Engaged, straightforward and honest is a powerful tool for change

We spend a huge amount of time and effort trying to change the behavior of others.   Changing the behavior of others is the goal of protesters, teachers, parents, wives, girlfriends, negotiations, advertising, marketing, and the list goes on.  There are literally tens of thousands of books on the topic.  Millions of people are involved.  Fortunes made.  Fortunes lost.  Yet at the core, the answer is relatively simple.  How to change a person’s behavior is the topic of this post.

The scene is 1965 at Fairview Junior High School in 8th grade Social Studies.  I heard about this behavior modification experiment. Three friends and I did the experiment in class.  Every time the teacher got closer to the map on the side of the room, we would pay close attention to him and nod in an affirming way.   Any time he was further from the map, we totally ignored him.   It only took like 15 – 20 minutes to get him standing firmly in front of the map.

It was years later while getting my BS in Psychology before I understood the experiment was not just about getting a teacher to move 10 feet to the left.  Often overlooked is the student’s behavior was also modified.  From the teacher’s point of view, all he had to do to get four students to pay attention was to move 10 feet to the left.  He taught, we learned.  We thought we were playing a joke on a teacher; maybe the joke was really on the four of us.

This was Fairview Junior High School in Roseville, MN.  Now it is a community center.  Middle school was 7th, 8th and 9th grades.  As I recall our Social Studies classroom was on the first floor, right corner.

Behavior modification is straightforward.  When the “target” does something you like, give them positive feedback and / or reduce the negative feedback.  To reduce a behavior, add a negative consequence and or take away something they like.  The trick is to establish a relationship between the feedback and the behavior desired.  To make the behavior more permanent, randomly spread out the positive or negative feedback.  It takes longer but the resulting behavior change will last longer.

A little less straightforward is the reality the target is also giving you positive and negative feedback.  Feedback is a two-way street.  We learn from each other.  You might think you taught the rat to press the lever for food.  However, from the rat’s point of view, it taught you to feed it when it pressed the lever.

A contemporary example of this principle is many apps on a smart phone.  The goal from the app designer’s point of view is to train us to spend as much time as possible in the app.  The app gives us positive reinforcements when we stay in the app and negative reinforcements when we leave.  At first, they make it easy and fun (positive reinforcement).  Just when you are getting the hang of it and smiling, they make it time out (negative reinforcement).  You get the opportunity to avoid the negative by buying more time (coins, lives, etc.) However, even if you do not make a purchase you just have to wait for a prescribed time for the opportunity to spend more time in the app.  When you spend more time, you view more ads.  I am on level 223 in one of my games.  My ad views or buying more lives (I never do this) pays the developers of the game.  The weird thing is that I am fully aware that the apps are training me to the end of increasing their profits.  However, I still enjoy using the app (game) and enjoyment was my goal in the first place.

If only real life were that simple.  In reality, positive or negative are in the eye of the beholder.  If the teacher was very shy, four kids staring and nodding at him might have made him uncomfortable and actually less likely to stand by the flag.   There were 25 kids in the room each giving the instructor feedback.  Maybe when the teacher stood by the flag, it would have caused some of the kids give the teacher negative feedback because they had to turn their heads awkwardly.  In the real world, feedback comes from many sources: real and some imagined. As I recall in junior high, we often wondered if a person of the opposite sex was giving us “the look” and then spent hours on the phone with our friends to figure out if the look was positive or negative feedback.

The cause of behavior is complex and influenced by all sorts of factors, some of which are positive and negative reinforcements.  Behavior does not happen in the vacuum. Often, circumstances beyond our control are at work.  There are tradeoffs and bad choices made.  It would be wrong to think that we can change the course of human behavior by nodding a couple times in an eighth-grade classroom.   However, it would also be wrong to ignore the powerful effect that providing positive and or negative reinforcement can have on others and ourselves.

In the “move the teacher experiment”, the goal might be to modify the behavior of the teacher but the process will influence the behavior of those trying to cause the change.  The teacher had a reputation for being old, cranky, overly serious and boring.  To pull off the experiment, we had to carefully watch him to know when to give him positive feedback (nod approvingly) and when to give him negative feedback (ignore him).  Do you nod once or several times in a row.  Do you look away or just look blank.  It did not take long to move him to the flag but it was intense while we were doing it.  The process taught us a big lesson.  The teacher cared if we paid attention; he did not want to be ignored and enjoyed getting positive feedback.  I could not have verbalized it at the time but the experiment taught me the teacher was just trying to teach us about social studies the best he could.

Making a teacher unknowingly stand by the flag is not ethical.  Pretending to be interested or pretending to ignore the teacher was to be dishonest.  Having a laugh at someone else’s expense is not nice. Looking back, it was not one of my proud moments.  We could have really embarrassed the teacher and probably would have been subject to the wrath of the teacher, principle and maybe our parents.  Looking back, we could have hurt the self-confidence and credibility of the teacher.  He was not one to take a joke.

On the other hand, engaged with what the teacher was saying and providing appropriate honest feedback could have helped him not to be so boring.  Nod and pay attention when he presents in a more interesting style and give a negative impression when he gets boring.  With about the same amount of effort we could have made the class better for us and helped future students.

Again, the trick is to make the connection between the behavior you want modified and the feedback you are providing.  Proximity and timing matter.   However, often the best method to make the connection is to make the connection as straightforward as possible.  What exactly are you protesting?  Make it known.  Exactly what behavior do you want to be different?  Make it known.  The connection between the behavior of the target and the feedback you give are often not as connected as you may think.  The target might well have other motivations.  Give honest feedback but remember there were 25 other students in the room.

Paying attention and giving honest feedback is a magic formula for many aspects of life: successful learning, relationships, jobs, socializing, negotiations, etc.

If we want to help our leaders be better leaders, or kids to be better kids, or customers to buy a product, the best thing to do is to pay attention to their actions and give them honest positive and negative feedback tied to the action we want them to perform.   Forget the hyperbole.  Forget the outrageous statements.  Pay attention to the person (know your customer).   Give them verbal and non-verbal feedback directly related to the behavior in question.  Repeat often at first then less frequently.  Remember that you may be training them but in the bargain, you modify your own behavior.  You teach the target and the target teaches you.

For example, if a leader was a narcissist.  Trying to change his behavior with a large protest, where he is the center of attention, might well reinforce his self-image of how important he is.  If the goal were about changing the actions taken on a particular issue, a strategy of focusing the protest on the issue, rather than on the narcissist, might make sense.  Another strategy might be to focus on someone other than the narcissist (Cabinet member).  However, a word of caution, narcissists are not very empathetic.  So do not expect them to feel sorry for a subordinate.

