What are you looking for?

Be Aware of Confirmation Bias

What do you expect out of life?  Not, what are your goals and dreams but what do you truly expect?

Do you think people are basically good or full of evil?  When you make plans and set goals do you expect to finish what you started and achieve your goals or do you, somewhere deep inside, expect to fail?

Confirmation bias is a real psychological phenomenon.  What it means is that in many ways we are hardwired to notice only the things that confirm what we already believe and too easily dismiss as anomalies the things that contradict our beliefs.

For example, do you believe in climate change or think it’s a hoax?  Depending on what you are looking for, this past week’s weather patterns would confirm your bias in different ways.  Snow in May?  Any thinking person can see that cannot possibly fit with Global Warming; climate change is a hoax!  Snow in May!  Any thinking person scan see that weather patterns are shifting; climate change is real!

This may seem like the Law of Attraction, but it’s not.  The Law of Attraction, as conceived of by Napoleon Hill and popularized in recent years by Rhonda Byrne is bunk.  It says that you attract what you think about.  You cannot attract anything just by thinking about it. Instead you tend to find what you actively look for.  The difference may seem subtle, but it is significant.

I contend that whatever you actively look for, you will find simply because there is action involved.  The world is a big place and if you actively go out and look for things there is a good chance that you will eventually find them.  If you want confirmation that you are smart, sexy, athletic, or fill in the blank, all you have to do is go out and look for people who think the same way you do.  And you will find them.

Likewise, if you think you are a loser and do not deserve love, you can find people who agree with you on that point too. Make no mistake, this is not the Law of Attraction, it’s confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is not necessarily a bad thing.  To become successful at anything you first need to find people who agree with you.  To sell a product you need to build a tribe of individuals willing to part with their money and support your idea.  Where confirmation bias turns evil is when you are actively looking to confirm a negative emotion or thought and are closed minded to contradictory input.

Politicians and thought leaders are masters of manipulation when it comes to confirmation bias.  They will insert themselves in existing tribes, feed them curated information that fits with their already formed biases and declare themselves the only ones with the power to influence things in favor of the tribe.  That is opportunism.

Case in point, a few weeks ago here in Canada the Conservative Party leadership candidate Derek Sloan attempted to tap into anti-immigration sentiments and fears surrounding COVID19 by openly questioning the loyalties and credentials of Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health because she was born in China.  For people who already have those fears, his comments confirmed what they were already thinking and raised his profile among their tribe.  The fact that he alienated an entire ethnic group and lost credibility among those outside the tribe meant nothing and did not hurt his standing because he was already unlikely to garner many votes from ethnic Chinese and pro-immigration tribes anyway.

We have a saying around my office;  “You don’t know, what you don’t know.”  It’s meant as a check against biases of all kinds, especially confirmation bias.  Don’t just look for confirmation of what you believe and when confronted with information that does not fit don’t dismiss it.  This is how you grow and expand your horizons.

So, the next time you go looking for something, beware of your confirmation bias and keep an open mind for new information.

My Problem with The Law of Attraction

So I had a thought the other day.  I don’t make any secret of the fact that I dislike the law of attraction.  (Pun not intended)  Here’s why;

My limited research has proven one distinct constant with successful people, those who profess the law of attraction and those who don’t.  The one and only thing that all successful people have in common is an affinity for hard work.  Furthermore, the only thing that a belief in the law of attraction seems to attract is, you guessed it, hard work.

Case in point;  Napoleon Hill, the man who arguably discovered the law of attraction did so after interviewing hundreds of the most successful business leaders of his time, what did these people have in common?  They believed that like attracts like (the law of attraction) but they also passionately believed in themselves and their ideas and worked harder than almost anyone else on the planet to prove their ideas right.  Or consider one of the greatest success writers of our time, Jack Canfield, co-author of the amazingly successful “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, he believes in and preaches the law of attraction too, but he also works harder than most other authors and certainly harder almost all of his readers.

So is it the so called Law of Attraction or just good old fashioned hard work that makes people successful?

