Salut! Welcome to this week's digest. This is a very special "Hurry" edition, because I am traveling, it is Friday afternoon, and there are delightful people to go and share the world with :D

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This week's topics include personality tests, self-limiting beliefs, luck, and truth. Enjoy!

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"You don’t truly know if you can do something until you have tried absolutely everything." ~ Rob Jones
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (AKA I have a lot to learn from you)

Teresa, replying to Some heuristics to make decisions
: Totally obsessed with that HOW not WHAT comment - struggling with a few wedding questions that my family all has such strong views on and that aren’t always exactly constructive or helpful, and they just keep harping on WHAT I should do vs. helping me think about HOW to think about it. Frustrating - but resonating so strongly right now!

It is too funny how our loved ones express their love for us ;D Part of the issue with what / how is the 'gut feeling' / inexplicable recommendation - "I don't know why, just do it". Especially when you disagree and strong feelings are involved, these can be the toughest to talk through. It is important to remember that feelings are still personal truths, even if they don't accurately represent the world!

PODCAST - Hidden Brain: The Sorting Hat by Shankar Vedantam (Thank you Steve for sharing!) - This episode was my first foray into the Hidden Brain podcast, and it was lovely! Shankar thoughtfully presented both sides of a complex topic, a result rarely achieved in mass media these days. I look forward to consuming more of Shankar and team's work soon.

My highlights:
  • Christina was asked to take the test again... She worried her Myers Briggs category would change... she didn't want that. So when she retook the test, she made sure to give answers that would allow her to remain an ENFP. She had found her tribe, she didn't want to be kicked out.
  • The experience felt insulting... I had gone into it assuming that it was an accepted test by the psychological community, and then when I looked into it, I saw that they have no peer reviewed, published data at all. And they don't call themselves a test, they insist on calling themselves a personality survey. I just couldn't believe that any company would put any validity to this.
  • Despite the widespread popularity of the Myers-Briggs test, it's generally not held in high regard by top psychologists who study personality... Validity (does the test predict anything?) and reliability (is the test accurate?), these are two of the most important scientific factors to consider when judging the value of any psychological test... [Myers-Briggs] doesn't do well on reliability or validity... And the Myers-Briggs proponents themselves will tell you that it doesn't predict anything.
  • If Harry Potter houses can replicate personality tests that companies are using to determine which employees get jobs or get fired... good grief.
  • We enthusiastically look at tests that supposedly reveal that aptitudes and interests of others. What isn't always clear, to them or to us, is the power of these expectations to transform people's  lives. Sometimes our beliefs lift people up, make them run harder, reach for more. Other times our expectations attached leaden weights to wings, and keep dreams from taking flight. I can't say I have much confidence in personality tests, but I've come to understand there is huge power in the faith we have in them.

The topic of personality tests brings up strong emotions for me, here are my overarching thoughts:
  • At first glance, it seems like these tests are a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once we are told that we are type X, our confirmation bias kicks in and we see all of the data confirming that we are type X.
  • There is also a placebo and framing effect to take into account. When we believe that an experience / product is personalized for our personality type (e.g., roommate, date, job, wine, etc.), we are biased to feel positive affect towards that experience / product.
  • I do not believe in fixed identity, based on work from Carol Dweck (fixed vs. growth mindsets), Buddhism (there is no self), and Debbie Ford's The Dark Side of the Light Chasers (no element of being human is foreign to any of us, good or bad).
  • Loving / shaming different aspects of ourselves leads to the development our shadow selves (see work of Carl Jung), and inhibits our growth (see Tiago Forte's tweet storm).
  • There is tremendous benefit to embracing all sides of ourselves. Per Bertrand Russell in The Conquest of Happiness, “Every civilized man or woman has, I supposed, some picture of himself or herself, and is annoyed when anything happens that seems to spoil this picture. The best cure is to have not only one picture, but a whole gallery, and to select the one appropriate to the incident in question. If some of the portraits are a trifle laughable, so much the better; it is not wise to see oneself all day long as a hero of high tragedy.”
  • Organizations that use pseudo-scientific personality tests to make meaningful decisions about their people are: 1) Using pseudo-science (obvi ;D); 2) Using a blunt instrument and black box to make general statements about groups, when in fact you must always do the work to understand and care about the individual (this relates to other diversity topics like racism and sexism, too - group data is somewhat interesting and may explain macro trends, but N=1 is what matters).