Be engaged, straightforward and honest.   The real secret of the “move the teacher experiment” was the change in behavior of the four students.  The teacher was doing what it took to make us pay attention.  His goal had not changed.  The students were showing the teacher what it would take to make us pay attention.  The experiment actually taught us the teacher cared enough to be willing to move 10 feet to the left if it would help us to pay attention.

WARNING:  People can fake “engaged, straightforward and honest”.   Fraud is a bad thing for many reasons but here is another one.  Remember that both parties get their behavior modified.  In the case of fraud, the target is an innocent, but the fraud becomes a distrusted, guilty person.


Reinforcement = increasing a behavior

  • Positive reinforcement = When a favorable outcome, event, or reward occurs after an action, that particular response or behavior will be strengthened.
  • Negative reinforcement = a response or behavior is strengthened by stopping, removing or avoiding a negative outcome or aversive stimulus.

Punishment = reducing a behavior

  • Positive punishment = adding a negative consequence after an undesired behavior is emitted to decrease future responses
  • negative punishment = taking away a certain desired item after the undesired behavior happens in order to decrease future responses

Remember: One of the best ways to change behavior is to create an honest feedback cycle for the target.  Engage with the target.  Make sure the target understands the connection between the desired behavior and the feedback by being straightforward.  Be honest with yourself and the target.  You do not want to train yourself to be a fraud.


Retirement – The big picture


Full disclosure.  While technically this post is fiction, there is some truth here.

Attended a half-day retirement seminar because that is what people of our age do.  The details of Social Security, pension plans, Medicare, IRAs and the like were overwhelming.  Some of the attendees seemed to enjoy getting into the nuance of the details.  Upon reflection, most people focus on the retirement details but not so much the big picture.  This post is about the bigger picture.

The history of the Social Security System is a detailed history of Social Security and as such, the concept of retirement.  Over 20 other countries already had a similar social security system by the 1935 enactment of the U.S. Social Security System.  As the industrial age took hold, the economy had shifted from primarily agricultural to manufacturing.  The majority of the nation’s workers were now, factory (non-farm) workers.  When a person got old or disabled on the family farm, the family was there for them.  However, the factory owners let go factory workers who were no longer able to work, which was often the result of old age or disability.  The large and growing number of old and disabled became a huge social problem.  The solution to this huge social problem was the Social Security System.  The idea was that if every worker paid a little into a trust fund, workers who were disabled or lived to age 65 or older (life expectancy at the time was about 62) could collect a small benefit and reduce the social problem.

A couple years after the enactment of Social Security (post World War II), some large companies started having benefits as a method to attract and retain workers.  Pension plans were one of those benefits.  To qualify for most pensions, you needed 30 years of uninterrupted service and the attainment of age 65.  It took over 20 years for Pensions to become widespread.  In this same timeframe life expectancy increased to the mid 70’s.

Before the enactment of Social Security, retirement was only for the rich.  With the Social Security, those physically unable to work (old age or disability) could also retire.  Today, the rich and disabled can still retire.  What has changed over the past 50 – 60 years is the increase of life expectancy beyond the retirement age.  The consequence has been people retiring because they want to quit working not only because they were unable to continue.  Often there is a life-event (laid-off, hate the new boss, grandkids need playing with, medical issue, etc.) leading to the decision of when to retire.  Retirement is now more often than not, a voluntary act rather than required by the inability to perform work for wages.

The average retiree works for about 45 years and is retired for about 20 years.  Individual results may vary.  Work 45 and retire 20 is technically wrong but are in the range of right.  For non-rich people to retire, the idea is to save a share of their income during the 45 years of working, invest it to provide income for the 20 years of retirement.  The “savings” is mandatory in the case of Social Security or voluntary in the case of an IRA.  Saving for retirement takes on several forms but in the end, all are about saving of a portion of income while working for use when not working.

Social Security provides retirees with about 40% of monthly pre-retirement income for the rest of their life.

  • Only about one third of retirees have Social Security and enough other income to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living.
  • About a third of retirees have Social Security and some other source of income but not enough to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living.
  • About one third of retirees have only Social Security income.

The net result is that about half the retirees have a retirement income substantially less than their pre-retirement income.  Many of those with least available retirement income, made the least in their pre-retirement years.  Living on 50% or less of the pre-retirement income is especially tough when the pre-retirement income was only marginally adequate.  The result is a large population of the elderly living in subsidized housing and or are living in poverty.

In short, many who choose to retire really cannot afford to be retired.  Telling them they should have saved more pre-retirement is not helpful because they could not afford that option.  Poverty is the reality for many retirees.  At the heart of the stories of dated housing, skipping medicines, putting the extra rolls from the restaurant in their purse is the reality of poverty.  Again, in rough numbers about half of retirees live close to pre-retirement standard of living but about half live at a substantially lower standard of living.  One size does not fit all.

Virtually all of the money saved for retirement purposes is in stocks and bonds.  The Social Security Trust fund is actually U.S. Treasury Bonds.  The retirement savings invested in pension plans and individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are some combination of stocks and bonds.  Note these systems have some cash on hand to make payments but for all practical purposes, they are stocks and bonds.  Between the retiree and the stocks and bonds they own is often a mutual fund or other investment product but the net result is the same, the retirement funds are most often actually stocks (ownership) in publicly traded companies or in bonds, which are most often loans for the building of some sort of public or private infrastructure.  Note the infrastructure technically secures the loan.

Retirees as a group own about 40% of the total of all stocks and bonds in the country.  The wealthiest 1% owns another 40%.  Everyone else owns only about 20% of the value of all of the stocks and bonds.  Just for scale, according to the Federal Reserve reports the pension liability for the U.S., including all types is about 19,271.4 billion dollars.  (~19 trillion).   According to Google the total worth of stocks and bonds in the U.S.:

  1. Stocks = $19 trillion
  2. Bonds = $30 trillion.

The estimated total net worth of the United States is $123.8 trillion.  About 15% of the U.S. net worth is dedicated to be retirement income.  On a macro level, increasing retirement income means increasing portion of the U.S. net worth dedicated to providing retirement income.  Which means decreasing the percent of non-retirement net worth.  Saving more means buying more stocks or bonds and spending less on goods and services.  The weird thing is; spending less on goods and services reduces the profits of companies, which reduces the value of the stocks.  Thus, the idea is not to shift more money into stocks and bonds.  The idea is increase the percentage of the existing stocks and bonds owned by retirees by reducing the percentage owned by the wealthiest.  It is a topic for a future post but the concentration of too much wealth with too few individuals is not a great thing.

Many of the so-called wealthiest 1% got that way via fees for managing retirement money.  Others got super-rich by selling a portion of a company they own via a public stock offering.  Retirement fund managers buy these public offering stocks which drives up the price and thus making the owner superrich.  The bottom line is one way or another, the transfer of value from retirement savings made some individuals super-rich.  Policies and practices that would somehow move value back from the super-rich to the retirement funds seems to make sense.

