Serve the purpose, not the anchor

From YANSS 143 – How to Talk to People About Things, You Are Not So Smart (2018-12-17) (notes):

[18:12] Even though they were like, "Here, we have a solution to your problem", you're like, no, I'm already latched onto this other position. Even though that position doesn't fix my problem, but you get fixated on it, right? And I think we do that all the time. So one thing that happens there is I got fixated on a position and we lost track of our underlying interests. The other thing that we did was that we made the situation antagonistic in a way that was really costly because—and this something people do all the time too—you take a situation and you make it more and more antagonistic and lose track of the fact that that's not going to serve your purpose well.

Let's put the sidenote as the frontnote here: Many of the things that I intentionally listen to or read are targeted at fixing things in my sphere of influence—typically right at me, the very origin of that sphere.

That said, when I heard that passage above while driving down Lindbergh Boulevard, it was like a giant neon sign with the words HERE IS SOMETHING OBVIOUS YOU SHOULD KNOW BUT DON'T lit up in front of me. Both halves of that passage describe things that I do when I run into conflict situations: (1) abandon the Ultimate Purpose for the Thing I Latched Onto; and (2) get competitive to Win The Argument, thereby fouling the environment for actually getting What I Want.

The first one is interesting. It's called anchoring and to some degree, it's going to catch you even if you know it's there trying to catch you. Once that anchor point is set in your head (this house is worth $200,000; I'll finish this project on Thursday; etc.) it becomes the point against which you measure the rest of the information about that thing. Even if the new information proves your anchoring point wrong, your brain doesn't want to adjust.

The first one is annoying, but the second one is embarrassing: have you ever got caught up in a short term conflict—I am going to win this argument, I am going to prove I'm right, etc.—just to find the forest around you on fire, with no path to escape? Buddy, I live in that forest, and all my stuff smells like smoke. It's so obvious to see, now, when the amygdala doesn't feel provoked, but when it is... game on. Some of my role models at work are the ones that know which skirmishes to avoid blowing up into a full-out battle as a strategy to win the larger struggle. That's also one of the feelings I remember from reading Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom. So I suppose the point is not just avoiding unnecessary antagonism, but also having a larger purpose on the horizon to reach, to help from reacting to the flareups that occur on the way there.


Postscript

The other person in this podcast episode is Misha Glouberman. He runs a regular lecture in Toronto called Trampoline Hall. The first part of the podcast is (I think) the stock introduction to every lecture, in which the purpose of everything about the lecture—why you're there, how to learn, what a question is and isn't, etc.—is explained. Not going to transcribe it now, but I'm definitely going to steal it later and modify it for use on everything. It's a little pedantic, but to be honest, I think we'd all be a bit better off if we took more time to think and explain the what and why of what we're about to do, even if it's only to remind ourselves.

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