reality is weirder than you think

Tag: persuasion

Orange Clown Genius

Continuing a long line of convenient convergences throughout the Trump campaign, the 1-year anniversary of God Emperor Trump’s ascension just happens to fall during the rise of #ReleasetheMemo.

I think we’ve all been reminiscing a little about the past year, and all the victories–big and little–that have been won.

(We’re still not tired.)

The FISA/wiretapping situation is on the front burner again, and people are starting to connect some dots.

Here’s a thread over on r/The_Donald that caught my eye this afternoon:

The deep state was attacking Trump thinking he didn’t know he was being spied on. He knew and to think he didn’t put a show on for them is probably a poor gamble. He’s been playing them while tweeting in a way that would make Sun Tsu proud.

  • This explains how ‘everyone’ got it so wrong. They were listening to everything, and he was putting on a show for them.
    • The man has a star on Hollywood Blvd for Christ’s sake.
      • He’s like, literally an accredited actor
        • And a very stable genius!
          • And a WWE hall of famer!
            • This is the biggest part. McMahon coached the Donald how to “work” and probably helped come up with the character The Donald. This whole thing is a work on the deep state. From the fake tan to the eccentric character.

I’ve held the opinion for a long time that Trump’s hair is a deliberate caricature, a tool that he uses for many different purposes. (I’m working on a post that explains this in more detail.)

I knew that the overly-orange tan, the over-the-top hair, and the overly-New York behavior was something that he did for effect. It wasn’t necessarily his “natural” way of being.

Even the aesthetic of his logo (bold and strong) and the interior decoration in his buildings (a caricature of “rich” style) seem calculated for visual persuasion effect.

What I did not keep in mind was how much of the “Donald J Trump” we know is a character. Like, a deliberately designed and acted character. I figured DJT just acted out of instinct, in the moment. Improv, like in wrestling.

This is probably true, to a degree.

But if we keep in mind that he knew he was wiretapped and was doing things behind the scenes also to build his character, that means the whole thing is part of a lot bigger plan.

Imagine DJT and his team walking into an office that they knew was hot, talking about the weather or real estate. Then DJT gives the nod, and they launch into a conversation about how “Oh no, our polls are down, how will we ever recover” or some such nonsense. Never scripted, but according to plan.

Donald J Trump has taken a WWE wrestling character and made him the President of the United States of America.

When I was 12, the hot topic of conversation was whether the WWE was real or scripted. Well, folks, we have our answer.

WWE is indeed real.

Coming soon

Why you should literally never use the word “literally”

I’m not even going to try to write this post like a sales letter. I’m not trying to sell anything, just trying to start every sentence with “I’m” and hash out my thoughts on things.

I’ve had more “random” thoughts lately, which means that I’m finally settling into my new environment (even though I don’t get keys to my new apartment until tomorrow). It helps that I’ve set up a new configuration for my bullet journal-style planner which is much more conducive to my way of operating. In practical terms, it means that I have a “notes” section where I can jot down random thoughts instead of putting them on random pieces of paper or forgetting them or letting them fester until they’re just weird vapors spun from the rationalization hamster.

Anyhow. One of the things that I’ve recently been able to see and identify is this ability for people (who are not strategic thinkers) to skip directly from a high-level/strategy/overview way of thinking down into this middle domain that is characterized by rumor, innuendo, words meaning things, what other people think, and lots of other stuff that is ultimately irrelevant to strategically accomplishing a goal.

In other words, something like this:

Level Characterized by
High Strategy, long-term, vision, ideas in their bare form
Middle Social, “what will other people think,” sophistry, rhetoric
Low On-the-ground details, data, facts, reality

I suspect this is heavily influenced by (and maybe inadvertently copied from) Nassim Taleb’s ideas about asymmetry and “barbell theory.” I’d check, but my copy of Antifragile is packed right now.

I believe that the best way of thinking is with the vision of the high-level strategy, and the practicality of the low-level data. Anything else just gets in the way of clear thinking (unless you have to take account of it to successfully navigate your projects–politics are a real thing).