In 1935 (Social Security System was enacted) slightly over 50% of workers in the U.S. were in manufacturing and over 40% were in agriculture but it was on the decline.  Today ~79% of the workers are in the service sector.  Most of us have customer service jobs of one sort or another.  Less than 20% of us work in manufacturing sector.  Only 1.1% work in agriculture.

Today fewer people become permanently disabled.  Jobs are less dangerous and medical treatments are much better.  Knee and hip replacements have become routine.  Many otherwise crippling conditions are no longer crippling.  People recover from serious illness and injury.  There are even laws against discriminating against the disabled.  Being physically unable to do one job most often, does not preclude a person from doing other types of jobs.  Physical limitations are now less likely to be the cause for someone leaving the workforce.  Personal choice is the most common reason people retire.

Let us circle back to the beginning of the Social Security System.  One of the main reasons we needed Social Security in the beginning was the movement of workers from the farms into the factories.  The result was that the old and disabled were thrown out to the street when they could be replaced with more able-bodied factory workers.  By far most of today’s workers are in customer service or supporting customer service.  Health care, finance, education, government, professional / technical services, information, management, etc. are big.  Certainly, there are still manual labor type jobs: farmers, construction workers, miners, plumbers, electricians, loggers, factory workers and the like, but not as many as there used to be.  That said, even the manual labor jobs are being automated.  A carpenter uses pneumatic nail guns instead of hammers.   Factory workers operate machines that do the actual building of the products.

The times have changed and are changing more as time goes on.  We are no longer in the industrial age.  As we adjust to the information age, the nature of jobs is changing.  Fewer people do physical work and even the physical jobs are getting less physical.  For many service jobs, physical presence is not required all of the time.  Many can work from home, or a cabin, or from a beach.   The relationship between the physical presence of an employee and the location of the employment is changing.  How all of this affects retirement is anybody’s guess.

However, certainly it will affect the concept of retirement in the future.



The expectation that everyone can retire comfortably does not match the financial reality of enough resources being available to do that.  Many just do not make enough income during the working years to save enough to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living for 20+ retirement years.  Saving for retirement does not increase the money you earn in your lifetime; it just spreads the availability of the money over a longer time.  Probably the “everyone should retire as soon as they can” expectation needs to be adjusted to be more in tune with reality.  Many people should work as long as they can.

That said, the concept of retirement is going to change.  The current retirement system is a result of the realities of the industrial age. Now that we are in the information age, the nature of the work is changing.  Many jobs allow flexibility with location, hours, days of the week worked, etc.  Most jobs are automated or about to be.  Co-workers, colleagues and customers live all over the globe.  Lifestyle flexibility is the reality of many of today’s jobs.  The idea of retirement allowing someone to escape a bad lifestyle to a better lifestyle is changing.

For many people the line between their work and non-work lives has blurred.  Not that they work all of the time, but in a connected world, they can answer that customer’s question while walking through the museum or from the ballgame.  Conversely, they can interact with their friends from all over the world while sitting in a cube deep in the bowels of Mega Corp.

Things have changed.  The reason we got social security in the first place is less of an issue today.  There is reason to believe that the old model of working 45 to retire 20 will be changing.  I do not know the answer but the question of what retirement will look like 30 years from now is probably not the right question.  The right question might be about a lifelong balance of work, family, travel, life experiences and the like where the concept of retirement is not as relevant.  Where people work for income but over a greater portion their lifetime.   The hope would be that people would be productive, active and happy their entire lives.






Trust lost

Have you noticed the president has lost public trust?  Not saying he does not have some supporters.  Just saying even his supporters no longer take him at his word.  Some leaders shrug off the lost trust as the cost of progress toward their agenda.  They will learn; lost trust is a very high price to pay.  Lost public trust is a crisis.

Leaders cannot lead if they are not trusted.  Law enforcement cannot enforce if they are not trusted.  Legal systems cannot adjudicate if they are not trusted.  The list of societal functions that rely on trust is very long.  Trust is the foundation of society.

Most of us do not want to be experts on healthcare or education systems or infrastructure or transportation policy or tax systems or public health or environmental science or agriculture policy or disaster relief or international relations or any one of hundreds of topics.  We want to trust our leaders to gather the best minds on these topics and come to some consensus for the public good.  We wanted to trust them. However, instead of gathering experts for consensus, the leaders used (what is now called) “fake news” to sway public opinion just enough to achieve the goals that favor this or that special interest group.  Some of our leaders were victim to the fake news but many were complicit in the lies and deception.

Trust = Acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation

Truth is reality.  The truth about reality is that it was there all along.  If you look closely, reality is always in plain sight.  What changes over time is our perception of reality.  Looking for the truth may seem like a journey to an elusive destination.  Many say the truth is a very hard thing to know.  That said; in this connected world, the path to basic understanding of almost any topic is only a couple searches away.

Understanding the nuance of complicated topics may be tough but looking stuff up is easy.  Truth is the enemy of fake news.  A little research is the key to finding if the news is fake or real.  Doing research to determine the real from the fake takes time and effort.  It would be nice if we could trust some leader to tell us the truth.  However, trust has been lost.  It will take a long time for trust to return.

Trust is about truth and honesty.  It is my opinion that the meaning of trust has evolved to be more about basic honesty.  In the connected world, our understanding of “truth” often changes as new information becomes available.  One day we hear X is good for you and the next week we hear that X is not good for you.  Nothing has changed in reality but our perception has changed, possibly because new information became available.  Because of the constant flow of new information, our understanding can evolve quickly.  The concept of trust must allow for an evolving perception of reality.

Being a trustworthy source of truth in the information age is about transparency and honesty.  Acknowledging what you know and do not know.  Acknowledging there are other points of view.  Stipulating the facts, as you know them, and then interpreting the facts acknowledging alternate interpretations.  In today’s world, one of the surest signs a person is not trustworthy is if they proclaim knowing some absolute truth.

We live in the information age.  A single spectacular lie can spread to millions of people within minutes.  While the truth can be boring, and takes it’s time to be known.  However, as quickly as the lie can spread, so can spread the truth about a liar.  The truth is reality and even though it might take time to be obvious, the truth will be obvious in time.  People will continue to spread lies about other people.  Take the time to fact check.  Call bullshit when it is bullshit.  When you see evidence that something is real or false call that evidence out.  Let us help each other to know real things.

There are social consequences for loss of trust.  However, there are also legal consequences for those who cause this loss of trust.

  • Hacking e-mails = criminal activity
  • Creating fake news to intentionally deceive others for personal gain = fraud = criminal activity
  • Using the internet (wire) TV or radio to intentionally deceive others = wire fraud = criminal activity


Public trust is more important than party politics.  Being trustworthy is more important than holding an elected position.  Being trustworthy is more important than being rich.  Being trustworthy is more important than being on the planning commission.  Being trustworthy is inherently important.