I certainly don’t thinking it can be both and as an ardent believer in the protested work ethic it seems altogether more logical to me that hard work is a far more important ingredient in success than the so called law of attraction.  So there, that’s why I don’t like the law of attraction.

Tapping into The Mastermind

The concept of Masterminding is drawn from the 1930s classic “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.  The idea is that when you bring people together from a diverse set of backgrounds to talk about their common interests and challenges they learn from one another and each come away with valuable insights that they can apply to their own situations.  The resulting ideas are greater than the sum of their parts, a kind of two plus two equals five, if you will.

The typical mastermind group consists of 4-6 people, all working at about the same level (CEOs with CEOs, middle managers with middle managers, salespeople with other salespeople etc.), but in a diverse set of industries.  That way they have to work at finding commonality in their businesses.  When they meet, each member of the group is given the opportunity to express a concern or challenge they are facing and then the rest of the group brainstorms solutions.  Some of the greatest business minds of all time have been members of mastermind groups.  It has been argued that the assembly line system developed by Henry Ford may never have made it out of the Ford Motor Company had it not been for the fact that Ford met on a regular basis with Andrew Carnegie and Harvey Firestone.

Some, including Hill and many of his modern day disciples like Jack Canfield and Rhonda Byrne, made famous by her bestselling book “The Secret”, say that masterminding and the fact that the resulting ideas are greater than the sum of their parts is somehow evidence of God.   To back up that claim they site passages like this one;

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. [Matthew 18:20]

Jack Canfield quotes this passage in “The Success Principles” when discussing masterminding.  But when I read that my spidey senses when crazy, something just didn’t seem right about it so I looked it up.

As a practising Christ-Follower I am pretty sceptical when I see scripture quoted in a decidedly secular book.   While the overall concept of masterminding is fairly powerful and there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with it, I even take part through a bi-weekly breakfast meeting with a group of small business owners,  I knew immediately that Canfield was quoting Jesus out of context and bending the word of God to fit his agenda.

This sentence comes at the end of a passage in which Jesus is giving instruction on how to deal with sin in the church.    He begins by saying this;

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. [Matthew 18:15-16]

You see, “where two are three are gathered” is not about getting together and talk about our personal agendas, it’s about addressing sin and furthering the Kingdom.  That’s not to say that God doesn’t bless us when we follow his commands but this passage just isn’t about that.

When I was first introduced to the law of attraction my immediate reaction was that it sounded a lot like good old fashioned prayer, with one exception, with prayer the goal is not to always get your own way.  When you pray you can ask for what you want or what you think you need but in the end it’s God who decides.  Regardless of what you want, you get what’s best.  That’s why Jesus taught use to ask “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” [Matthew 6:10].

So while masterminding isn’t a sin Jesus wants us to remember that discerning the will of God is really what masterminding should be all about.  It’s not about trying to influence God’s will in anyway and no amout of “group think” is going to change that.

You’re Better Than… “This!”

 First off an apology of sorts; I haven’t written much lately, no excuse, just busy at my day job and not really all that inspired to write, until now. 

Last Friday I picked up a copy of Napoleon Hill’s “new” book “Outwitting the Devil; The Secret to Freedom and Success”.  The original manuscript was written in 1938, the year after he published his landmark book “Think and Grow Rich” but due to the misgivings of his family, remained unpublished until 2011.  Hill claimed that he had interviewed the Devil and his wife felt that this crazy idea and much of the controversial statements made in the “interview” would taint his legacy.  As a result the manuscript remained unpublished for over 70 years. 

After having read the book I agree with Hill’s wife.  The political and religious climate of the 1930s would not have looked favorably upon much of what he as the Devil had to say.  Even today there are number of religious and bible fundamentalist who will try to dismiss this work as the ramblings of a delusional man possibly writing while under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.  No matter, this book is profound and it holds many keys to unlocking a better understanding of our own minds and the excuses we all use as reasons not to live up to our God given potential.

 I had never read any of Hill’s work before although I am familiar with his Law of Attraction as recently popularized by Rhonda Byrne and the rest of the contributors to the book and DVD “The Secret”. 

