of the effect that groups have on people as individuals and the broader group dynamics – hierarchies can lead to cliques, factions, and power mongering
    4. In any group you have to understand the culture and the fact that an older company and a bigger group will likely control you rather than you control it. You also have to understand the group dynamic and the hierarchy – who is moving up and down relatively
    5. You can make factions and cliques less attractive by creating a positive, unifying, and uplifting culture that people can go all in on
    6. You must understand and be really realistic with yourself and how big of an influence the group has on you. You’re not as much of an individual thinker as you think you are. You must be able to detach yourself from the group and be a realist – this is more important today than ever
    7. Bad culture drags everyone down. You can’t focus I’m trying to improve individuals – you have to fix the dynamic. Improving the culture this will lift everyone up. When the group can face reality head on and kick-ass, that is when you have a great culture. Instill a collective sense of purpose (no matter what field, quality and excellence are key factors – money and success are byproducts). This higher purpose is rare to come by so people will go all-in and police themselves when they find it. Assemble the right team of lieutenants (avoid the petty details which cause confusion, competence and character are vital, know their roles and make sure they have complimentary skills, you must treat people equally, get rid of those who don’t fit the mold, and lead from the front), let information and ideas flow freely (frank and diversified information, open communication, transparency on how decisions were made), infect the group with productive emotions (lack of fear, courage, calm, openness to new ideas), forge a battle-tested group (group who rises in tough times and doesn’t wilt)
    8. A group willing to face reality with a great culture help rise people up, it is one of people’s most memorable experiences to be part of a group like this. It is our duty as enlightened humans to create as many such groups as possible, making society healthier in the process
  16. The Law of Fickleness – Make Them Want to Follow You (an amazing chapter on leadership)
    1. People are always ambivalent about powers and leaders. Authority is the delicate art of wielding power while making people feel like you are working for them
    2. As the leader you have to embody and practice all the traits that you would want in a leader. You must work hard, lead from the front, be fair, be consistent, courageous, wise, and calm and difficult situations
    3. As a leader be very aware of how fickle people are and how history is riddled with examples of great leaders who start showing some signs of weakness, arrogance, or whatever else which leads their people to turn on them and sometimes put them to death or ostracize them
    4. The fundamental role of the leader is to provide a far reaching vision to unite the group. We must avoid seeming petty  and our focus needs to be on others, on the culture, and the vision.
    5. Toughness and empathy are the twins pillars of leadership. They are not mutually exclusive but inextricably bound. You must have both or people will begin to lose faith in you as a leader
    6. You must be a consummate observer of people and these traits of leadership and hierarchy, coming to embody and practice them consistently in all situations
    7. Most people run away from the dangers and responsibilities of leadership but you must embrace it. This skill is increasingly rare in today’s world so the more you can run towards it, the more you’ll stand out. The essence of leadership is that when people willingly follow, you will not need force, rah rah speeches or to punish people. Your leadership style most authentically arise out of your personality and character you can be authentic, a founder, the deliverer, a visionary artist, healer, pragmatist, etc – but it must be natural for you
    8. Turn your focus outwards so that you’re always looking to help others and then you work to earn people’s respect – never assuming it will be given to you. What drives you is bringing the greatest meaning and utility to the largest group – never on your ego or selfish desires.
    9. Having a vision allows you to work backwards from the future to the present and determine the steps that you need to take in order to get there.
    10. You have to lead from the front and show early that you’re tough. Have high standards for your own work and  if there are sacrifices to be made, you have to be the first to make them, and they can’t simply be symbolic. If you take things away, make it known that it is only temporary. Be in a position where you can be generous
    11. Never overpromise
    12. Finally, we like to focus on the psychological health of individuals, and how perhaps a therapist could fix any problems they might have. What we don’t consider, however, is that being in a dysfunctional group can actually make individuals unstable and neurotic. The opposite is true as well: by participating in a high-functioning reality group, we can make ourselves healthy and whole. Such experiences are memorable and life-changing. We learn the value of cooperating on a higher level, of seeing our fate as intertwined with those around us. We develop greater empathy. We gain confidence in our own abilities, which such a group rewards. We feel connected to reality. We are brought into the upward pull of the group, realizing our social nature on the high level it was intended for. It is our duty as enlightened humans to create as many such groups as possible, making society healthier in the process.
  17. The Law of Aggression – See the Hostility Behind the Friendly Facade
    1. John D Rockefeller is the role model and story for this. He would use his will to outdo, outthink and outwork his opponents. Hostility is within every human and don’t be fooled to think anyone is too nice. Rid yourself of the denial that this doesn’t exist in people.
  18. The Law of Generational Myopia – Seize the Historical Moment
    1. Transitions can be seen over decades and seem to be universal across time and indicate that they are bigger than any one generation. It is part of human nature the pendulum swings in the trends follow
    2. We must develop generational awareness understanding how our own generation impact our thinking in view of the world and have generations overall impact people across time
    3. You must understand and honor how much the time period and generation you were born into affects you. For example, millennials care more about teamwork than individualism, and security rather than risk because of the financial crisis. If you can define the zeitgeist for each generation, you will better understand the people within it and how to work and get along with them. Taking different perspectives will help your creativity and calm you. Once you have a sense for the zeitgeist, look back in history and find a parallel. Associate yourself with heroes of the past
    4. Always work with the spirit and don’t critique or try to change it. Always evolve and adapt, don’t become a caricature of the past. Modernize your spirit, adopting your experience and perspective with some of the traits of the younger you agree with
    5. You must develop deep relationships with people from various generations
  19. The Law of Death Denial – Meditate on our Common Mortality
    1. Realize that life is short, that most people are terrified of death and have not confronted that within themselves.
    2. If you live everyday, there is more than enough time
What I got out of it
  1. Deep self-awareness is the cornerstone. Once you can face reality and admit your flaws and weaknesses, you can address them and mitigate them. As much as you can, put others before yourself, put your energy and attention on them rather than yourself