The public trust is broken.  We need to do everything possible to re-establish that trust.  It will take time but it is doable.  We need our leaders to be honest, transparent and inclusive.  We need them to value truth.  It really is about the golden rule; do onto others, as you would have them do unto you.

Nobody is perfect.  It is not reasonable to have that expectation.  However, basic honesty is the least we should expect from each other.

One last thing.  In reality, it is very rare for any two people in any group to share the exact same beliefs or have the same characteristics.  Pretending that all members of any group think the same or share the same characteristics is wrong.   Individuals are individuals.  Not all teenagers like the same music.  Not all Democrats are like-minded.  Not all republicans are like-minded.  Not all Muslims are the same.  Not all Christians are alike.  In fact, one of the signs you are reading fake news is that it attributes the same characteristics to all members of a group.   We are all members of many groups.  Membership in any one group is only a single factor in a very complex set of factors that define who we are.  The reality is we are as different from each other as we are the same as each other.

The crazy thing is that leaders can only lead if we trust them to lead.  The president has lost the public trust.  Now what?

Mattresses have changed – Foam is winning the race

The trick to finding the right mattress is to look for one that does at least the following:

  1. Gently compresses when the weight and curvature of your body presses against it. While at the same time the mattress needs to push evenly (no pressure points) against every portion of your body that touches the mattress.  If your body has a bulge (hips, butt, shoulders, etc.), as the bulge presses against the mattress, the mattress needs to compress to make room for the bulge without pressing any harder on that bulge than it does on a non-bulge area.
  2. Motion separation – The motion of one person on the bed should cause little or no movement of another person on the bed.
  3. Temperature neutrality – The mattress surface should raise to your body temperature but not accumulate heat (sleep hot) or lose heat (sleep cold) throughout the sleep period.
  4. Edge support – Sleeping near the edge of the bed should not make you feel you are falling off.
  5. Ease of entry and exit – Is it easy to lay down on and to get off the mattress.

Here are a couple things to keep in mind about mattresses.

  • Your body weight distributes over the area of mattress.  You might weigh several hundred pounds but an area the size of your handprint will need to support less than a pound or two.  If you want to test a mattress by pressing on it with your hand, press relatively lightly.  Pressing hard is not a realistic test
  • To maintain proper alignment the mattress only needs to compress an inch or two (depending on your weight). Good alignment translates to a mattress on the firmer side of the scale.  The diagrams and posed pictures they use to demonstrate mattress compression exaggerates the amount of compression needed.  Look at the pictures of regular people laying on a mattress; they barely make a dent.  Sore necks, backs, legs, etc. are about proper alignment, which is about some but not too much compression around your bulges.
  • A comfortable bed is about even support (lack of pressure points) and temperature neutrality. A good mattress does not have pressure points even when you shift positions.  If you need to sleep in an exact position to be comfortable (absent a medical condition), your mattress does not support you evenly.

Spoiler alert.  Foam mattresses have evolved and now meet the above requirements better than innerspring and air bladder mattresses do.

The nature of springs, stiffer when compressed, will always cause pressure points when you change positions.  They can mitigate the problem with all sorts of tricks but in the end, they have pressure points and foam mattresses do not.   Putting springs under the foam pads is a gimmick that actually reduces the life of the foam that you actually sleep on.  Air bladder mattresses have the selling point that partners of different sizes / preferences can have a different firmness.  Foam mattresses do not need a mechanical system to accommodate the preferences of two people on a bed.  Besides, readjusting ones position on an air bladder mattress changes the pressure in the bladder and causes pressure points but changing position on a foam mattress does not cause a pressure point.

Foam has the magic property of not getting firmer as you compress it (except, of course, if you compress it to the limit).  This same property means motion separation and edge support is inherent to a foam mattress.

Closed cell foam tends to sleep hot.  The air in the cells heats up from your body heat over time.  Open cell foam allows the air to flow through the foam.  Thus, open cell foam tends to be temperature neutral (not sleep hot or cold).  Open-cell foam tends to be too soft to provide proper body alignment.  Natural latex foam or an open-cell synthetic that mimics natural latex foam provides temperature neutrality and the latex is stiff enough to provide proper alignment.   Latex foam is firm enough to push down against when you try to get on or off the mattress.  In addition, it is springy enough to give your rear-end a little push as you stand up.

I sleep on a 100% natural latex foam mattress from Ikea.  My spouse and I like it a lot.  I do not hesitate to recommend a 100% latex mattress.  Having said that, there are other options, which can be less expensive and probably very close to as good.  Several manufacturers make a mattress with several layers of different foam, the top couple of inches, of which, is an open-cell foam.  By layering different foam densities these mattresses can get a slightly different feel.  I have read more reviews on these mattresses than I care to admit.  I have not tried any of them except the 100% natural Ikea mattress but they all seem to get similar high ratings.  Most of the reviews say whatever mattress they are reviewing is better than an innerspring and air bladder mattress. However, they also say the foam mattresses in this category all perform about equally.  They differentiate themselves instead by focusing on things like cost, warranties, customer service, return policies, and the like.

A foam mattress is mostly air.  Which means, they can vacuum pack a queen-sized mattress and put it in a box about the size of a mini-refrigerator.  Which means you can order them online and they can ship them to you via standard methods (UPS, FedEx, etc.)  We went to the Ikea showroom several times to try out the mattress options.  However, most foam mattresses are online purchases.  The manufacturers generally offer a free return policy should you not like it.   From what I understand, their return rates are generally less than 1%.   The return rate for showroom bought innerspring and air bladder mattresses is much higher than that.

A couple final points to consider.  A foam mattress is typically 8 to 10 inches thick.  Thicker does not equal better in the foam mattress world.  Foam mattresses lay on a firm surface, most often slats or a platform bed (right on the floor?).  So put away the step stool to get into bed.  However, think about new options when the mattress and box spring combination are not 2 feet thick.  One thing getting more popular is a platform bed with storage (drawers) under the platform. You get storage without increase the footprint in the room and the mattress will still be at a reasonable height.


Foam technology has evolved over the past several years.  An open-cell foam topped mattress or 100% latex mattress do what a good mattress is supposed to do, better than an innerspring or air bladder mattress.  These foam mattresses are another example of a technology change that changes the basic assumptions (paradigm).  A plain looking 10-inch foam mattress sleeps better than an 18 inch thick innerspring with an exotic looking pillow top.  A plain looking foam offers more support than two air bladder mattresses in the same frame and separates motion just as well.  There is a reason that so many are replacing their old fancy mattresses with new, simpler, more functional open-cell topped mattresses.

We donated our old mattress to Bridging.  They put it to good use.


