I have been thinking a lot lately about the biases shaping our world views. One repercussion of the pandemic lockdown has been the isolation people have experienced within their own homes, cities and locales, and their reliance on whatever information source they choose for news. One major downside of this dependence is the inability to see and experience things first-hand, and that is counter to advice I have been giving others since moving to Asia 30 years ago.
When I landed in Taipei, Taiwan in 1991, I had no idea what to expect. Yet, after spending three decades in Asia I have had the ride of my life, met many fantastic people, including my wife, had two wonderful kids and travelled to almost every country in the Asia-Pacific region. What I have learned is there is nothing better than personal experiences when making a judgement. From this lesson I have followed an unwritten rule in my consulting career that I will not form a view until I consult at least three, credible people (or news sources) with opposing views. This followed advice I received early in my career from a very good friend, “god gave you two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you talk”. I have obviously followed this advice selectively :-).
In a course I have been teaching at Beijing University, I have shared this “biases” lesson with my students. I begin by asking them to look critically at the lens by which they view the world, and to question the sources shaping their opinions. I present a collection of pictures, like these below, and ask them what they see. If you look closely at the pictures from varying angles, you will see different things. In the first photo, it is a picture of a young woman or an older woman, depending on how you look at it. The second photo is a candle holder or two faces, again depending on the angle. The point here is there is no “right” or “wrong”, there are just different perspectives depending on how you view the pictures.
Seek To Understand
Living in Asia and being linguistically challenged also encouraged me to work hard to understand another person’s point of view before agreeing or disagreeing, or entering into a debate. I have found most emotional arguments arise because two people don’t believe the other understands what they are saying. When this happens people speak louder, tempers flare and arguments happen. Once both people recognize they understand each other, yet have different points-of-view, emotion is taken out of the argument. One simple thing you can do to avert frustration is to articulate the other person’s point-of-view for them so you demonstrate you understand them, and to ask them to do the same for your viewpoint. This exercise has been a life-long learning process for me and has helped me avert many heated disagreements.
Inspiring Basketball Stories
On a totally unrelated note, for those basketball fans in my universe, what a fantastic and totally inspiring NCAA tournament we just experienced! I was telling my kids the thing I love most about this tournament is that almost every game we were watching was the biggest day in sports for most of these fantastic athletes. If you didn’t see the crazy basket by Jalen Suggs of Gonzaga in the semi-final, here it is. With three seconds left in the first overtime of the semi-final, and little hope of ending the game, this kid threw up a 3-pointer from nearly mid-court that sealed the game. It was certainly an epic finish of the semi-final and will be remembered for years to come.
Which reminds me of one of my favorite basketball stories of all time. I used this in my teaching to help students understand the formula of great storytelling: Person + Setting + Struggle + Resolution. Look for these elements in this inspiring basketball story to end today’s Monday Morning Mojo. Have a great week everyone. Onwards and Upwards!