Lots of people who can’t or won’t stay with the high-level thinking (not totally sure why, if it’s just laziness or if they legitimately aren’t intellectually capable of it) will skip down to the middle and wallow around in it.

Ideally, good writing would combine “directional truth” (as Scott Adams would say) of the detail-free salesy version (which I sometimes think of as the “metaphorical understanding”), or you get the super duper uber detailed version, with the charts and graphs and raw data and alllllll the analyses.

The stuff in the middle fails to communicate either the endgame, or the reality. It writes phrases like “substantially all” and favors the insufferable passive voice. This is where the fifty-cent words come into play.

Hence why you should never use the word “literally.” It’s a dead tell for middle-level (OMG DID I JUST PRETEND THAT I INVENTED THE TERM “MIDDLEBROW”?!?) writing.

Dirty adverbs:

  • Virtually
  • Substantially
  • Literally

I used to wonder why some websites that check your writing’s grade level issue a warning for adverbs.

Now I know.

Go big or go home, folks.

If you have to make a pro/con list you’re trying too hard

After months of looking and weeks of trying, I found an apartment today. One that I have the option to sign for 6 months, even though I’d be willing to go for a full year.

I sign the lease tomorrow.

How long did it take me to make that decision? About 10 minutes.

All the other places that I looked at are listed on a whiteboard in my Airbnb, pro-and-con’d within an inch of their lives.

This one has a great interior but the rent is really expensive. That one has the space that I’m looking for but the front window looks into the recycling center. This other one has a gas stove and beautiful light fixtures, but let’s be honest, it’s way more space than I need or could use.

If I narrowed the decision, and made it “that apartment versus keep looking for apartments,” the latter won every time.

None were the apartment that I wanted.

The decision to pick any of the was difficult.

Then I found “the one” (even though I don’t believe in “the one”).

Sure, this new one has an event center next door with unknown levels of partying, and a view that’s pretty terrible, and a busy street outside, but it had every other major thing I was looking for, plus a certain charm of its own. The kind of alchemy that reflects the “soul” of a space.

This decision? Easy.

Maybe it was the byproduct of having looked at so many options that I knew what was out there, what was worth jumping on, and what is realistically in my price range.

Maybe it was choice fatigue (but I doubt it).

Maybe this landlord was especially persuasive (he wasn’t).

This place was clearly the best.

The moral of this story is that pro/con lists are only useful when you have to make decisions between a bunch of sub-optimal choices.

When there’s one clear winner, you know it.

Don’t lie to yourself.

Go for it.


Thoughts on compliments from your boss

Scott Adams taught me a neat trick a while back, when he thought he was teaching a persuasive technique.

He did teach it to me (it may have been the fake “because”), but he also taught me something much more valuable.

Good persuasion is effective even when you know it’s persuasion.

Some of us human beings are just self-aware enough to be able to step back and observe ourselves being persuaded, when we recognize the opportunity.

Some of his posts still finish with fake-because taglines for his book. This technique is that powerful, even when the reasons are totally nonsensical. Sometimes, I almost fall for them (despite having already read his book).

Even though my rational brain knows that it’s fake, and can appreciate the artistry of the technique, my lizard brain wants to click the link BECAUSE something good is on the other side.

Now, that’s the setup.

Here’s the application.

Recently I had my annual performance review at my day job. 

My bosses had nothing but positive things to say. The word “eloquent” was used (and that is an especial compliment for your dear blog hostess, who has studied rhetoric extensively). They recognized my “unique skillset.”

I canst tell a lie: it felt good.

Really good.

But I could feel that little niggle–that same little niggle that makes me want to click through to buy Scott Adams’ book even though I have already read it.

All those compliments were acting as powerful persuasion.

It’s dangerous, I know, to get a lot of validation from your day job. It’s a very fragile position to be in. But I don’t get a lot of compliments these days, and it felt (and still feels) pretty good.

Good enough to settle down and keep my same job for couple-few years?

That’s what they want from me.

But is that what I want from them?

We’ll see.

So thank you, Scott Adams, for teaching me how to recognize my very own persuasion “tells.” I feel like I’ve just avoided some sort of cognitive honeypot.

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