To be honest, I was never very impressed by “The Secret”.  I’ve always found the Law of Attraction to be a bit simplistic and hokey and the whole “name it and claim it” philosophy that it spawned to be damaging to the health and wellbeing of uneducated, unwise and imperfect humans.  People are too prone to taking the easy way out and the way in which the Law of Attraction is presented in “The Secret” and other similar modern interpretations is just too easy.  It leaves out what I believe to be the most important aspect of things.  It’s not enough to meditate on a problem, eventually you have to get off your ass and do something.

So knowing that the original Law of Attraction was conceptualized by Hill as early as 1918 I was reluctant to give too much credence to anything else he might have to say.

However; by 1938, in his interview with The Devil, Hill had stopped calling it the Law of Attraction and had reconceptualized it as the Law of Hypnotic Rhythm.  This new interpretation changes everything and I dare say had it not been suppressed for some 70 plus years, “The Secret” may never have been published.    

Simply put, while the Law of Attraction says you are what you think about, the Law of Hypnotic Rhythm says you are what you refuse to think about. 

How many times have you observed people that simply drift through life, reacting strongly only when negative input such has job loss, marital breakdown or illness makes it too uncomfortable to continue without putting in some effort?    

Think of the thermostat in your house.  A thermostat is happy to sit and do nothing forever until the temperature in your house gets too cold, at that point it switches your furnace on and is once again happy to sit and do nothing until it gets too hot.  Human behavior is a lot like a thermostat.  As long as our basic needs are met, most people never see the need to change their behavior.  That’s hypnotic rhythm.  Sure we may say we want different things, but just like that thermostat, there are very few influences strong enough to push us out of our comfort zone and force us to make the necessary changes to get us there.

And what hold’s most people in a state of hypnotic rhythm? 


Fear that making changes to our behavior would not only fail to get us what we want but would make our lives so uncomfortable that we would also lose the things we rely on to make our lives bearable.  So instead we compromise, carving out a comfortable little niche that is neither too hot nor too cold and drift through life never completely happy or satisfied but content enough not to have to make any serious effort to change anything.  To stretch the thermostat analogy a bit, it’s as if we are afraid that if we change our behavior before the thermostat says we should we’ll break it and the house will get either way too hot or way too cold and then we will have no choice but to work at changing it. 

According to Hill this is exactly the state of mind the Devil wants us to have.  When we drift along through life, governed by fear of the unknown it’s the Devil who calls the shots.  Slowly but surely we compromise away our inner most dreams and desires until we are trapped in a Hell of our own making. 

The process is started in childhood by well meaning parents and teachers who just want us to be safe and happy but unwittingly stifle creativity and discourage self discovery.  Children who buck the system are called “free spirits” or “reckless” and although some go on to stunning success, most are beaten down by a system that fears them as much as it envies them. 

How many genius children have been flunked out of school and shunned by society because the system didn’t know what to do with them?  How many Einstein’s, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have been lost to us forever simply because their parents and teachers, and later police, social workers, prison guards and parole officer’s didn’t recognize and nurture their creativity?  I shudder to think what we may have lost. 

But there is hope.  We must stop drifting and live with purpose.  Take control of that thermostat and tell it who’s boss!

Sure you might get cold – put on a sweater!  Too hot?  Get naked! 

The point is to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!  Nobody ever made their mark in the world by seeking comfort and drifting.  The Devil knows it, God knows it and deep down you know it too. 

Toward the end of the book Napoleon Hill asks the Devil what he fears.  His response sums up the entire message perfectly; 

Q – You seem to hold nothing sacred.

A – You are wrong.  I hold sacred the one thing which is my master – the one thing I fear.

Q – What is that?

A – The power of independent thought backed by definiteness of purpose. – [The Interrogator and The Devil] Napolean Hill; Outwitting The Devil, The Secret to Freedom and Success


Independent thought and definiteness of purpose, not fear and drifting are what “outwits” the Devil. 

The apostle Paul put it another way. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. [1 Timothy 1:7]

 Stuck drifting?  Face your fears, use your brain, you’re better than “this”!