Belief: The Un-faith

In the English language Belief and Faith have largely come to mean the same thing.

However, the difference between the two is rather nuanced and the simplification, in the name of efficiency and speed of use, as usual, has led us astray and muddied the distinct and profound difference between the two terms, which paradoxically are in fact opposites.

Belief is the insistence that the truth is what one would wish it to be.

Believers open their mind to the truth, on the condition that it fits in with their preconceived thoughts and wishes – think about it, when was the last time you acknowledged that a strongly held belief was no longer true?

We believe because it makes us feel secure.

It gives our lives the perception of value and meaning.

It is fixed.

It makes little room for truths that conflict with the things we believe and hold sacred.

We can only believe what we have already known – preconceived and imagined.

 

Faith, on the other hand, is the exact opposite.

Faith is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be.

People with faith have no preconceptions.

They plunge into the unknown.

They let go.

 

We believe because it comes naturally.

It’s cultivated by the system at large.

A cultivated yearning to always desire.

A yearning to focus on the future and the past – ignoring the present.

A desire to grasp at any sense of meaning we can find in our lives and to hold on to it and keep it for one’s own.

We have been fooled into believing.

The belief that if we earned a few more dollars we would be a bit happier.

The belief that if we went to a slightly more prestigious college we could be a bit more successful.

The belief that we need to consume more and always.

The belief that life is something to be taken by the horns and made the most of.

However, you can’t grasp onto life.

It simply isn’t possible.

Just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket.

If you try to capture running water in a bucket, you will always be disappointed.

Water does not run in a bucket.

To have running water you must let go of it.

The same is true of life.

To have faith is to let go – to discover the ultimate reality of life.

We enter this world as babies – open, curious, a thirst for figuring out how the world works and a desire to understand reality.

However, this phase, for most of us, is brief.

We quickly abandon faith, openness to reality and instead, let our minds harden into doctrine.

Set in our ways, we walk around with a construct of how the world works and naively convincing ourselves that we know what is fact and what is fiction.

The truth is that we don’t know.

Faith is being comfortable with not knowing.

Seeing the world as it is.

For you cannot see the sky through a window by merely painting the window blue.

To believe is to have unfaith, as faith is not clinging – it is letting go.

 

What’s Your Status?

The game of life, if you choose to play, is one of status.
For most of us, our daily decisions aren’t life or death.
We make very few decisions that will influence or impact our immediate survival in the truest sense of the word.
Instead, our decisions are largely focused on optimizing and improving our perceived status in the world.
Ultimately, the exchange of status roles drives human behavior.

There are three core frameworks that most decisions or actions are driven by:
1. A desire to change one’s status
2. A desire to maintain one’s status
3. A desire to reinforce one’s status

Changing One’s Status
A desire to change one’s status can be seen in some of our most basic everyday decisions:
Driving a BMW
Wearing a ring from Tiffany’s
Carrying a Louis Vuitton bag
Wearing Lululemon clothing
Buying vs. Renting a home

Maintaining One’s Status
The best example of how our desire to maintain our status manifests is social media. Social media is purely an exercise in seeking status confirmation.
We go there to check-in and scroll through the lives of our “friends”. As we scroll, we are quickly, often subconsciously, making mental comparisons between what we see on our screens and our personal lives.
When we feel like our “friends” are having more fun or doing cooler things – we respond by posting our own message or image that shows that we too live an awesome, fun, and exciting life.
When they are doing something that we approve of or is something that “people like us” do – we like it.
And the cycle continues.
The positive feedback loop is strong.

Reinforcing Status
Status is so powerful because people naturally adopt the roles that they are given by society.
An excellent example of this is the famous Standford Prison Experiment, in which Dr. Zimbardo set out to investigate how readily people would conform to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulated prison life. To study the roles people play in prison situations, Zimbardo converted a basement of the Stanford University psychology building into a mock prison. He advertised asking for volunteers to participate in a study of the psychological effects of prison life, more than 70 applicants answered the ad. Selected participants were randomly assigned to either the role of prisoner or guard in a simulated prison environment. Prisoners were treated like every other criminal, being arrested at their own homes, without warning, and taken to the local police station. All guards were dressed in identical uniforms and they carried a whistle around their neck and a billy club borrowed from the police.Within a very short time, both guards and prisoners were settled into their new roles, with the guards adopting theirs quickly and easily. Within hours of beginning the experiment some guards began to harass prisoners. At 2:30 A.M. prisoners were awakened from sleep by blasting whistles for the first of many “counts. The prisoners soon adopted prisoner-like behavior too. They talked about prison issues a great deal of the time. They ‘told tales’ on each other to the guards. They started taking the prison rules very seriously, as though they were there for the prisoners’ benefit and infringement would spell disaster for all of them. As the prisoners became more dependent, the guards became more derisive towards them. They held the prisoners in contempt and let the prisoners know it. As the guards’ contempt for them grew, the prisoners became more submissive. As the prisoners became more submissive, the guards became more aggressive and assertive. They demanded ever greater obedience from the prisoners. The prisoners were dependent on the guards for everything so they tried to find ways to please the guards, such as telling tales of fellow prisoners.

The “prisoners” even started referring to themselves by the inmate number they were given at the start of the experiment. Ultimately, Zimbardos experiment concluded that people will readily conform to the social roles they are expected to play.

Another simpler, everyday example:

Consider the typical American wedding.
In New York, the average wedding costs $80,000. This is a huge chunk of discretionary income. Money spent on venues, on flowers, on five, six or seven-piece bands—where did this come from?
The obeisance of the bridesmaids in their matching outfits…
None of this is something people go out and do when they want to have a good time.
It’s done because people like us do things like this.
And it’s about a momentary affirmation of status — status within a very small circle of friends and family.