Some of the more popular mattresses in this class


Tuft & Needle





Sleep like the dead

Sleep Sherpa

Mattress Inquirer


Best mattress for back pain – Choose Mattress

Best mattress for back pain – Sleep junkie

Spine health


63 million vote for a known incompetent. Why?

The symptom is the candidate widely known to be incompetent won the election.  Why 63 million people voted the way they did is to identify the disease.  Curing the disease is a whole other thing.

Who voted for the Incompetent?

  • Rural areas and many in the third ring suburbs.
  • Urban older blue-collar white males
  • Voting against Clinton and by extension Obama.
  • Traditional republican voters voting for the party not the person

Why did they vote the way they did? 

In my opinion:

  • Rural areas and urban blue-collar whites felt (feel) left behind so someone promising to change things back to the way they were was appealing.
  • Voting against Clinton is the result of 20+ years of propaganda against them and 8 years of propaganda against Obama.
  • Traditional republican voters felt they were going to lose the election anyway so the benefits of supporting their party was worth the slight risk of voting for an incompetent leader

What is the cure?

As a lifelong Democrat, I can appreciate voting for a party rather than a candidate.  I hope that my party would not put me in the position the Republican Party put its members in by nominating an incompetent candidate with no relevant experience.

Using propaganda techniques against the Clintons and Obama built many careers.  At the center of almost all of the techniques is spreading a lie, “fake news”.  The real purpose of most fake news is to drive traffic to a TV station or website to generate ad revenue.  Eye-catching headlines and outrageous content get views and thus revenue.  The unfortunate side effect is that people (our current President) start to believe the fake news.  Even if they do not believe the news itself, they end up having a negative feeling about the subject of the news.

In today’s world it is easy to fact check almost anything.  Google and Bing are only a click away.  The way to stop the fake news is to not view it in the first place and certainly do not share it.  Let it die from inattention.  Spreading fake news is to be a liar.  There is no excuse for not knowing if it is fake.  Do not be the liar by spreading fake news.  When you see fake news, maybe spreading the truth would be a good idea.  For example, I once posted that it was ridiculous to criticize Obama for the Baptist church he attended and in the same story criticize him for being a Muslim.  In my opinion, spreading such a story would make you a liar.

Which leaves us with millions of rural folks and urban white males feeling left behind.  The cause is easy to describe; the cure is debatable.  Virtually all jobs and most social interactions are now technology based.  This is the information age and many of us are in the thick of it.  Rural America and older blue-collar workers have fallen behind.  They face many issues: Training, support, economics of access in low population density areas, willingness to change, financing, social pressure, etc.  The fancy word for this is social exclusion.

I do not know the cure.  Certainly getting broadband to all corners is a start.  Providing training and support while they transition is important.  Helping erase the stigma of learning to do things a new way rather than sticking with the old methods.  Does it make sense to encourage starting small technology based businesses in small towns with some sort of incentives?  Somehow, the 50-year-old factory worker needs to face challenges and barriers to learning the new technical skills needed for available jobs.  Somehow broadband and training needs to get to rural America.  I have no real idea how to encourage businesses to grow in a small town.


The current president is incompetent.  We need to continue the hard work of preventing him from doing irreparable harm to our nation.  However, we need to remember that he was the symptom not the disease.  Putting the train back on the tracks means reducing fake news (encouraging the truth) and addressing the need for rural America and older blue-collar workers to transition to the information age.


Adapting to the connected world we live in

We said our elected officials are out of touch, we need change.  Our choice took office.  The first month has not been pretty although it has solidified his opposition.  His trustworthiness seems lost.  How we move forward is probably less about him and more about us.    We are a connected world.  Almost everyone has a voice and has the tools needed to make their voice heard.  Rather than assume we know what “they” want, ask.  Rather than assume they know what we want, we should tell them.

When a new or different way of thinking or doing replaces the old way, it is a paradigm shift.  The combination of devices, connectivity and easy to use applications created a new connected paradigm.  Very recently that paradigm became pervasive (used by the vast majority).   Having lived through numerous technology related paradigm shifts, I have learned that adapting to a new paradigm can be scary and can leave a scar.  Yet, the reality of the new paradigm unfolds like it or not.  Refusing to participate is not a real option.  Connected with others is wonderful.  I personally have more and better relationships than I would have without the connected paradigm.

However, when you ask what people think about this or that, they just might tell you.  People are rarely just this or that.  They are all sorts of in between.  I asked what they thought and they responded.  Most often I discovery that “they” are not a punch line or a caricature.  We like many of the same things and disagree on some.  Sometimes they do not care one way or the other about something for which you care deeply.  They and I are we, and it turns out that we are human and complicated.  We hold contradictory views.  They like both opera and punk rock but I prefer 60’s bubblegum music.  They fear what I do not, and vice versa.

I have spent my adult lifetime witnessing the series of information age paradigm shifts.  All have been tough.  People quit rather than learn the dreaded WordPerfect.  Bosses were going to ban the use of e-mails because it seemed the only real purpose of email was to convey jokes between co-workers.  A county board member wanted to ban the internet for every resident in the county because someone had looked up the value of his house on a web app I helped develop.  One of my staff seriously asked, “If I am asked about my family, will I be fired for having a personal conversation on a company cell phone?”

So now, we need to work our way through this connected society paradigm shift.  When you only saw your uncle, twice a year (my actual uncles are long dead), it was easy to ignore some of his beliefs.  Now he is your Facebook friend and you frequently interact with him.  Ignoring him is more difficult because he liked your joke, wished you well on your new job, and shared a tidbit about your grandma that put a tear of happiness in your eye.  However, he also opposes that which you endorse.  He likes some things you dislike.  Besides, he is wrong about an issue that you understand.

  • Do you keep him as a friend, taking the good with the bad?
  • Do you un-friend him?
  • Do you point out every point of disagreement?
  • Do you hide what you believe from him?
  • Do you ask him to post only of the things you agree with him about?
  • Alternatively, do you accept that he is a complicated person and so are you?

Adapting to new paradigms really is tough.  Feelings will be hurt.  Relationships will strain.  People will say something and later regret it.  The socially acceptable answers work themselves out over time but in the meantime, we will say some stupid things.  We need to make sharing ok and safe.  We are not only learning proper etiquette but also trying to figure out what we believe about issues and life.  If some friend changes position, that is not a bad thing even if they change it back again.  It is recognizing that life is complicated.

If someone tells you something, be thankful.  Respond about the thing, as appropriate, but (up to a limit) support the person.


In my experience, adapting to the paradigm shift itself is not the main problem people have.  It is their fear that the paradigm shift will change their social, personal, professional relationships.  I could never convince the secretary that Word Perfect was both learnable and that while she learned, we would all still think she was a valuable member of the team.  The funny thing about this “connected” paradigm shift is that it is exactly about enhancing relationships.  Relationships are great but rarely easy.