Propaganda by Edward Bernays

  1. Edward Bernays is the father of propaganda and this book takes a deep look into how governments, corporations, “people behind the scenes” control how we think and act using Bernay’s principles. This manual of mass manipulation provides a detailed examination of how public discourse and opinion are shaped and controlled in politics, business, art, education, and science, making it an essential read for all who wish to understand how power is used by the ruling elite of our society. (I stumbled on this book after watching Century of the Self – a bit dark and disturbing but educational if you’re interested in this space)
Key Takeaways
  1. Background and Fundamentals of Propaganda
    1. Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea, or group.
    2. The first mass use of propaganda was for WWI and it forever changed business and government, making public relations scientific for the first time. The “manufacture of consent” was needed in the public sphere in order to get buy in for the war and for people to sign up to fight
    3. Only through the active energy of the intelligent few can the public at large become aware of and act upon new ideas
    4. An entire party, a platform, an international policy is sold to the public, or is not sold, on the basis of the intangible element of personality
    5. The public relations expert seeks to make a gradual impression, after long research and sober planning. In the hearts of such methodical manipulators there would seem to be no streak of mad commitment, as their enterprise is not infuriating and millenial but businesslike, mundane, and rational. And yet those who do such work are also prone to lose touch with reality; for in their universe the truth is ultimately whatever the client wants the world to think is true. Whatever cause they serve or goods they sell, effective propagandists must believe in it – or at least momentarily believe that they believe in it. Even he or she who propagates commodities must be to some extent a true believer. To advertise a product you must believe in it. To convince, you must be convinced yourself.
    6. The counsel on public relations, after he has examined all these and other factors, endeavors to shape the actions of his client so that they will gain the interest, the approval, and the acceptance of the public. The means by which the public is apprised of the actions of his client are as varied as the means of communication themselves, such as conversation, letters, the stage, the motion picture, the radio, the lecture platform, the magazine, the daily newspaper. The counsel on public relations is not an advertising man but he advocates advertising where that is indicated.
    7. The whole basis of successful propaganda is to have an objective and then to endeavor to arrive at it through an exact knowledge of the public and modifying circumstances to manipulate and sway the public
    8. Father’s of propaganda – Bernays, Trotter, Le Bon, Wallas, Lippman
    9. No matter how sophisticated, how cynical the public may become about publicity methods, it must respond to the basic appeals, because it will always need food, crave amusement, long for beauty, respond to leadership. If the public becomes more intelligent in its commercial demands, commercial firms will meet the new standards. If it becomes weary of the old methods used to persuade it to accept a given idea or commodity, its leaders will present their appeals more intelligently. Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos.
    10. Men do not need to be actually gathered together in a public meeting or in a street riot, to be subject to the influences of mass psychology. Because man is by nature gregarious, he feels himself to be member of a herd, even when he is alone in his room with the curtains drawn. His mind retains the patterns which have been stamped on it by the group influences. Trotter and Le Bon concluded that the group mind does not think in the strict sense of the word.  In place of thoughts it has impulses, habits, and emotions. In making up its mind, its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader. This is one of the most firmly established principles of mass psychology. It operates in establishing the rising or diminishing prestige of a summer resort, in causing a run on the bank, or a panic in the stock exchange, in creating a best-seller, or a box-office success. But when the example of the leader is not at hand and the herd must think for itself, it does so by means of cliches, pat words or images which stand for a whole group of ideas or experiences.
    11. Men are rarely aware of the real reasons which motivate their actions. The successful propagandaist must understand the true motives and not be content to accept the reasons which men give for what they do. It is not sufficient to understand only the mechanical structure of society, the groupings and cleavages and loyalties.
    12. Instead of removing sales resistance by direct attack, the propagandaist is interested in removing sales resistance. He creates circumstances which will swing emotional currents so as to make for purchaser demand. The modern propagandaist therefore sets to work to create circumstances which will modify the custom. He appeals perhaps to the home instinct which is fundamental. The interests of the client, service, product, idea, etc. and the communities which it impacts mutually interact and feed one another. The ideas of the new propaganda are predicated on sound psychology based on enlightened self-interest.
    13. Propaganda’s great enemy is inertia
    14. Continuous interpretation is achieved by trying to control  every approach to the public mind in such a manner that the public receives the desired impression, often without being conscious of it. High-spotting, on the other hand, vividly seizes the attention of the public and fixes it upon some detail or aspect which is typical of the entire enterprise. When a real estate corporation which is erecting a tall office building makes it ten feet taller than the highest skyscraper in existence, that is dramatization
    15. There is no detail too trivial to influence the public in a favorable or unfavorable sense
    16. Public relations should often be put in the hands of an outsider for the correct approach to a problem may be indirect
    17. Propaganda may be abused, it may be used to over-advertise an institution and to create in the public mind artificial values. There can be no absolute guarantee against its misuse
    18. The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.
    19. Napoleon was ever on the watch for indications of public opinion; always listening to the voice of the people, a voice which defies calculation. “Do you know what amazes me more than anything else? The impotence of force to organize anything.”
  2. Propaganda in Government
    1. Governments, whether they are monarchical, constitutional, democratic, or communist, depend upon acquiescent public opinion for the success of their efforts and, in fact, government is government only by virtue of public acquiescence. Public opinion is the unacknolwedged partner in all broad efforts
    2. Nowadays the successors of the rulers, those whose position or ability gives them power, can no longer do what they want without the approval of the masses, they find in propaganda a tool which is increasingly powerful in gaining that approval
    3. Democracy is administered by the intelligent minority who know how to regiment and guide the masses
    4. There are invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions. It is not generally realized to what extent the words and actions of our most influential public men are dictated by shrewd persons operating behind the scenes. Now, what is still more important, the extent to which our thoughts and habits are modified by authorities. In some departments of our daily life, in which we imagine ourselves free agents, we are ruled by dictators exercising great power. Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government
    5. Propaganda is of no use to the politician unless he has something to say which the public, consciously or unconsciously wants to hear
  3. Propaganda in Media
    1. The media by which special pleaders transmit their messages to the public through propaganda include all the means by which people today transmit their ideas to one another. There is no means of human communication which may not also be a means of deliberate propaganda, because propaganda is simply the establishing of reciprocal understanding between an individual and a group. The important point to the propagandaist is that the relative value of the various instruments of propaganda, and their relation to the masses, are constantly changing. If he is to get full reach of his message he must take advantage of these shifts of value the instant they occur. The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today. It is a great distributor for ideas and opinions. The motion picture can standardize the ideas and habits of a nation. Because pictures are made to meet market demands, they reflect, emphasize and even exaggerate broad popular tendencies, rather than stimulate new ideas and opinions. The motion picture avails itself only of ideas and facts which are in vogue. As the newspaper seeks to purvey news, it seeks to purvey entertainment. Another instrument of propaganda is the personality.
  4. Propaganda in Business
    1. Business realize that its relationship to the public is not confined to the manufacture and sale of a given product, but includes at the same time the selling of itself and of all those things for which it stands in the public mind. To make customers is the new problem. One must understand not only his own business – the manufacture of a particular product – but also the structure, the personality, the prejudices, of a potentially universal public. Modern business must study on what terms the partnership can be made amicable and mutually beneficial. It must explain itself, its aims, its objectives, to the public in terms which the public can understand and is willing to accept. The relationship between business and the public can be healthy only if it is the relationship of give and take
    2. Big business studies every move which may express its true personality. It seeks to tell the public, in all appropriate ways, by the direct advertising message and by the subtlest aethetic suggestion, the quality of the goods or services which it has to offer. A store which seeks a large sales volume in cheap goods will preach prices day in and day out, concentrating its whole appeal on the ways in which it can save money for its clients. But a store seeking a high margin of profit on individual sales would try to associate itself with the distinguished and the elegant, whether by an exhibition of old masters or through the social activities of the owner’s wife. The public relations activities of a business cannot be protective coloring to hide its real aims. It is bad business as well as bad morals to feature exclusively a few high-class articles, when the main stock is of medium grade or cheap, for the general impression given is a false one. A sound public relations policy will not attempt to stampede the public with exaggerated claims and false pretenses, but to interpret the individual business vividly and truly through every avenue that leads to public opinion.
      1. Lateral networks, who the customer cares about impressing, is so important
    3. Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse. It must understand the changes in the public mind and be prepared to interpret itself fairly and eloquently to changing opinion
  5. Edward Bernays
    1. He sold the myth of propaganda as a wholly rational endeavor, carried out methodically by careful experts skilled enough to lead “public opinion.” Consistently he casts himself as a supreme manipulator, mastering the responses of a pliable, receptive population. Conscious and intelligent manipulation, invisible governors, they who pull the wires which control the public mind, shrewd persons operating behind the scenes, dictators exercising great power, and, below them, people working as if actuated by the touch of a button – these are but a few expressions of the icy scientific paradigm that evidently drove his propaganda practice, and that colored all his thinking on the subject. The propagandaist rules. The propagandized do whatever he would have them do, exactly as he tells them to, and without knowing it.
    2. His vision seems quite modest. The world informed by “public relations” will be but a smoothly functioning society, where all of us are guided imperceptibly throughout our lives by a benign elite of rational manipulators. As the population has grown and whose members – by and large incapable of lucid thought or clear perception, driven by herd instincts and mere prejudice, and frequently disoriented by external stimuli – were not equipped to make decisions or engage in rational discourse. “Democracy” therefore requires a supra-governmental body of detached professionals to sift the data, think things through, and keep the national enterprise from blowing up or crashing to a halt
    3. He had no equal as a propaganda strategist. Always thinking far ahead, his aim was not to urge the buyer to demand the product now, but to transform the buyer’s very world, so that the product must appear to be desirable as if without the prod of salesmanship. What is the prevailing custom, and how might that be changed to make this thing or that appear to recommend itself to people? The modern propagandaist sets to work to create circumstances which will modify that custom. Bernays sold Mozart pianos, for example, not just by hyping the pianos. Rather, he sought carefully to develop public acceptance of the idea of a music room in the home – selling the pianos indirectly, through various suggestive trends and enterprises that make it de rigeur to have the proper space for a piano. The music room will be accepted because it has been made the thing. And the man or woman who has a music room, or has arranged a corner of the parlor as a music room, will naturally think of buying a piano. It will come to him as his own idea
      1. Must think of the customers’ lateral networks and how they influence the buying decisions, downstream effects…
    4. In his universe, it is pre-eminent consensus which determines what is true
What I got out of it
  1. Quite scary how this one man and his ideas impacted generations of people, companies, movements and ideas. Becoming aware of these principles can help you guard against them if needed. I think the context in which this was written is also important to keep in mind. People are rarely truly aware of what drives them to act and make the decisions that they do and, because of human nature, this is unlikely to change – although the medium may differ

Solve for Happiness: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat

  1. Mo Gawdat uses his engineering and mathematics background to study happiness and make it replicable and scalable
Key Takeaways
  1. Happiness = perception – expectations (of situations, people, work, etc…)
    1. Shows that it is our perception and not the actual event that makes us happy. Changing our thoughts can make us happy
  2. Happiness is never reached but is a continuous process that never ends. It is reached internally and is actually our default state
  3. When you know what you are looking for, the quest becomes easy
  4. Success doesn’t elan to happiness but happiness contributes to success
  5. Think of things which make you happy and create a happiness list. Consult and add to this list as often as you like and do these things often. Can also create a pictures folder on your phone to consult at any time
  6. People tend to be happy when life seems to be going their way and unhappy when reality doesn’t match their hopes or expectations
  7. True happiness comes when you are in perfect harmony with life and have the proper expectations. At this point, all thought and mental chatter is made irrelevant as you know bumps will come in life and you deal with them with equanimity as they are expected
  8. What matters is not how much you know but how accurate what you know is
  9. Understand you control nothing but your attitude, actions, and reactions
  10. The true joy lies in giving it. The more you give the more you get and the more it will be attracted to you. Love everything and everyone. Love yourself. Be kind and spread your gifts selflessly and without expectation of getting anything in return
  11. Forgiving is the ultimate form of giving
  12. 6 – 7 -5
    1. 6 illusions
      1. Thought – you are not your thoughts and it is important to detach self and happiness from thoughts. Reduce this voice, this mental chatter.
      2. Self – You are neither your inner voice, body, emotions, achievements, or possessions. You are simply the observer
      3. Knowledge
      4. Time – Don’t be a slave to time. Always be in the present, it is the only thing that exists, don’t think too much about the past or future
      5. Control – don’t try to control things but find things which feel effortless to you – this is what is right for you. Effort needed to live our life grows exponentially which is why it is so important to simplify and surrender. Life can be easy but we make it difficult. Search for the path of least resistance
      6. Fear – The damage you do thinking about your fear is almost always worse than simply facing it. Thinking through both the worst and best case and are helpful exercises to help you get over your fear
    2. 7 blindspots
      1. Filters
      2. Assumptions
      3. Memories
      4. Labels
      5. Emotions
      6. Exaggerating
      7. Predictions
    3. 5 ultimate truths
      1. Choose to believe in the side that make you happy
      2. Now is the only thing that’s real – brings awareness by reducing doing and mental chatter
      3. Grand design
      4. Nothing is random
      5. Life generally follows patterns, laws, rules, or science
What I got out of it
  1. Happiness = perception – expectations and therefore it is our perception and not the actual event that makes us happy, create a happiness and picture folder list, happiness comes down to expectations

Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes by Frans de Waal

  1. An incredible insight into the takeovers and social organization of a chimp colony in the Netherlands. “The behavior of our closest relatives provides clues about human nature. Apart from political maneuvering, chimpanzees show many behaviors that parallel those of humans, from tool technology to intercommunity warfare. In fact, our place among the primates is increasingly a backdrop of substantial similarity. Our uniqueness breaks down as we study our relatives.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Simplified conditions, like the one found at Arnhem Zoo with this chimp colony, allow researchers to see more because there is less. A totally wild environment is too dynamic, too chaotic to be able to closely observe some of the interactions which are dissected in this book
  2. “Every country has its Dick Cheneys and Ted Kennedys operating behind the scenes. Being over the hill themselves, these experienced men often exploit the intense rivalries among younger politicians, gaining tremendous power as a result. I also did not draw explicit parallels between how rival chimpanzees curry favor with females by grooming and tickling their young and the way human politicians hold up and kiss babies, something they rarely do outside the election season. There are tons of such parallels, also in nonverbal communication (the swaggering, the lowering of voices), but I stayed away from all these. To me, they were so obvious I am happy to leave them to my readers…The social dynamics are essentially the same. The game of probing and challenging, of forming coalitions, of undermining others’ coalitions, and of slapping the table to reinforce a point is right there for any observer to see. The will to power is a human universal. Our species has been engaged in Machiavellian tactics since the dawn of time, which is why no one should be surprised about the evolutionary connection pointed out in the present book.”
  3. Only in harmonious groups are adult males solicitous and tolerant of kid’s behavior
  4. When excited or aggressive, their hair stands on end so they appear larger than life and often this behavior can be seen as much as 10 minutes before by inconspicuous body movements and changes in posture
  5. The group dynamic is one large web and the alpha male is just as, if not more, ensnared in the web as the rest
  6. Since they don’t need to forage for food as they do in the wild, there is considerably more time to socialize and the close quarters, especially in the winter months, which leads to nearly twice as many aggressive incidents as in the summer months
  7. “Experts sometimes choose to create the impression of knowing nothing. They act in exactly the opposite way from the young teacher, who held forth with such conviction. Both attitudes lead nowhere, but unfortunately I will not be able to avoid them completely.”
  8. “Everyone can look, but actually perceiving is something that has to be learned. This is a constantly recurring problem when new students arrive. For the first few weeks they “see” nothing at all…Initially we only see what we recognize. Someone who knows nothing about chess and who watches a game between two players will not be aware of the tension on the board. Even if the watcher stays for an hour, he or she will still have great difficult in accurately reproducing the state of play on another board. A grand master, on the other hand, would grasp and memorize the position of every piece in one concentrated glance of a few seconds. This is not a difference of memory, but of perception. Whereas to the uninitiated the positions of the chess pieces are unrelated, the initiated attach great significance to them and see how they threaten and cover each other. It is easier to remember something with a structure than a chaotic jumble. This is the synthesizing principle of the so-called Gestalt perception: the whole, or Gestalt, is more than the sum of its parts. Learning to perceive is learning to recognize the patterns in which the components regularly occur. Once we are familiar with the patterns of interactions between chess pieces or chimpanzees, they seem so striking and obvious that it is difficult to imagine how other people can get bogged down in all kinds of detail and miss the essential logic of the maneuvers.”
  9. When chimpanzees are frightened or distressed, they bare their teeth much further than when they put on the so-called play-face
  10. When males are displaying and trying to intimidate, it is not uncommon to see females take away their weapons
  11. Side-Directed Behavior: behavior toward opponents and behavior toward companions or outsiders
    1. Seeking refuge and reassurance – the most common form and an excited or frightened chimpanzee clearly has a need for physical contact
    2. Recruitment of support
    3. Instigation
    4. Reconciliations – after conflict, the opponents are attracted to each other like magnets! They had to physically connect to make up and tension and hesitancy remains as long as the opponents had not reconciled their differences. This action serves to repair valuable relationships
    5. Coalitions – when two apes fight or threaten each other, a third ape may enter the fray and side with one of them. Sometimes this escalates and larger coalitions are formed. However, this does not cascade – chimpanzees never make an uncalculated move and the top position in a group may depend on aggressive cooperation (highest form of strategy, dominance) and, often, it was the females who were the most important part of helping their chosen male get into the position of alpha
  12. Social Intelligence Hypothesis
    1. Chimps developed such high intelligence in order to deal with an increasingly complex group life. The evolution of primate intelligence started with the need to outsmart others, to detect deceptive tactics, to reach mutually advantageous compromises, and to foster social ties that advance once’s career
  13. Alpha males
    1. Hair is constantly slightly on end, even when not actively displaying and walk in an exaggeratedly slow and heavy manner – all meant to make one look larger and heavier
    2. The submissive greeting is the most special form of behavior indicative of social order – deep bows, grunting, looking up at the alpha, kiss his feet/neck/chest. Alpha reacts to this by standing taller and making his hair stand on end which makes the contrast even greater
    3. Dominance manifests in two different ways – social influence (power, who can defeat whom and who weighs in most heavily when a conflict in the group occurs) and formal dominance (ones actual rank within the colony)
    4. Physical strength is only one factor and almost certainly not the critical one in determining dominance relationships
    5. A leader who hesitates in defending his proteges might very well have problems defending himself
    6. Tantrums are indicative of the beginning of the end but familiarity breeds contempt. Tantrums which are thrown too often are ignored
    7. Tend to think that the outcome of a fight determines the social relationship, whereas here the outcome was determined by the social relationship. The same was seen in later dominance processes. The prevailing social climate affected the self-confidence of the rivals. It was as if their effectiveness depended on the attitude of the group (rather like a soccer team playing better at home than away).
    8. Speed and agility are just as important as strength
    9. Alpha males experience a physical and emotional change when they become the alpha – hair on end, a “policy” of trying to stabilize the group after the shake up in hierarchy
    10. Pattern Recognition – an older alpha had a better eye for potentially dangerous social developments and realized better than his partner that such developments must be nipped in the bud
    11. One of the new alphas, Nikkie, received great resistance from the females and never had secure rule. He was “greeted” and groomed and obeyed but he lead from a position of fear rather than respect. Must have the backing and support of the females or else your power is fragile
  14. Chimps overcome basic competitive tendencies more than other animals and achieve a high degree of cooperation. They cooperate in order to create a common front against the neighbors – the psyche is one of both competition and compromise and this is what makes chimp society so much more recognizable to us than the social structure of the other great apes
  15. Chimpanzee males avoid looking at each other in moments of tension, challenge, and intimidation. In moments of reconciliation, on the other hand, they look each other straight and deep in the eyes. After a conflict the former opponents may sometimes sit opposite each other for a quarter of an hour or more, trying to catch each other’s eye. Once the opponents are finally looking at each other, first hesitantly but then more steadily, the reconciliation will not be far away. Often, a “sense of honor” would need to be overcome before the reconciliation begins and often it was a third party who would help them out of the impasse. This third party was always one of the adult females
  16. After a fight, contact and conciliation is so important than the winner can blackmail the loser. The winner refuses to have anything to do with the loser until he has received some respectful grunts
  17. A stable hierarchy is a great sign of peace and harmony in the group but only partially ensure peace in the social system. Horizontal developments – in which children grow up and social ties are established, neglected, or broken – inevitably affect the temporarily fixed “vertical” component, the hierarchy. Western “ladder” view of social ties compared to Japanese “network” view. Hierarchical stability cannot be equated with stagnation and monotony, dominance must constantly be proven (Red Queen Effect)
  18. Loser-supporters: a third individual who intervenes in a conflict on the side of the party who would otherwise have lost
  19. Young males of superior fighting ability cannot usurp power without the support of a sizable portion of a group. You have to have the group buy-in and back you – can never do it alone
  20. The chimps have incredible awareness of their social cues. During one of the fights, both sides were bluffing about how brave they were and could be seen holding their hands in front of their mouths so that nobody could see them bearing their teeth (a sign of fear, excitement, nervousness
  21. In all the time studying the apes, the researchers never once witnessed a conflict between the two highest ranking females
    1. Key for stability within a hierarchy to have the top women on the same page?
  22. There are often issues when there is ‘dual leadership’ or a second person who feels they are entitled to respect and power just as much as the true leader. As Machiavelli reasoned, “He who attains the principality with the aid of the nobility maintains it with more difficulty than he who becomes the prince with the assistance of the common people, for he finds himself a prince amidst many who feel themselves to be his equals, and because of this he can neither govern nor manage them as he might wish.”
  23. The males are incredibly tolerant of children. They cannot risk getting upset and losing the support of the females
  24. Sex
    1. The formation of territories is one way of demarcating procreational rights; the formation of a hierarchy is another. There is a definite link between power and sex; no social organization can be properly understood without knowledge of the sexual rules and the way the progeny are cared for. Even the proverbial cornerstone of our society, the family, is essentially a sexual and reproductive unit. Sigmund Freud, speculating about the history of the unit, imagined a “primal horde,” in which our forefathers obeyed one great chief, who jealously guarded all sexual rights and privileges for himself
    2. A female can only be fertilized by one male. By keeping other males away from her, a male increases the certainty that he will be the father of the child. Consequently, children will more often be sired by jealous than by tolerant males. If jealousy is hereditary, and that is what the theory assumes, more and more children will be born with this characteristic, and later they in turn will attempt to exclude other members of the same sex from the reproductive act.
    3. Whereas the males fight for the right to fertilize as many females as possible, the situation for the females is totally different. Whether she copulates with one or one hundred males, it will not alter the number of children she will give birth to. Jealousy among females is therefore less marked. Female competition occurs almost exclusively in pair-bonded species, such as many birds and a few mammals, such as humans. Men get most upset at the thought of their wife or girlfriend having sex with another man, women dislike most the thought that their husband or boyfriend actually loves another woman, regardless of whether or not sex has occurred. Because women look at these things from the perspective of relationships, they are more concerned about a possible emotional tie between their mate and another woman
    4. If a female does not want to mate, it is usually over. Persistent males run the risk of being chased by the female they approached and some of the other females too. Consequently, it is the females who largely engineer the evasion of the rules that exist among males
  25. If the number of individuals in any colony becomes unnaturally alrge, the system collapses (Dunbar’s Number)
  26. Triadic Awareness (Lateral Networks)
    1. Just as individual recognition is a prerequisite of a stable hierarchy, so triadic awareness is a prerequisite of a hierarchy based on coalitions. The term triadic awareness refers to the capacity to perceive social relationships between others so as to form varied triangular relationships. For example, Luit knows that Yeroen and Nikkie are allies, so he will not provoke conflicts with Yeroen when Nikkie is nearby, but he is much less reluctant to do so when he meets Yeroen alone. What is special about this kind of knowledge is that an individual is not only aware of his or her relationships with everyone in the group, but also monitors and evaluates relationships that exist in the social environment so as to gain an understanding of how the self relates to combinations of other individuals. Elementary forms of three-dimensional group life are found in many birds and mammals, but primates are undoubtedly supreme in this respect. Mediation with a view to reconciliation, separating interventions, telling tales, and coalitions would all be inconceivable without triadic awareness