BLOG POST - I Can't by Rob Jones - Rob's piece serves as an important reminder to not put artificial limits on how we think about our potential, and also to be objective with ourselves about what we are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve our desired outcome. This relates to David Allen's (and Greg McKeown's and Ray Dalio's and others') thought that "You can do anything, but not everything."

My highlights:
  • If you confronted an adult that claims they can’t do something with the same question about whether or not they have tried, the answer will almost always be yes.  Adults have learned enough to know that it is unreasonable to say they can’t until they have at least tried once.  Therefore, the real question that we should be asking in response is, “have you tried EVERYTHING?”
  • don’t truly know if you can do something until you have tried absolutely everything.
  • ...what is it that people actually mean when they say, “I can’t?”  A more accurate, but more verbose, way of saying it would be, “I don’t care about or want enough this task or the resultant benefits of it in order to do all that is necessary to achieve it.” ... Therefore, the phrase, “I can’t,” denotes a lack of investment as opposed to a lack of potential or ability.

ARTICLE - Aeon: The unreality of luck by Steven Hales - If you'd rather be lucky than good, great news! You can create your own luck with optimism and framing (and maybe effort, too :D).

My highlights:
  • Such cases raise interesting questions about the nature of luck. Is it something real or is it purely subjective, just a matter of how we happen to feel about the things that happen?
  • It turns out that there is a simple variance in personality that determines one’s perspective on luck. ...the more optimistic you are, the more you think others are lucky. If you are more of a pessimist, you’re likelier to see others as suffering bad luck.
  • Brains really dislike bad news. Anything presented negatively in terms of mortality, loss or death is automatically seen as a risk that must be avoided. Conversely, good news is always welcomed. Our subconscious intuitions are happy to sign on for actions when they are sold as winning survival and success; it doesn’t matter if the positive and negative versions are extensionally equivalent or not.
  • What all this shows is that our judgments about luck are inconsistent and changeable, the predictable result of framing effects and idiosyncratic personality traits. They raise the serious possibility that ‘luck’ is no more than a subjective point of view taken on certain events, not a genuine property in the world that we discover.

BOOK EXCERPT - The Guardian:  ‘Humans are a post-truth species’ by Yuval Noah Harari  - Yuval's writing has opened my eyes and brought fresh perspective again and again. In this extract from his latest book, he reminds us of the pervasive power and importance of fiction for the human species throughout history.

My highlights:
  • ...if this is the era of post-truth, when, exactly, was the halcyon age of truth? In the 1980s? The 1950s? The 1930s? And what triggered our transition to the post-truth era – the internet? Social media? The rise of Putin and Trump? A cursory look at history reveals that propaganda and disinformation are nothing new...
  • In fact, humans have always lived in the age of post-truth. Homo sapiens is a post-truth species, whose power depends on creating and believing fictions.
  • I am aware that many people might be upset by my equating religion with fake news, but that’s exactly the point. When a thousand people believe some made-up story for one month, that’s fake news. When a billion people believe it for a thousand years, that’s a religion, and we are admonished not to call it fake news in order not to hurt the feelings of the faithful (or incur their wrath).
  • In practice, the power of human cooperation depends on a delicate balance between truth and fiction.
  • As a species, humans prefer power to truth. We spend far more time and effort on trying to control the world than on trying to understand it – and even when we try to understand it, we usually do so in the hope that understanding the world will make it easier to control it. Therefore, if you dream of a society in which truth reigns supreme and myths are ignored, you have little to expect from Homo sapiens. Better try your luck with chimps.
  • It is the responsibility of all of us to invest time and effort in uncovering our biases and in verifying our sources of information... If you think that the scientific community is wrong about something, that’s certainly possible, but at least know the scientific theories you are rejecting, and provide some empirical evidence to support your claim.
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