My advice.  Do not expect that everyone agrees with you or that you will agree with everyone else.  Let yourself participate in the discussion.  Do not focus only on what you disagree with.  Finding common ground is actually more fun.   Not every post needs to be deep or profound.  If it is nice outside, it is perfectly ok to say so.  Do not tell secrets.  There are no secrets on the internet.

Apologize often.  Accept apologizes graciously.  If you are worried about hurting someone’s feelings, do not post it.  Be honest but not brutal.  Your relationship is more important than an obscure point in a debate on Facebook.  Let cooler heads prevail if it feels like thinks are heating up.  Celebrate truth.  Let most lies die from inattention.  Questions often make a stronger statement than a statement does.  Be helpful.  Explain if you are misunderstood.  Stand corrected if you were wrong.

Nuance finds its way into debates on social media

Is the raging debate on social media our big, wonderful, messy democracy at work?  I think there is hope.  Let us all hang in there.  Nuance is finding its way in.

Yes, I actually do think the raging debate on social media is our big, wonderful, messy democracy at work.   I think the debates on basic issues are starting to have some nuance to them.  The nuance entering the debate is the presence of real facts and honest analysis.  Almost all of the news outlets (responsible or otherwise) in the world have started posting their content on social media.  Social media still has conspiracy theories but next to them are articles from the local TV station or AP with some facts and perspective.  The facts have this way of moderating everyone’s positions on almost every topic.

Terrorist attacks are terrible.  The news outlets remind us that most hate crimes are committed against people of color or sexual orientation or people of certain religions.  They remind us that inner cities are not actually like war zones.  In fact, many well to do retirees are moving into condominiums and apartments “downtown”.   They remind us that contrary to narrative of the innocence of the good days, crime rates are actually way down since our youth.  They remind us that people of faith support religious freedom, even for people of different faiths.

Anytime we read something contrary to our personal opinions, it is in human nature to be defensive.  It feels negative and it might even feel like a personal attack.  In the short run, we might stiffen our resolve and state our case even stronger, but the facts plant the seeds from which new understanding grows.  Just maybe we will take the time to realize that the conspiracy theory you knew to be a fact, was not.  Furthermore, just maybe, we will realize the base issues are most often complex with a whole range of pluses and minuses.  It takes honest discussion, with real facts, over a period of time to work through to a good policy.

Here is an example.  The conspiracy theory that U.S. immigration policy threatens Christianity and our way of life.  There are about twice as many Christians in Africa than in the U.S.  There are about twice as many Christians in Latin America than in the U.S.  There are more Christians in Asia than there are in the US.  To think the U.S. is the home of Christianity is to forget the Pope is from Argentina.  To think a poor family of seven in small apartment 100 miles from your house represents a threat to your religion and way of life seems like a stretch.  In fact, if we want that family to like us maybe we should be nice to them.  Immigration policy is complex and nuanced.  It matters in all sorts of ways the casual observer might not know.  So sure, have an opinion but keep an open mind.  It is a much-nuanced sort of thing.

I am not trying to debate social policy in this post.   The point is only that real information entering social media discussions helps clarify our perspectives.  The fact that real information is trickling into to the online discussions is a very good thing.  Those annoying facts may be boring but they actually do have this way of bringing us together rather than ripping us apart.




Tony’s Tail – 44 years at the same job working on the exact same machine

Encouraging people to train for technology based jobs (existing and new) makes more sense than focusing on creating more manual labor jobs. However, Tony’s tale from my past reminds me there is nuance in what people do for a living.

It was 1979 or 1980; I was 27 – 28 years old and a couple months into my first job as an Industrial Relations Manager (Human Resources Manager).  Tony was a drill press operator in the shop who had reached what was then the mandatory retirement age of 65.  What was remarkable was that Tony had worked 44 years in the same shop at the exact same machine.  He and the drill press started on at the same time and both he and the machine were going to be retired together.  The drill press was old and nobody but Tony could create quality work using it.


(My office was in the building center left.  Tony worked in the low building across the street and railway tracks behind the closest water tower)

The records showed in 44 years, he had only been sick a couple times and he had worked at that same drill press before and after his stint in the Army for World War II.

The local press was there and we stopped production so all 150 or so of the crew could be at the celebration.  I was happy to say a couple nice words about his length of service and that we really did confirm he had worked at the same machine all that time.   Tony interrupted me saying he had worked a couple weeks at another drill press while they replaced the bearings in his drill press.  It was nice.

I was all smiles on the outside but inside I just could only imagine it must have been torture working 44 years on the same drill press.  I would have gone insane.  In my head, a life well led means facing new challenges, learning new things. I could not imagine being chained to the same machine for 44 years.

Tony’s younger brother Jerry also worked at the shop.   A couple months after Tony’s retirement I asked him how Tony was doing.  “Not great” was the reply.  He explained that Tony missed working at the shop.  The look on my face betrayed me and so Jerry explained.   World War II was very tough on Tony.  That drill press provided him a paycheck to support his family.  However, more than that, it kept him busy enough to keep the demons from the war out of his head.   He just could not handle change very well.  That drill press saved his sanity.

Here is my lesson learned.   I believe encouraging others to learn what they need to get the new technology based jobs is a good thing.  Especially for an aging workforce, running the machines that do the manual labor repetitive jobs seems better than doing the repetitive jobs with manual labor. However, we should not forget the lesson of Tony.  We are not all the same; some people are, in fact, best suited for manual repetitive work.

You are who you are until you are not, then what?

Belonging is a two way street.  There must be mutual acceptance; you must accept the group and the group must accept you.   We all belong to groups of some sort or another.  Groups like, families, friends, co-workers, religion, political party, knitting clubs, disease associations, professional associations, team supporter, and on and on goes the list.  The desire to belong is in the nature of being human.  It is important to be part of something bigger than we are.  Acceptance into a group is great but rejection can be devastating.

As we progress in life, learning new things, meeting new people, having different interests, we can outgrow a group.  That is the way of life.  Changing jobs is an excellent example.  The good news is as you move on through life, there are other groups who share your new interests.

The problem is you may feel you need to keep your interests and knowledge a secret because you do not want to lose your acceptance by the group.  Maybe a worse problem is choosing not to grow new interests or learn new things due to fear of losing acceptance by the group.  Which leads to the topic of this post.  The importance of both personal development and belonging in a new group.  So here we go, the topic for this post is; you are who you are until you are not, then what?

At the end of this paragraph, I am going to ask you to learn something new.  The wonderful thing about living in a connected world is that information on most any topic is readily available.  If you want to know something, looking it up is an easy thing to do.  So think of a topic you want to know more about.  Pick something you do not know a lot about already.  Search for your topic in Wikipedia.  There are over 5 million articles in the English version of Wikipedia so chances of finding your topic is good.  If you do not want to pick a topic, look at the fifth link in the left-hand column in Wikipedia and click “Random article”.  Once you found an article, take a few minutes and read all or a part.  Then please come back to this post.