    2. If any of this sounds simple, it is because triadic awareness is second nature to human beings, and we find it hard to imagine a society without it
    3. Dependence on third parties plays such a prominent role in the chimpanzee hierarchy that the basic relationships are completely overshadowed. This is not only true for the complex balance of power in the male triangle. A small child, for example, may chase away a full-grown male. He is able to do so under the protection of his mother or “aunt.” Like the children, these females are basically inferior to the males, but they, in turn, can rely on the support of other females and sometimes can appeal to dominant males for help
  27. The Female Hierarchy
    1. The basis of hierarchical positions is sex-related. Among males coalitions determine dominance. The male dominance over the females is largely determined by their physical superiority. Among females it is above all personality and age that seem to be the determining factors.
    2. Conflicts between females are so rare and the outcome is so unpredictable that they cannot be used as a criterion for determining rank.
    3. The female hierarchy in our chimpanzee group seems to be based on respect from below rather than intimidation and a show of strength from above
      1. Perhaps why it is so stable and powerful – get buy in and respect from the bottom
    4. Our understanding of ape hierarchies is further complicated by the fact that there is a third type of dominance that exists alongside formal dominance and power. For example, when the alpha male places a car tire on one of the drums in the indoor hall with the intention of lying down on it, one of the females may push him away and sit down herself. Females also remove objects, sometimes even food, from the hands of the males without meeting with any resistance
    5. They have things to offer that cannot be taken by force, such as sexual and political favors, and their silent diplomacy, which helps to calm tempers. This provides the females with a good deal of leverage: if being popular among the females is critical for the stability of a male’s leadership, he had better be lenient and accomdating towards them
    6. Quite the opposite from subhuman primates, a man must be generous to be respected
  28. Mutual fear as the basis of alliance formation makes nations weigh in on the lighter side of the balance. The result is a power equilibrium in which all nations hold influential positions. The same principle applies to social psychology and is known as the formation of “minimal winning coalitions.”
  29. A rational choice is based on an estimate of the consequences.
  30. The hankering for power itself is almost certainly inborn. The question now is, how do chimpanzees achieve their ambitions? This too may be hereditary. Some people are said to have “political instinct,” and there is no reason why we should not say the same of chimpanzees. I doubt, however, whether this “instinct” is responsible for all the details of their strategies. Experience is needed to use innate social tendencies as a means to an end in the same way that a young bird born with wings to fly needs months of practice before it has mastered the art. In the case of political strategies, experience can play a role in two ways: directly, during the social processes themselves, or through the projection of old experiences into the future
  31. Sympathy is related to intimacy and familiarity
  32. Sharing
    1. For the adult male, the amount that he himself possesses is not important. What matters is who does the distributing among the group. (However, this only applies to incidental, extra food. Main meals and hunger can cause chimpanzee males to quarrel violently, as the Holloman colony showed.) Females, on the other hand, tend to share mainly with their own children and best friends and do not get into quarrels with other group members. Taking food by force is extremely rare in our colony; sharing is something apes learn young
    2. Their control rests on giving. They give protection to anyone who is threatened and receive respect and support in return. Also among humans the borderline between material and social generosity is scarcely distinguishable. Observations of human children by the psychologists Harvey Ginsburg and Shirley Miller have demonstrated that the most dominant children not only intervene in playground fights to protect losers but also are more willing to share with classmates. The investigators suggest that this behavior helps a child to command high status among peers. Similarly, we know from anthropological studies of pre-literate tribes that the chief exercises an economic role comparable to the control role: he gives and receives. He is rich but does not exploit his people, because he gives huge feasts and helps the needy. The gifts and goods he receives flow back into the community. A chief who tries to keep everything for himself puts his position in jeopardy. Noblesse oblige, or, as Sahlins said, “A man must be generous to be respected.” This universal human system, the collection and redistribution of possessions by the chief, or his modern equivalent, the government, is the same as that used by chimpanzees; all we have to do is replace “possessions” by “support and other social favors.”
      1. Honor this golden rule of generosity in all areas of life. Give more than you receive in every manner
  33. Reciprocation
    1. The influence of the recent past is always overestimated. When we are asked to name the greatest human inventions we tend to think of the telephone, the electric light bulb, and the silicon chip rather than the wheel, the plough, and the taming of fire. Similarly the origins of modern society are sought in the advent of agriculture, trade, and industry, whereas in fact our social history is a thousand times older than these phenomena. It has been suggested that food sharing was a strong stimulus in furthering the evolution of our tendency to reciprocal relations. Would it not be more logical to assume that social reciprocity existed earlier and that tangible exchanges such as food sharing stem from this phenomenon? There are indications of reciprocity in the nonmaterial behaviors of chimps. This is seen, for instance, in their coalitions, nonintervention alliances (A remains neutral if B does the same), sexual bargaining (A tolerates B mating after B has groomed A), and reconciliation blackmail (A refuses to have contact with B unless B “greets” A). It is interesting that reciprocity occurs in both the negative and the positive sense. Nikkie’s habit of individually punishing females who a short time before joined forces against him has already been described. In this way he repaid a negative action with another negative action. We regularly see this mechanism in operation before the group separates for the night. This is the time when differences are squared, no matter when these differences may have arisen. For example, one morning a conflict breaks out between Mama and Oor. Oor rushes to Nikkie and with wild gestures and exaggeratedly loud screams persuades him to attack her powerful opponent. Nikkie attacks Mama, and Oor wins. That evening, however, a good six hours later, we hear the sound of a scuffle in the sleeping quarters. The keeper tells me later that Mama has attacked Oor in no uncertain manner. Needless to say Nikkie was nowhere in the vicinity. Negative behavior hardly enters into the theories about reciprocity that anthropologists and sociologists have developed. Despite the emphasis on powerful exchanges there has not been much theoretical progress
    2. Every individual voluntarily enters and stays in any relationship only as long as it is adequately satisfactory in terms of rewards and costs. Interactions between humans have been regarded as a kind of trading in advantageous and disadvantageous behavior. Here too reciprocity is an important theme, not only in the positive form but also in its negative form.
    3. This give-and-take mechanism is a very old, and very fundamental feature of our species and of chimps. Much of the process may take place in the subconscious, but we all know from experience that things come bubbling up to the surface when the difference between costs and benefits becomes too great. It is then that we voice our feelings. By and large, however, reciprocity is something that takes place silently. The principle of exchange makes it possible actively to teach someone something: good behavior is rewarded; bad behavior is punished
    4. Life in a chimpanzee group is like a market in power, sex, affection, support, intolerance, and hostility. The two basic rules are: one good turn deserves another and an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
  34. The major themes found and discussed in the chimpanzee colony
    1. Formalization – ranks are formalized. When they become unclear a dominance struggle ensues, after which the winner refuses reconciliation as long as his new status is not formally recognized
    2. Influence – an individual’s influence on group processes does not always correspond to his or her rank position. It also depends on personality, age, experience, and connections. I regard our oldest male and oldest female as the most influential group members
    3. Coalitions – interventions in conflicts serve either to help friends and relatives or to build up powerful positions. The second, opportunistic type of intervention is seen specifically in the coalition formation of adult males and goes hand in hand with isolation tactics. There is evidence for a similar sex difference in humans
    4. Balance – in spite of their rivalry, males form strong social bonds among themselves. They tend to develop a balanced power system based on their coalitions, individual fighting abilities, and support from females
    5. Stability – relationships among females are less hierarchically organized and much more stable than among males. A need for stability is also reflected in the females’ attitude toward male status competition. They even mediate between males
    6. Exchanges – the human economic system, with its reciprocal transactions and centralization, is recognizable in the group life of chimpanzees. They exchange social favors rather than gifts or goods, and their support flows to a central individual who uses the prestige derived from it to provide social security. This is his responsibility, in the sense that he may undermine his own position if he fails to redistribute the support received
    7. Manipulation – chimpanzees are intelligent manipulators. Their ability is clear enough in their use of tools, but it is even more pronounced in the use of others as social instruments
  35. To my eyes, the most striking result is that there seem to be two layers of social organization. The first layer we see is a clear-cut rank order, at least among the most dominant individuals. Although primatologists spend a lot of energy discussing the value of the “dominance concept,” they all know that it is impossible to ignore this hierarchical structure. The debate is not about its existence but about the degree to which knowledge of rank relationships helps to explain social processes. I think that, so long as we concentrate on the formal hierarchy, the explanations will be very poor indeed. We should also look behind it, at the second layer: a network of positions of influence. These positions are much more difficult to define, and I consider my descriptions in terms of influence and power only as imperfect first attempts. What I have seen, though, is that individuals losing a top rank certainly do not fall into oblivion: they are still able to pull many strings. In the same way, an individual rising in rank and at first sight appearing to be the big boss does not automatically have the greatest say in all matters. If it is hard to explain this duality of the social organization without using human terms, it is because we have very similar behind-the-scenes influences in our own society. When Aristotle referred to man as a political animal he could not know just how near the mark he was. Our political activity is part of an evolutionary heritage we share with our close relatives. What my work at Arnhem as taught me, however, is that the root of politics are older than humanity
  36. Human’s daily dabbling in politics are not always recognized as such because people are past masters in camouflaging their true intentions. Politicians for example, are vociferous about their ideals and promises but are careful not to disclose personal aspirations for power. This is not mean to be a reproach, because after all everyone plays the same game. I would go further and say that we are largely unaware that we are playing a game and hide our motives not only from others but also underestimate the immense effect they have on our own behavior. Chimps on the other hand, are quite blatant about their “baser” motives. Their interest in power is not greater than that of humanity, it is just more obvious
  37. To compare humans with chimps can be taken to be just as insulting, or perhaps even more so, because human motives seem to become more animal as a result. And yet, among chimps, power politics are not merely “bad” or “dirty.” They give to the life of the Arnhem community its logical coherence and even a democratic structure. All parties search for social significance and continue to do so until a temporary balance is achieved. This balance determines the new hierarchical positions. Changing relationships reached point where they become “frozen” in more or less fixed ranks. When we see how this formalization takes place during reconciliations, we understand that the hierarchy is a cohesive factor, which puts limits on competition and conflict. Child care, play, sex, and cooperation depend on the resultant stability. But underneath the surface the situation is constantly in a state of flux. The balance of power is texted daily, and if it proves too weak it is challenged and a new balance established. Consequently chimpanzee politics are also constructive. Humans should regard it as an honor to be classed as political animals.
What I got out of it
  1. Female support counts for as much as nearly anything, coalitions/reconciliation as important in chimp’s life as in human life, much more about cooperation than simply brute strength/size/speed, aggressive cooperation is one of the highest forms of strategy, the need for physical contact is crucial for social bonding and reconciliation, power is truly comprised of two things: social influence and formal dominance, must get buy in from the bottom of the group in order to have a stable hierarchy, man must be generous in order to be respected, stability vita for a well functioning group and hierarchy, hierarchy is a cohesive and a constructive factor which put limits on competition and conflict