Or consider, why do people vote against their best interest?
They have been so ingrained in taking direction and playing the status role that they have been given that they are willing to accept what authority tells them to do.

Why do we go through the theatrics of TSA at the airport?
Safety?
Not really, it’s much more of an exercise of status.
An exercise that allows the TSA worker to reinforce the status that has been granted to them by the government.
They play the role well.

How are coaches of sports teams able to demand and receive the respect that they do?
Status.

Status is powerful.

A few questions:

Who / what forces in society dictate what you do?
Dictate where you eat, shop, the neighborhood you live in, the car you drive, where and how you invest your money, the school that you choose to send your kids to, the books you read, the shows you what on TV?
What roles are you playing?
What status are you optimizing for?
Who are you putting down in the process of elevating yourself?
What are you ignoring due to your narrow focus?
What are you doing to maintain your status in the community?

We actively do things to each other (and to ourselves) to hinder social mobility, and we’ve been doing it for generations.
People like where they are in the hierarchy – people may argue about it and may wrestle with it, but ultimately people accept where they are in the hierarchy and they adapt those roles.

Status roles drive human behavior.

Once you see this, you may not be able to unsee it.

The Illusion of “OR”

Life is not a conflict between opposite but a polarity.

Things may be poked apart but they all go together.

However, that’s now how most of our culture views the world. Instead of “and”, it’s “or”

We live in a Culture of Duality.

We believe that people are good or evil

Rich or poor

Have hate or compassion

Black or white

Alive or dead

Yet, this is an illusion.

All things go together – the world is in fact one.

You can’t have a north pole without a south pole.

There isn’t good in this world without evil.

No one would be considered rich without society labeling the status of others as poor.

There is no way to be educated without the uneducated.

No such thing as hate without compassion.

There are no people that we consider black without those that we deem white.

No such thing as living, without the occurrence of death.

No trap without someone to be caught.

No compulsion unless there is also freedom of choice.

And of course, without others, there is no self.

Recognizing this illusion gives you the opportunity to change your posture.

The opportunity to realize that differentiation is not separation.

Living under this illusion is like viewing the world through the narrow gap in a fence, for when we attend to something, or take one side of the dualistic view, we ignore everything else – it is viewing the world with narrowed perception.

The head and the feet are different, but not separate, and though we are not connected to the universe by exactly the same physical relation as branch to tree or feet to head, he is nonetheless connected.- Alan Watts

Are You a Change Agent?

The simple answer is yes.

The only constant in our life is change. 
Business and capitalism, in general, requires it.
At the most basic level, to win consumers and build loyalty businesses must differentiate themselves from the competitive set, regardless of their industry.
Whether that’s in packing, pricing, product features, or promotions, differentiation, or creative destruction is an essential fact of capitalism.

The same is true for individuals.
The act of living is not and cannot be a stationary state.
Every bit of information we consume has an impact on how we engage with the world.
Every conversation we have either confirms or challenges our worldview.

Not only do things change us at the individual level, but also our change impacts others.
There is always someone watching our behavior.
Taking social clues.
Making a subconscious decision to mimic our behavior or to ignore it.

If you eat healthy those around you will start to think about what they eat.
If you workout often those around you will.
If you watch less tv, those around you will start to pick up a book more often.
If you have a positive self-narrative those around you will start to evaluate theirs.

You see, we are what we repeatedly think and do. As such, those in our tribe in many ways are and become what we think and repeatedly do.

We must consistently ask ourselves, am I becoming who I want my wife, husband, friend, brother, sister or co-worker to become?

We are all change agents. We can all be artists.

The question is whether we are driving change for better or for worse.

We have the power. The choice is ours.

Network Effects: They Apply to More Than Facebook

We are all familiar with networks effects. The business principle whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it. The most basic example is the platform that allows me to connect with you – the internet. Initially, there were few users of the internet. It was of relatively little value to anyone outside of the military and a few research scientists. However, as more users gained access to the internet there were more and more websites to visit and more people to communicate with. Therefore, the internet became extremely valuable to its users.

One of the fundamental principles of the concept of network effects is Metcalfe’s Law. The law asserts that a company’s value quadruples when the number of users doubles. Or if the number of users quadrupled, the value grew 16-fold. The rate at which the network grows in value has since been contested, however,  Metcalfe was correct that the value of a network grows faster than its size in linear terms.

Metcalfe and network effects in the traditional sense seek to describe and measure “tangible” actions. Tangible in the sense that we can see the speed at which a platform or network grows through the rate at which its number of average daily users increases.

However, network effects apply to “intangible” things as well. It applies to ideas, generosity, kindness, respect, love, empathy, etc..

We take for granted the size of our social networks. We think that our actions, words, and posture only impact those that we can see: our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. However, the networks that surround each of us are actually very widely interconnected.

Our actions actually ripple through our networks like a pebble in water. An act of generosity has an impact on our friends, our friends’ friends, and even our friends’ friends’ friends, better known as the three degrees of influence rule.

Further, if we are each connected to everyone else by six degrees and we can influence them up to three degrees, then one way to think about ourselves is that each of us can reach about halfway to everyone else on the planet!

Why is this important?

It’s important to remember the power that we have to influence others by our words and actions.

Social networks magnify whatever they are seeded with.

The ubiquity of human connection means that each of us has a much bigger impact on others than we can see.

What we say matters.

What we read matters.

What we eat matters.

What we share matters.

The social networks that we create become public goods. Everyone chooses with whom and how they want to connect with others. In the process, a complex and endless web of interlocked relationships and resources are created. Resources that no one person controls but that impact us all.

To truly know ourselves, we must first understand how and why we are all connected. As a start, we must remember where it all started.