Assuming you are back having read about some topic, you have just engaged in a personal development activity.  You have new information or came to a new understanding of information you already knew.  You could also look something up in a search engine like Google or Bing.  (Yes I did look up search engines in Wikipedia to see which two were the most popular.)  You can search for the definition of words you did not understand.  You can see videos, pictures and charts.

Just about any information you could want is online.  There are many places online to get information and a lot of information to get.  You can take online courses; you can join discussions on about any topic you can imagine.  The information is available to you and many different formats at any time you want it.  Virtually anyone who is online, anywhere in the world, also has access to the information.  Rich or poor, educated at a fancy university or self-taught, rural, urban, of any religion, of any gender, you get the idea.  Access to information is no longer an excuse for not engaging in personal development.

I am about to teach you a secret about looking stuff up that really is not much of a secret, but can be life changing.

  1. When you look something up, find more than one source of information. Get more than one perspective on the topic.  Polar bears can be cute in a kid’s book, but another source will point out that they also will eat their young if they are hungry enough.  My personal rule of thumb is three sources to understand and 5 – 10 sources if I want to understand the topic enough to stand up in a meeting to talk about it.
  2. Look up related topics to the topic that are not the topic. Sure, read about online marketing for the job you hope to get one day.  Also, read about Guerrilla marketing or word of mouth marketing.  Compare and contrast.  What works best for which situation?  Get perspective on what you want to know about.

Knowing how to interview might help you get the new job, but having knowledge and perspective on what you need to know to do the new job will help more.  Personal development is not just about getting a new job.  It is about having an informed opinion rather than just repeating someone else’s talking points.  It is about knowing how to cook from raw ingredients rather than a box.  It is about being a more interesting person.

However, it is time to get to the point.  Most groups are groups because the members share similar points of view.  Getting perspective on a topic can change your point of view.  It is possible that if the group learns that you no longer are at their level of understanding, they will reject you.   However, it is more likely that you will seek out other groups that share your new perspective.  Fortunately, it is now relatively easy to go online to discover likeminded people.

It is very hard to convince someone to change his or her mind.  Every year, advertisers, political parties, interest groups, and others spend billions to change our opinions.  It is possible but it is very hard.  Most of us are not robots and thus often not swayed by the facts.  In addition, our defense mechanisms make it hard for us to be convinced to change our minds even on an emotional level.

On the other hand, it is relatively easy for us to change our own minds.  Go ahead and change your mind.  See, you can do it anytime you want to.  That is the power of personal development; you can change or not change your perspective on lots of issues but you are doing it based on your personal choice.  Most of us read the reviews of several related products when purchasing something online.  We are gaining perspective. We are open to changing your mind on which product to purchase.  To the best of our ability, we make an informed choice.

It is your life and you have access to the information needed to understand what needs understanding.  Make the effort to understand before you make up your mind.  Read multiple sources of information.  Gain perspective by reading about related topics.  Of course, your feelings matter, do not pretend they do not.  So go look stuff up.  Learn new things. Re-enforce what you already know with more information.  Join a new group.  Share your thoughts.  Let others share their thoughts with you.


The world we live in is changing.  The type of work we do has changed.  How we communicate with each other has changed.  There is no doubt that things will continue to change.  You are who you are.  It is a good thing you are because who else are you going to be.

If you make the effort to learn new things and get new perspective, (personal development) you are still you.  Maybe a better you.  You do not have the excuse that the information is not available.  It is available.  You do have a choice:  You can try to understand and get perspective or you can pretend that you do not care or do not have the ability to or that you can trust others to make choices for you.  I encourage you to choose personal development.  Let the chips fall where they may as to what group you end up in.

The bottom line is that you are you, even if the new you, is a bit different from the old you.  We are we, all of us.



Here are some links I came up with using Google search in 10 minutes.  There are millions of sites, but you have interests so use the search engines and look up a couple of those.   It is not a contest or a challenge; it is about what you want to know about.   Do not let them tell you what to think or for what you care.  You decide for yourself but after you look up the information and are in a position to make an informed decision.

Topics in the News

America’s founding documents

Health Care Systems    Canadian healthcare system

Immigration  Emigration  Migration


Donald Trump

Cybercrime  Cyberwarfare  hacktivism

Fascism  alt-right

Women’s health

Income distribution

midlife crisis


Things to be interested in

List of Hobbies

List of charities and nonprofits

Religion  History of religions

Wonders of the World

Famous works of art

50 greatest guitar solos



The power of faith and hope

For many, faith = religion.  This post is about what is faith, not about what we have faith in.  Similarly, it is not about what we hope for but rather, what is hope?  This post is not about religion.

About 50,000 years ago, after 150.000 years of development, humans figured out abstract thinking.  Per dictionary.com the definition of Abstract thinking =

Thinking characterized by the ability to use concepts and to make and understand generalizations, such as of the properties or pattern shared by a variety of specific items or events.

Humans perceive reality abstractly.  That tree exists in reality but when the thought of that tree registers in your brain, the tree gets categorized in a generalized concept called, trees.  Since we know things about the concept we have of trees, we can apply that knowledge by assuming that it applies to this tree.  We are abstract thinkers.  Almost everything we perceive gets generalized as an abstraction in our brain.

We have these abstract thoughts about tangible things like trees but also less tangible things like feelings, events in the past or future that we did not attend, things we imagine and the like.  We think about lots of stuff and we come up with these concepts in our heads about the stuff we think about.   Not every thought (concept) reflects reality.  The tree might really be a bush.  As abstract thinkers, we have the ability to have an opinion on whether our thoughts are true (reflect reality) or false (not reflect reality) or somewhere in between.  We maintain a sort of confidence scale about a concept in our heads.  In practice we say words about our concepts like: believe, doubt, kind of, wrong, right, true, bad and the like.

So let me get to the point.

Per Dictionary.com: “faith” = “belief that is not based on proof”.  Note faith has several definitions but “belief that is not based on proof” is the one used in this post.

Said another way, faith is believing a concept is true even though you do not have sufficient evidence to be confident it is true.  Faith is believing even in the face of contrary evidence.

If you believe a concept = true and you have lots of evidence that it is true, then that is not faith.  But if I buy a lottery ticket because I truly believe I will win, even though the odds are astronomical against it, that is faith.  Faith is exactly believing a thought you have characterizes reality even though there is no real proof / evidence / reason to believe it does.

Our life experience, growing up if you will, is all about gathering new abstract thoughts, gathering evidence (learning) validating or invalidating abstract thoughts deciding what is true for us and what is not.   Faith is a label for believing without adequate proof to justify believing.  Faith can be in little things or big things or in-between things.  We believe lots of what we believe without lots of evidence to support that belief.  Here is the deal, just because you don’t have evidence that an idea is true, does not make it false.  If you believe it is true without enough evidence for you to have high confidence that it is true, then that is an act of faith.  We all have lots of faith in lots of concepts we have in our thoughtful little heads.