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memory of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance

  1. JD Vance wrote this book not because he’s accomplished anything extraordinary, but because he’s accomplished something ordinary. His poor upbringing and difficult childhood indicates he’d never escape but he was able to graduate from Yale Law School.
Key Takeaways
  1. There is of course inequality but there is also a lack of agency, of responsibility, of accountability that JD has found in his cohort
  2. The honor culture of the south leads many into violence and revenge, not being able to let an insult go
  3. For most hillbillies, the only way up is to move out. There are astonishing numbers of people moving away from the Appalachian region every year, in pursuit of a livable wage
  4. People don’t expect much of themselves because the people around them aren’t doing very much
  5. Despite all the social and peers pressures, JD received a different message at home that it was alright to learn and to strive and that made all the difference to him
  6. Parent’s desire for their kids to do better didn’t just relate to education, work, and pay, but to relationships too. Low expectations for those living in the Appalachians is hurting every generation
  7. JD had no role models for relationships and thought that screaming, violence, and hitting was how adults spoke to each other
  8. We are all very bad at judging ourselves
  9. His grandma was his most important positive influence as she showed him not only what was possible but how to get there. She helped him raise what he expected out of himself
  10. The instability in JD’s life was so disruptive. He was in several different homes with several different father figures in only a couple of years. Once he had a safe, stable place with grandma, he was able to focus and do his work
  11. JD enlisted in the marine corps and graduating was his proudest accomplishment. He got out of his learned helplessness and it made him see and question things once he returned home
  12. Sometimes those in power try to help the helpless without truly understanding their situation, which often ends up with negative consequences
  13. When a group believes that hard work will pay off, they all work harder and go all-in, often with amazing results
  14. The predominant emotion in lower middle class working white Americans is a sense of pessimism and a lack of accountability. They’re not willing to work hard and be consistent and blame others or the government for their problems
  15. Most successful people don’t even play the same game as the people JD grew up with. He had no idea how important networking, one’s social capital, was for one’s prospects. He learned this during his time at Yale Law and going through the interview/admissions process
What I got out of it
  1. An amazing dive into the life of poor Appalachians and the struggles they face. JD told his story in such an open, transparent, vulnerable way and gave me insight into situations I didn’t appreciate or know much about before. Inspiring how hard JD worked to escape his situation, his learned helplessness

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

  1. Although it may not seem like it, violence has seen a steady downward trend over the last several hundred years and we may in fact be living in the most peaceful time in our history. This book describes why this has occurred
Key Takeaways
  1. Hard to make any real progress when you are constantly worried about being attacked and pillaged. Changes not only how life is lived but also how life is understood
  2. Decline in violence has been paralleled by changes in the perception and glorification of violence and brutality, letting “the better angels of our nature” shine through and gain the spotlight
  3. Humans are not innately good nor bad – we have inner demons and angels and, along with culture and history, these guide men in their use of violence
  4. 6 major trends
    1. Pacification process – Shift from anarchy of hunter gatherer to more organized, agricultural life.
    2. Civilizing process – consolidation of land into feudal territories with a central authority
    3. Humanitarian revolution – progress towards removal of group-wide violence such as slavery and despotism
    4. Long peace – after WWII, major world powers have stopped waging wars on one another
    5. New peace – organized wars of all kinds have been on the decline
    6. The rights revolutions – more and more groups are gaining undisputed universal rights
  5. 5 inner demons
    1. Predatory violence
    2. Dominance
    3. Revenge
    4. Sadism
    5. Ideology
  6. 4 better angels
    1. Empathy
    2. Self control
    3. Moral sense through culture
    4. Faculty of reason
  7. 5 historical forces which have driven decreasing violence
    1. The Leviathan – legitimate use of force is encouraged by the central power and makes people feel they are on the right side of the angels when they use violence
    2. Feminization – increased respect for women and women’s rights
    3. Commerce – exchange of goods and ideas allowed quicker spread of more enlightened culture and is not zero sum
    4. Cosmopolitanism – literacy, mobility and mass media allow people to absorb different cultures and move away from immediate surroundings
    5. Escalator of reason – force people to reframe violence and see it as something which we can reduce
  8. Describes in gruesome detail the violence and its common occurrence during the hunter gatherer and early agricultural times. Especially as it’s depicted in the Bible
  9. Honor is a strange thing in that it exists only because we believe others believe it exists
  10. The US has a much higher homicide rate than Europe and most other developed countries and southern US far higher than northern. The author says that a culture of honor which was passed down from herders is the reason. Most southerners descended from herders and herders have a quicker anger trigger and are more likely to retaliate because livestock is easy to steal whereas land, which is what most northerner’s wealth was tied to, isn’t.
  11. One universal constant of violence is that 15-30 year old men conduct most of it
  12. Nature abhors a lop sided sex ratio
  13. Government does not deter violence because its citizens feels like Big Brother is always watching but because there is a reliable and consistent system in place where there is a good shot that you’ll get caught and punished if you commit a crime
  14. As books became more abundant after the printing press, the “bubble of empathy” was inflated as people were more commonly learning about secular rather than only religious topics and able to take fresh perspectives through novels and travel books
  15. War has steadily been decreasing in number but increasing in its total damage
  16. Wars declined substantially in the 18th century as many of the world powers shifted from conquest to commerce.
  17. Democracy, trade and intergovernmental ties reduce violence due to intermingling and inter-reliance
  18. To kill millions, more than weapons, you need an ideology
  19. The author believes that the single greatest catalyst of the rights revolution was the increasing spread and usage of technology which fostered noble action.
  20. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is one of the most important ideas / explanations of the 20th century. It has found that the “tit-for-tat” strategy most often leads to the best outcomes. If you mirror what the other party does, you get the most cooperation and benefits. An even superior strategy, which could be taken advantage of if there are too many “defectors” or “freeloaders” is tit-for-tat with added forgiveness. Mirror what the other person/team/company/etc. does and if they make a decision once which hurts you, forgive them (once).
  21. Increasing self-control over the last several centuries is a key reason for the huge drops in violence we have seen. A culture of honor shifted to a culture of dignity where men were more respected for their self control than for lashing out for any offenses
  22. Intelligence and self-control are the best predictors of success and decreased violence in both individuals and states. Reason has shown to negatively correlate to violence and the Flynn Effect (increasing intelligence seen over periods of decades rather than generations) have helped decrease violence
What I got out of it
  1. A deep and fascinating book. Does a great job of taking a big picture historical overview to describe many trends which have led to decreasing violence

Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter by Scott Adams

  1. Discusses how emotional rather than rational people really are and how to use this fact to persuade people. He uses the recent Trump presidential campaign to tie in real life examples of his persuasion tips
Key Takeaways
  1. Trump’s presidential victory “ripped a whole in the fabric of the universe” in the sense that people have had to alter their mental models to fit reality. Objectivity was believed to be synonymous with reality but Trump’s victory shows that we have to alter the “movie in our head” to model what is really happening. This was one of the biggest perceptual shifts to ever occur
  2. A good mental filter is one which helps you predict the future and makes you happy. Adams does not say that the persuasion filter is an accurate representation of reality
  3. Cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias are two phenomena which affects everyone.
    1. Adams’ blog and prediction of a Trump victory was partly motivated by him wanting to make sure people were looking at the situation through the right lens. Trump remade the Republican Party in his own image, destroyed the media’s credibility and crushed the Democrats.
    2. The tell for cognitive dissonance is not the quality of explanations but how many of them there are. Also, overly emotional or aggressive responses, the psychic psychiatrist (thinking you can know other people’s unspoken feelings or thoughts), retreating to analogy, extreme social or professional pressure to agree with the assumed answer, and attacking the messenger are other tells.
    3. Cognitive dissonance isn’t a bug in the operating system. It is the system. Mass delusions are the norm
  4. Always keep an eye out for leaders who have a “reality distortion field”
  5. 2D v. 3D world
    1. Second dimension – mental model most people use which says that people are mostly rational. Master persuaders operate on the third dimension where people are irrational 90% of the time. Humans think they are rational and that they can understand reality but they are wrong on both accounts. The truth is that humans bounce around from illusion to illusion, thinking we see reality.
    2. Facts play little role in the big decisions in our lives as we are emotional creatures. We make emotional decisions and then rationalize them after the fact
    3. When emotions are involved, people simply don’t change their minds just because facts are presented
  6. Evolution doesn’t care if your representation of reality is accurate as long as you procreate
  7. Moist robot filter – people are like software and if you feed them certain inputs, you’ll likely get certain outputs
  8. To attract the other sex, aim to be talented rather than nice. This signals good genes
  9. When someone exceeds your expectations, look to see if they have a talent stack – a grouping of talents which add onto the others and allows them to excel
  10. Some of the most powerful words in history have been “turn the other cheek” and “we the people”
  11. Look for situations or decisions which give you multiple ways to win and none or minimal ways to lose. The importance of systems over goals
  12. Persuasion tips
    1. Fear is the strongest form of persuasion
    2. When you identify as part of a group, your beliefs tend to fall towards the consensus of that group
    3. Reciprocity is a huge tool for the persuader
    4. Persuasion works on the subject even when they know its being used on them
    5. The things you think about the most will irrationally rise in importance in your mind
    6. If you are not a master persuader, find a balance between never apologizing and apologizing too much
    7. Don’t trust any explanation of reality which isn’t able to predict
    8. People are more influenced by the direction of things than by their current state
    9. Display confidence whether real or not to improve persuasion
    10. Hypnosis works best when the hypnotist has credibility
    11. Calling out what someone is thinking when they are thinking it makes you connect and gives you more persuasive power
    12. Leave enough blank spaces in your content/argument/etc. so people can fill it in with whatever makes them happiest (Dilbert has no last name and don’t know what industry he’s in so more people can connect…)
    13. People are more addicted and respond better to unpredictable rewards compared to predictable rewards
    14. Aligning yourself and making yourself a key part of helping people reach their aspirations is a great tool of persuasion
    15. It is easier to persuade when you establish and signal any form of credibility
    16. People hate uncertainty and those who offered we are simple and strong answers even if they’re wrong are more persuasive
    17. Visual persuasion is far more powerful than non-visual persuasion
    18. People are more persuaded by contrast than by fact or reason. Humans need contrast in order to make decisions and prioritize. Find ways to set yourself apart from competitors
    19. Association is a very strong form of persuasion. All people and all companies are always “marketing.” What you associate yourself with becomes your brand and what people think of when they think of you. Associate carefully with positive factors. People forget what you say but not how you make them feel
    20. People almost always get used to small annoyances. We love novelty and almost always adjust to things as they routine
    21. All communication depends upon what we believe is in the mind of the person communicating. What you say is important but not nearly as important as what people think you are thinking
    22. High energy is taken for competent leadership even when it is not
    23. Direct requests are persuasive. Ask the customer if they want to buy. Trump ends many sentences with “believe me.” A command disguised as throw away words but in fact become associated with him over time as he repeats this over time
    24. Repetition is persuasion. Repetition is persuasion.
    25. Match the pace of the people you want to persuade and then you can lead. Copy their emotion and speaking style
      1. Trump matched the emotional base of his constituency and played to it. He made big, outrageous first ask and later, when he compromised, the other side felt relieved but more got done than maybe otherwise would have. Policies during the election weren’t that important as he would figure out the details later
    26. People love the simplest explanation of things but in a “3D” world this is hardly ever accurate
    27. Simple explanations are more credible than complicated ones even if wrong or incomplete
    28. Have to be memorable to be persuasive. Easily remember things which violate our expectations. A good general rule is that people are more influenced by visual persuasion, emotion and repetition of facts
      1. People put far more importance on the first part of a sentence than the second. Structure them carefully
    29. Analogies are great tools to describe a new concept but are terrible tools to try to persuade others
    30. Provide a “fake because”. This is a reason which those on the fence can fall back on and use as their excuse for deciding the way you want them to
    31. Making an exaggerated statement which is directionally correct is another form of persuasion as it tends to stick better in people’s minds
    32. The master persuader move energy and attention to where it helps him the most
    33. High ground maneuver – elevating a debate from the details on which people disagree to a broader concept on which people tend to agree on. Instead of attacking people’s actions, take the high ground and ask them if that is truly the person they want to be. Point out the gap and watch it close
    34. Linguistic kill shot – a nickname or short phrase which is so persuasive that it can end a debate immediately
      1. Trump is a master at using images, visual perception. Low Energy Jeb, Crooked Hillary, Pocahontas, The Wall
    35. Nothing kills humor like a boring and general truth. Steve Jobs’ response to issues with the iPhone 4s antenna is a prime example
What I got out of it
  1.  A lot of gems and great tips / cautions on how to go about being a better persuader. If you know the rules / tactics, you’ll be better able to spot them and combat them from being used on you

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

  1. The authors describe some of the self-justification mechanisms people often use to help them navigate the world. While they may help avoid psychological discomfort, they can lead to painful errors, bad decisions and not learning from one’s mistakes
Key Takeaways
  1. Once proven wrong, people tend to even more voraciously protect their point of view or, if they do admit they were wrong, the responsibility for it falls to someone else
  2. Self justification is so powerful and insidious because it allows people to save face, have a clear conscience, helps to convince themselves that they did everything they could, and, often, what they did was in fact it was the right thing to do. We justify the small or big things so that we can keep doing them without having to change our behavior or see ourselves as bad people or hypocrites
  3. Self justification can help us psychologically but it won’t help us change bad habits or confront reality
  4. Cognitive dissonance is a prime motivator for self justification. People very rarely can face their mistakes and change their minds. It is easier to change their memory or pass on blame to someone or something external
  5. If we have to do something painful or embarrassing we will most likely become more attached to the group, outcome, idea, etc. (i.e., hazing ties people psychologically to the group and the more painful/embarrassing the more they associate)
  6. Everyone has blind spots and they’re so dangerous because they convince us we don’t have blind spots but all others do
  7. It is vital to surround yourself with people who have different views, who are willing to disagree with you, and to study and focus on disconfirming evidence so that you do not fall into the confirmation bias trap and only see things or spend time with people who agree with you
  8. Our memories are extremely flimsy and vulnerable to manipulation or simple fabrication. This is important to remember as many of our life narratives, relationships, etc. are based on memories which very likely aren’t totally accurate and in some cases totally made up
  9. Imagination inflation – the more you imagine something the more confident you become and the more details you add to these memories or images
  10. Repetition slowly chips away at people’s skepticism and is why it is so often used by salesmen and other people tying to persuade you
  11. The victim mindset is often used as it gives people someone or something to blame. Making them feel better and externalize responsibility
  12. Happy partners give each other the benefit of the doubt. Ascribing bad moods to their situation rather than character and thoughtful actions as genuine rather than trying to cover something up. 5:1 positive to negative interactions is the minimum for happy relationships
  13. Shame, mocking, and contempt are the final indications of failing relationships
  14. Owning up to mistakes and apologizing is often the best thing we can do and in fact often gains us favor and standing in the eyes of others. It is of course difficult to admit fault but even more insidious is the fact that we often don’t recognize that we even need to apologize because our self justification is operating at a near sub-conscious level
What I got out of it
  1. Self justification, cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and the slow and gradual giving in and laxing of morals can have disastrous results on our learning and decision-making over time. We probably can never get rid of them completely, but we can be aware of them and how they might creep up in our lives.

