When I started my YouTube Channel and Podcast, I set out on the mission to hunt down something I called the Sovereign Mindset.
Sovereignty: “Self Governing.”
A self governing mind is not as accessible as we’d like. We are surrounded by influence - some conscious, like media narratives, friends, family and life experiences, but many unconscious, like cognitive biases, generational traumas and heuristics.
When we are faced with a situation that our brains must process, these influences are subconsciously and instantaneously entered into a formula, and the outcome is what we call ‘intuition’.
Our intuition is algorithmic. The inputs of this algorithm are not weighted equally, and are largely clouded by a plethora of biases: availability bias, recency bias, anchoring bias, endowment bias and endless more.
The more I study the psychology of decision making, the more I understand we have far less free will than we would care to admit.
In order to achieve ‘free will’ - or a ‘self governing mind’, we must understand the obstacles.
A mind is a garden, which may be cultivated or run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it will bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed-seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.
- James Allen
We cannot prevent our biases, but we can control them by constantly challenging our assumptions. However, I believe this practice is in decline.
I’ve written in the past about our depreciating ability to engage in tolerant debate of ideas that challenge us. This manifests in an ‘Us vs Them’ mindset and an acceleration of echo chambers and tribalism.
If we reject ideas that challenge our own, we are the ones who will get hurt.
Let me propose something.
If I engage in a debate with someone about an idea I am very passionate about - and the other person systematically dismantles my points of conviction and disproves all of my assumptions - I am not the loser - I am the winner. I come out of the conversation with an expanded point of view, with a new awareness of my blindspots having added new perspectives to my arsenal of knowledge.
Surrounding ourselves with opinions that challenge our own is a fundamental ingredient for our growth and progress.
But somehow this has been replaced with the faulty narrative of “Think critically, as long as you think critically the same way I think critically…”
But in a world awash with noise and senseless opinions - how do we determine what ideas are worth our attention?
I recently had Andy Norman, the author of Mental Immunity on my Podcast. In his book, Norman discusses “infectious ideas, mind-parasites, and his search for a better way to think”. It is possible, he argues, to immunize your mind from bad ideas.
Although not infallible, he walked me through his three criteria for determining good vs bad ideas:
1. Good ideas are presented truthfully, bad ideas are presented falsely.
Is the presenter of the idea speaking authentically, or intentionally misleading?
2. Good ideas are heavily evidenced, bad ideas are not.
Has this been researched, or is this conjecture?
3. Good ideas produce positive results for humanity, bad ideas produce negative results for humanity.
On a micro scale this one is more ambiguous to me, however there are obvious examples such as the idea of race superiority.
Why share all of this today? Because I put a lot of thought into how I present ideas, how I honour my critics and how I police my assumptions.
However, earlier this week, my PR company dropped me as a client because my content was “too controversial”.
I run a YouTube Channel and a Podcast. I ask questions for a living. It is very important to ask questions - especially if the answers make you uncomfortable.
So what does this tell me?
It affirms my belief that the next pandemic rifling through our communities is a fear and intolerance of ideas that oppose our own.
When we operate from a place of fear, we lack creativity, forethought and perspective. A wounded animal trapped in a corner does not think proactively, it acts reactively. It seeks immediate safety, offering all concessions.
If we run from ideas that make us uncomfortable, we increase our self belief that we are fragile, and we are not fragile. We are a resilient, adaptive and highly durable species, don’t let anyone lead you otherwise.
I understand that the stakes are high right now - we are navigating a crisis of cataclysmic proportion. The once in a lifetime ‘Black Swan’ event has occurred, and on the back of that, anxiety is super charged. Traditional media, after a decade of plummeting revenues has seized the opportunity by doubling down on fear narratives to keep their audience engaged.
I get it. It’s a challenging time. But here is a secret. You are tougher than you think you are.
The same day I lost my PR firm I signed one with more teeth, one that is excited by independent, critical thinking, not scared of it.
Don’t be scared of it.