Hope is related to faith but not the same thing.  Faith is believing a thought is true without evidence.  Hope implies optimism not absolute belief.  Hope is wishing that a particular idea turns out to be true or wishing it was true even though we know it is not true.  Hope is accepting the odds are stacked against me but still buying the lottery ticket just in case I win.  I don’t except to win but I have hope.


There are three basic components to hope and faith.

  1. The concept / thought / idea in your head. The mental category representing reality.
  2. Evidence or lack of evidence relating to whether the concept is based in reality.
  3. Your personal confidence level (belief) that the concept is based in reality. I believe.  I am pretty sure.  I doubt it.  I think it is not.

Here is an example.  Pick any concept.  What evidence do you know about that concept?  Do you personally belief the concept represents reality.

  • Concept = people can be mean
  • Evidence = the news cast last night and remembering that bully when you were in junior high school.
  • Belief = yes I believe the concept of people can be mean represents reality

Note that in reality, people are many things including both mean and nice.  Reality tends to be more complicated (less certain) than our abstraction about reality tends to be.  It is easy to think two people believe (have faith in) exactly the same thing but reality tends to be more complex than that.  The thing about hope and faith is that they are about what you believe without proof and what you wish were true.  They are inherently personal.  They are about what you believe and what you wish.  You have the choice.  In a very basic sense the abstract thought choices you make about the reality you live in are the essence of what it is to be you.

Virtually every (probably not all, of course, but it seems that way) self-help book ever written are really about aspects of concept / evidence / belief process that is our abstract thoughts.  If you read a self-help book or many of them, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does the book suggest you change the concept? If you are not happy some of the books suggest you could change the definition of happy.
  2. Does the book suggest you gather more evidence about the reality of the concept?  Put your toe in the water, look at others who are swimming, don’t just assume the water is too hot or too cold to swim in.   Talk to people who have swam before.  Get an instructor.
  3. Does the book suggest you could have a different confidence level about the concept? You don’t have to change anything or gather more information other than to decide to be happy.  Power of positive thinking.

Most times we don’t give our concepts much thought.  Rather than go though some mental analysis, we default to the last belief we had about that concept.  The tree I saw probably fits into the concept I have of tree in my head, so I don’t give it any more thought than that.  Think about any advertising campaign you have ever been exposed to.  The whole idea of advertising is to get you to have a certain concept about their product.  Give you some evidence about the reality of that concept.  Then either reinforce your belief or change your mind about your belief.  That and maybe to take action based on that belief but that is a different post.

The truth is religions, advertising campaigns, political movements, social groups, neighbors, co-workers, and life in general are about our abstract thoughts (concepts), our experiences (evidence) as they relate to those concepts and whether or not we belief the concept represents reality.  We get all sorts of influences in all sorts of ways trying to take advantage of our method of thinking in abstractions.  But at the bottom of most of them is three factors used in different combinations.  Get a thought in your head.  Give you evidence that it represents reality or does not, depending on the case.  Finally convincing you to believe that the thought represents reality.

The key is to remember that we have to power to make up our own minds.  We also have the power to change our minds.  Changing your mind means adjusting the concept or gathering more evidence about the truth of the concept or just choosing to believe or not to believe in a concept.

You and I get to choose what we have faith in and what we hope for.  The world is full of examples as to why it matters what you have faith in and what you hope for.  Ask any coach of virtually any team.  Ask any leader.  Ask anyone else.  Ask yourself.  What you believe and hope matters.

We have all made mistakes and believed in concepts that turned out to be false.  The earth is round and not flat.  Throwing a virgin into the volcano will not actually stop the eruption.  But we have also have benefited from faith and hope.  Having faith and hope has saved countless addicts.  Having faith and hope has been at the center of most of our successes.  It does matter what you believe to be true and what you hope for.  It matters.

But here is something to think about.  Person A has faith in X.  Person B has faith in Y.  By definition, neither the faith of person A or the faith of person B have much evidence to back them up.  That is what faith means, believing without proof.  We don’t know much about Person A or Person B, but we do know they believe some concept is based in reality without much proof.  They both have faith.  They are both in the same boat: they believe a concept without proof.  Which concept of reality represents reality.  Who knows.  Maybe both, maybe parts of both, maybe neither.  We don’t have evidence so we don’t know.

What we do know is the behavior of person A or person B.  Why they act like they do might, or might not be, because of their faith.  But we can know their behavior because their behavior is not abstract.  Unlike their abstract thoughts, what they do, how they behave, is real without question.

If they are kind, it is kindness whether or not they were kind in the name of faith or hope.  Being kind is kindness whether you have faith in X or faith in Y or in neither.  Hate is being hateful whether or not you do it in the name of faith or hope.  Love is loving whether or not you do it in the name of faith or hope.  The same thing applies to all of our behaviors such as: crime, tenderness, patience, helping, hurting, the list of behaviors goes on and on.   Your actions are real and have consequences whether or not they are done in the name of faith or hope.

You get to choose what you believe.  You get to choose how you react.   You choose what kind of person you are.  Your choices are very powerful and have consequences.   If your choices are not turning out to be what you had faith in and hoped for, remember you are allowed to change your mind.  You are allowed to change your concept, or search out new evidence or just believe differently.  Also remember others are allowed to do the same thing.

We live in reality and our actions are real, but we think in abstractions.  Reality is what it is.  Our abstract world is not real, just sort of.  We have faith and we have hope.  Maybe someday our faith will be rewarded.   Maybe someday our wishes become real.  But in the meantime, faith is believing without proof.  Hope is being optimistic that a wish can come true.  But whose faith and hope is right and whose faith and hope is wrong.  Maybe time will tell.  Maybe we will never know.    But as far as faith and hope goes, we are all in the same boat.  But we know our actions are real.  Until the final judgement on which of our abstract thoughts represents reality is rendered, most people of virtually all faiths seem to agree, living by the golden rule is a good strategy.

There are several versions of the golden rule.  Here are some:

  • do unto others as they would do unto you
  • One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself
  • What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself
  • you should forgive and overlook
  • One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self
  • That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind
  • That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.
  • Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.


We are all abstract thinkers.  Our view of the world is based on how we perceive the world.   No matter how you perceive the reality of the world you have choices.  You decide what the concept is.  You decide what evidence you will see about that concept.  You decide if you are going to believe in some concept without proof.  You decide what you hope for.

What you believe can change your life because it can change how you interact with reality.  But never forget, how you actually behave is your reality.  Be nice and you are nice.  Be mean and you are mean.  Be happy and you are happy.  Hate and you are hateful.  Try to understand and you will be understanding.