Why Don’t We Learn From History? by BH Liddell Hart

  1. Hart succinctly and engagingly describes why history is so important to study and, yet, why so few do
Key Takeaways
  1. There is no panacea for peace that can be written out in a formula like a doctor’s prescription. But one can set down a series of practical points—elementary principles drawn from the sum of human experience in all times. Study war and learn from its history. Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent and always assist him to save his face. Put yourself in his shoes—so as to see things through his eyes. Avoid self-righteousness like the devil—nothing is so self-blinding. Cure yourself of two commonly fatal delusions—the idea of victory and the idea that war cannot be limited
  2. I would emphasize a basic value of history to the individual. As Burckhardt said, our deeper hope from experience is that it should “make us, not shrewder (for next time), but wiser (for ever).” History teaches us personal philosophy.
  3. Over two thousand years ago, Polybius, the soundest of ancient historians, began his History with the remark that “the most instructive, indeed the only method of learning to bear with dignity the vicissitude of fortune, is to recall the catastrophes of others.” History is the best help, being a record of how things usually go wrong. A long historical view not only helps us to keep calm in a “time of trouble” but reminds us that there is an end to the longest tunnel. Even if we can see no good hope ahead, an historical interest as to what will happen is a help in carrying on. For a thinking man, it can be the strongest check on a suicidal feeling.
  4. What is the object of history? I would answer, quite simply – “truth.” The object might be more cautiously expressed thus: to find out what happened while trying to find out why it happened. In other words, to seek the causal relations between events. History has limitations as guiding signpost, however, for although it can show us the right direction, it does not give detailed information about the road conditions
    1. NOTE: map is not the terrain
  5. History can show us what to avoid, even if it does not teach us what to do—by showing the most common mistakes that mankind is apt to make and to repeat. A second object lies in the practical value of history. “Fools,” said Bismarck, “say they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by other people’s experience.” The study of history offers that opportunity in the widest possible measure. It is universal experience – infinitely longer, wider, and more varied than any individual’s experience.
  6. The point was well expressed by Polybius. “There are two roads to the reformation for mankind—one through misfortunes of their own, the other through the misfortunes of others; the former is the most unmistakable, the latter the less painful…the knowledge gained from the study of true history is the best of all educations for practical life
  7. Why were they not deduced? Partly because the General Staffs’ study was too narrow, partly because they were blinded by their own professional interests and sentiments. But the “surprising” developments were correctly deduced from those earlier wars by certain non-official students of war who were able to think with detachment
  8. History is the record of man’s steps and slips. It shows us that the steps have been slow and slight; the slips, quick and abounding. It provides us with the opportunity to profit by the stumbles and tumbles of our forerunners. Awareness of our limitations should make us chary of condemning those who made mistakes, but we condemn ourselves if we fail to recognize mistakes
  9. Viewed aright, it is the broadest of studies, embracing every aspect of life. It lays the foundation of education by showing how mankind repeats its errors and what those errors are
  10. In reality, reason has had a greater influence than fortune on the issue of wars that have most influenced history. Creative thought has often counted for more than courage; for more, even, than gifted leadership. It is a romantic habit to ascribe to a flash of inspiration in battle what more truly has been due to seeds long sown—to the previous development of some new military practice by the victors, or to avoidable decay in the military practice of the losers.
  11. Direct experience is inherently too limited to form an adequate foundation either for theory or for application. At the best it produces an atmosphere that is of value in drying and hardening the structure of thought. The greater value of indirect experience lies in its greater variety and extent. “History is universal experience”—the experience not of another but of many others under manifold conditions.
  12. The increasing specialization of history has tended to decrease the intelligibility of history and thus forfeit the benefit to the community
  13. Observing the working of committees of many kinds, I have long come to realize the crucial importance of lunchtime. Two hours or more may have been spent in deliberate discussion and careful weighing of a problem, but the last quarter of an hour often counts for more than all the rest. At 12:45pm there may be no prospect of an agreed solution, yet around about 1pm important decisions may be reached with little argument—because the attention of the members has turned to watching the hands of their watches. Those moving hands can have a remarkable effect in accelerating the movements of minds—to the point of a snap decision. The more influential members of any committee are the most likely to have important lunch engagements, and the more important the committee the more likely is this contingency. A shrewd committeeman often develops a technique based on this time calculation. He will defer his own intervention in the discussion until lunchtime is near, when the majority of the others are more inclined to accept any proposal that sounds good enough to enable them to keep their lunch engagement.
  14. Another danger, among “hermit” historians, is that they often attach too much value to documents. Men in high office are apt to have a keen sense of their own reputation in history. Many documents are written to deceive or conceal. Moreover, the struggles that go on behind the scenes, and largely determine the issue, are rarely recorded in documents.
  15. Lloyd George frequently emphasized to me in conversation that one feature that distinguished a first-rate political leader from a second-rate politician is that the former was always careful to avoid making any definite statement that could be subsequently refuted, as he was likely to be caught out in the long run.
  16. “Hard writing makes easy reading.” Such hard writing makes for hard thinking.
  17. Discernment may be primarily a gift—and a sense of proportion, too. But their development can be assisted by freedom from prejudice, which largely rests with the individual to achieve—and within his power to achieve it. Or at least to approach it. The way of approach is simple, if not easy—requiring, above all, constant self-criticism and care for precise statement.
  18. To view any question subjectively is self-blinding.
  19. Doubt is unnerving save to philosophic minds, and armies are not composed of philosophers, either at the top or at the bottom. In no activity is optimism so necessary to success, for it deals so largely with the unknown—even unto death. The margin that separates optimism from blind folly is narrow. Thus there is no cause for surprise that soldiers have so often overstepped it and become the victims of their faith.
  20. The point had been still more clearly expressed in the eleventh-century teaching of Chang-Tsai: “If you can doubt at points where other people feel no impulse to doubt, then you are making progress.”
  21. We learn too that nothing has aided the persistence of falsehood, and the evils resulting from it, more than the unwillingness of good people to admit the truth when it was disturbing to their comfortable assurance. Always the tendency continues to be shocked by natural comment and to hold certain things too “sacred” to think about.
  22. How rarely does one meet anyone whose first reaction to anything is to ask “Is it true?” Yet unless that is a man’s natural reaction it shows that truth is not uppermost in his mind, and, unless it is, true progress is unlikely.
  23. Yet the longer I watch current events, the more I have come to see how many of our troubles arise from the habit, on all sides, of suppressing or distorting what we know quite well is the truth, out of devotion to a cause, an ambition, or an institution—at bottom, this devotion being inspired by our own interest.
  24. It was saddening to discover how many apparently honorable men would stoop to almost to anything to help their own advancement.
  25. A different habit, with worse effect, was the way that ambitious officers when they came in sight of promotion to the generals’ list, would decide that they would bottle up their thoughts and ideas, as a safety precaution, until they reached the top and could put these ideas into practice. Unfortunately the usual result, after years of such self-repression for the sake of their ambition, was that when the bottle was eventually uncorked the contents had evaporated.
  26. In my experience the troubles of the world largely come from excessive regard to other interests.
  27. We learn from history that those who are disloyal to their own superiors are most prone to preach loyalty to their subordinates.
  28. Loyalty is a noble quality, so long as it is not blind and does not exclude the higher loyalty to truth and decency.
  29. Truth may not be absolute, but it is certain that we are likely to come nearest to it if we search for it in a purely scientific spirit and analyze the facts with a complete detachment from all loyalties save that to truth itself. It implies that one must be ready to discard one’s own pet ideas and theories as the search progresses.
  30. Faith matters so much in times of crisis. One must have gone deep into history before reaching the conviction that truth matters more.
  31. All of us do foolish things—but the wiser realize what they do. The most dangerous error is failure to recognize our own tendency to error. That failure is a common affliction of authority.
  32. The pretense to infallibility is instinctive in a hierarchy. But to understand the cause is not to underrate the harm that the pretense has produced—in every sphere.
  33. Hence the duty of the good citizen who is free from the responsibility of Government is to be a watchdog upon it, lest Government impair the fundamental objects which it exists to serve. It is a necessary evil, thus requiring constant watchfulness and check.
  34. What is of value in “England” and “America” and worth defending is its tradition of freedom—the guarantee of its vitality. Our civilization, like the Greek, has, for all its blundering way, taught the value of freedom, of criticism of authority—and of harmonizing this with order. Anyone who urges a different system, for efficiency’s sake, is betraying the vital tradition.
  35. We learn from history that self-made despotic rulers follow a standard pattern. In gaining power: They exploit, consciously or unconsciously, a state of popular dissatisfaction with the existing regime or of hostility between different sections of the people. On gaining power: They soon begin to rid themselves of their chief helpers, “discovering” that those who brought about the new order have suddenly become traitors to it. This political confidence trick, itself a familiar string of tricks, has been repeated all down the ages. Yet it rarely fails to take in a fresh generation.
  36. We learn from history that time does little to alter the psychology of dictatorship. The effect of power on the mind of the man who possesses it, especially when he has gained it by successful aggression, tends to be remarkably similar in every age and in every country.
  37. Bad means lead to no good end.
  38. But “anti-Fascism” or “anti-Communism” is not enough. Nor is even the defense of freedom. What has been gained may not be maintained, against invasion without and erosion within, if we are content to stand still. The peoples who are partially free as a result of what their forebears achieved in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries must continue to spread the gospel of freedom and work for the extension of the conditions, social and economic as well as political, which are essential to make men free.
  39. We learn from history that the compulsory principle always breaks down in practice. It is practicable to prevent men doing something; moreover that principle of restraint, or regulation, is essentially justifiable in so far as its application is needed to check interference with others’ freedom. But it is not, in reality, possible to make men do something without risking more than is gained from the compelled effort. The method may appear practicable, because it often works when applied to those who are merely hesitant. When applied to those who are definitely unwilling it fails, however, because it generates friction and fosters subtle forms of evasion that spoil the effect which is sought. The test of whether a principle works is to be found in the product. Efficiency springs from enthusiasm—because this alone can develop a dynamic impulse. Enthusiasm is incompatible with compulsion—because it is essentially spontaneous. Compulsion is thus bound to deaden enthusiasm—because it dries up the source. The more an individual, or a nation, has been accustomed to freedom, the more deadening will be the effect of a change to compulsion.
  40. Conscription does not fit the conditions of modern warfare—its specialized technical equipment, mobile operations, and fluid situations. Success increasingly depends on individual initiative, which in turn springs from a sense of personal responsibility—these senses are atrophied by compulsion. Moreover, every unwilling man is a germ carrier, spreading infection to an extent altogether disproportionate to the value of the service he is forced to contribute.
  41. Unless the great majority of a people are willing to give their services there is something radically at fault in the state itself. In that case the state is not likely or worthy to survive under test—and compulsion will make no serious difference.
  42. But the deeper I have gone into the study of war and the history of the past century the further I have come toward the conclusion that the development of conscription has damaged the growth of the idea of freedom in the Continental countries and thereby damaged their efficiency also—by undermining the sense of personal responsibility.
    1. NOTE: great parallels to business. Giving away ownership and responsibility gets people all-in, to self-police, to be your best salesman and advocates. Forcing them to try to act this way never works
  43. I believe that freedom is the foundation of efficiency, both national and military. Thus it is a practical folly as well as a spiritual surrender to “go totalitarian” as a result of fighting for existence against the totalitarian states. Cut off the incentive to freely given service and you dry up the life source of a free community.
  44. Reforms that last are those that come naturally, and with less friction, when men’s minds have become ripe for them. A life spent in sowing a few grains of fruitful thought is a life spent more effectively than in hasty action that produces a crop of weeds. That leads us to see the difference, truly a vital difference, between influence and power.
  45. History shows that a main hindrance to real progress is the ever-popular myth of the “great man.” While “greatness” may perhaps be used in a comparative sense, if even then referring more to particular qualities than to the embodied sum, the “great man” is a clay idol whose pedestal has been built up by the natural human desire to look up to someone, but whose form has been carved by men who have not yet outgrown the desire to be regarded, or to picture themselves, as great men.
  46. We learn from history that expediency has rarely proved expedient.
    1. NOTE: John Wooden – be quick but don’t hurry
  47. Civilization is built on the practice of keeping promises. It may not sound a high attainment, but if trust in its observance be shaken the whole structure cracks and sinks. Any constructive effort and all human relations—personal, political, and commercial—depend on being able to depend on promises.
    1. NOTE: like any high performing culture, trust is at the center of it all. Not being able to depend on promises erodes trust
  48. It is immoral to make promises that one cannot in practice fulfill—in the sense that the recipient expects.
  49. I have come to think that accuracy, in the deepest sense, is the basic virtue—the foundation of understanding, supporting the promise of progress. The cause of most troubles can be traced to excess; the failure to check them to deficiency; their prevention lies in moderation. So in the case of troubles that develop from spoken or written communication, their cause can be traced to overstatement, their maintenance to understatement, while their prevention lies in exact statement. It applies to private as well as to public life.
  50. Studying their effect, one is led to see that the germs of war lie within ourselves—not in economics, politics, or religion as such. How can we hope to rid the world of war until we have cured ourselves of the originating causes?
  51. Any history of war which treats only of its strategic and political course is merely a picture of the surface. The personal currents run deeper and may have a deeper influence on the outcome.
  52. We learn from history that complete victory has never been completed by the result that the victors always anticipate—a good and lasting peace. For victory has always sown the seeds of a fresh war, because victory breeds among the vanquished a desire for vindication and vengeance and because victory raises fresh rivals.
    1. NOTE: dialectical materialism
  53. A too complete victory inevitably complicates the problem of making a just and wise peace settlement. Where there is no longer the counterbalance of an opposing force to control the appetites of the victors, there is no check on the conflict of views and interests between the parties to the alliance. The divergence is then apt to become so acute as to turn the comradeship of common danger into the hospitality of mutual dissatisfaction—so that the ally of one war becomes the enemy in the next.
  54. Where the two sides are too evenly matched to offer a reasonable chance of early success to either, the statesman is wise who can learn something from the psychology of strategy. It is an elementary principle of strategy that, if you find your opponent in a strong position costly to force, you should leave him a line of retreat—as the quickest way of loosening his resistance. It should, equally, be a principle of policy, especially in war, to provide your opponent with a ladder by which he can climb down.
  55. War is profitable only if victory is quickly gained. Only an aggressor can hope to gain a quick victory. If he is frustrated, the war is bound to be long, and mutually ruinous, unless it is brought to an end by mutual agreement.
  56. The history of ancient Greece showed that, in a democracy, emotion dominates reason to a greater extent than in any other political system, thus giving freer rein to the passions which sweep a state into war and prevent it getting out—at any point short of the exhaustion and destruction of one or other of the opposing sides.
  57. It was because Wellington really understood war that he became so good at securing peace. He was the least militaristic of soldiers and free from the lust of glory. It was because he saw the value of peace that he became so unbeatable in war. For he kept the end in view, instead of falling in love with the means. Unlike Napoleon, he was not infected by the romance of war, which generates illusions and self-deceptions. That was how Napoleon had failed and Wellington prevailed.
  58. One of the clear lessons that history teaches is that no agreement between Governments has had any stability beyond their recognition that it is in their own interests to continue to adhere to it. I cannot conceive that any serious student of history would be impressed by such a hollow phrase as “the sanctity of treaties.”
  59. We must face the fact that international relations are governed by interests and not by moral principles. Then it can be seen that the validity of treaties depends on mutual convenience. This can provide an effective guarantee.
  60. Any plan for peace is apt to be not only futile but dangerous. Like most planning, unless of a mainly material kind, it breaks down through disregard of human nature. Worse still, the higher the hopes that are built on such a plan, the more likely that their collapse may precipitate war.
  61. For whoever habitually suppresses the truth in the interests of tact will produce a deformity from the womb of his thought.
  62. Opposition to the truth is inevitable, especially if it takes the form of a new idea, but the degree of resistance can be diminished—by giving thought not only to the aim but to the method of approach. Avoid a frontal attack on a long-established position; instead, seek to turn it by a flank movement, so that a more penetrable side is exposed to the thrust of truth. But in any such indirect approach, take care not to diverge from the truth—for nothing is more fatal to its real advancement than to lapse into untruth.
  63. Even among great scholars there is no more unhistorical fallacy than that, in order to command, you must learn to obey.
  64. A model boy rarely goes far, and even when he does he is apt to falter when severely tested. A boy who conforms immaculately to school rules is not likely to grow into a man who will conquer by breaking the stereotyped professional rules of his time—as conquest has most often been achieved. Still less does it imply the development of the wide views necessary in a man who is not merely a troop commander but the strategic adviser of his Government. The wonderful thing about Lee’s generalship is not his legendary genius but the way he rose above his handicaps—handicaps that were internal even more than external.
  65. the deeper the study of modern war is carried the stronger grows the conviction of its futility.
  66. The more that warfare is “formalized” the less damaging it proves. Past efforts in this direction have had more success than is commonly appreciated.
  67. The habit of violence takes much deeper root in irregular warfare than it does in regular warfare. In the latter it is counteracted by the habit of obedience to constituted authority, whereas the former makes a virtue of defying authority and violating rules. It becomes very difficult to rebuild a country, and a stable state, on such an undermined foundation.
  68. Vitality springs from diversity—which makes for real progress so long as there is mutual toleration, based on the recognition that worse may come from an attempt to suppress differences than from acceptance of them.
  69. To put it another way, it seems to me that the spiritual development of humanity as a whole is like a pyramid, or a mountain peak, where all angles of ascent tend to converge the higher they climb. On the one hand this convergent tendency, and the remarkable degree of agreement that is to be found on the higher levels, appears to me the strongest argument from experience that morality is absolute and not merely relative and that religious faith is not a delusion.
  70. Manners are apt to be regarded as a surface polish. That is a superficial view. They arise from an inward control. A fresh realization of their importance is needed in the world today, and their revival might prove the salvation of civilization. For only manners in the deeper sense—of mutual restraint for mutual security—can control the risk that outbursts of temper over political and social issues may lead to mutual destruction in the atomic age.
  71. Truth is a spiral staircase. What looks true on one level may not be true on the next higher level. A complete vision must extend vertically as well as horizontally—not only seeing the parts in relation to one another but embracing the different planes. Ascending the spiral, it can be seen that individual security increases with the growth of society, that local security increases when linked to a wider organization, that national security increases when nationalism decreases and would become much greater if each nation’s claim to sovereignty were merged in a super-national body.
What I got out of it
  1. Not quite Durant’s Lessons of History but one of the best “meta” books on history I’ve come across. The lessons to be gained from in-depth study of history and why it is worth it, and why we don’t