I read a book here, a book there, meditate almost every day, have attended a couple of Buddhist retreats and taken a handful of online courses.
Even though the Buddhist philosophy/religion aligns more closely than any other religion with not just my beliefs and values, but those of science too, I’ve stopped short of calling myself a Buddhist for various reasons.
Firstly, I eat meat and although that doesn’t mean you cannot be a Buddhist, in fact, the Buddha himself would sometimes eat meat if it were served to him, it still seems slightly antithetical to Buddhist best practice.
Secondly, and although I’ve quit drinking at the moment, I do enjoy a nice glass of wine. Again, this isn’t prohibited, but I think using any substance that reduces the ability to think clearly isn’t quite in keeping with a Buddhist lifestyle.
Whereas the above reasons are important, there is another more insidious reason that stops me from saying, ‘I’m a Buddhist’ and that’s Donald Trump.
I am very friendly with the guy who does my grass care.
He’s possibly the happiest, chattiest person I know. He’s always smiling and forever willing to go the extra mile to help me – sometimes even without me asking.
He’s a devout Christian, attends Church regularly and studies the Bible. Much of his demeanor makes you think, ‘Yes! If religion makes people this happy, then I want some of that’.
He left a very well paid job in New York City to move to Florida with his family and set up as a lawn guy who does odd jobs.
He slashed his income by 75% overnight and says that it was one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
He works when he wants (sometimes to my consternation when he doesn’t turn up because the Yankees are on TV) and says his life is almost completely free of negative stress.
There’s a lot to admire about that.
But one thing niggles me, and he knows it as we have had a great many conversations.
He’s a Republican and Trump supporter. And before you jump to conclusions, that isn’t what bothers me. Well, not entirely.
And Then The Election Happened
Prior to the election in 2016, we were friends on Facebook and he kept sharing a constant stream of bullshit stories from Fox News and other right-wing media sites.
He didn’t appear to be questioning anything that fitted with his Trumpist view and he shared more than the occasional link to sources and stories that had been thoroughly debunked.
It got tiresome.
But, it was after the election that I felt the need to minimize our interactions to face-to-face conversations when he moved into a full-on gloating mode.
Meme’s of democratic supporters crying, mocking Clinton and depicting Trump as some sort of political genius were a tad too much, so I unfriended him.
The next time I saw him I explained why.
He was cool, as I knew he would be, but when I questioned him on his Faith and asked something like, ‘How Christian is it to be mocking people you have defeated. Would Christ do that?’
His response surprised me because he said, ‘But that was Jesus, I cannot hope to be like him’
‘But isn’t the point to try? Isn’t being Christlike the whole point of being a Christian? If you know you are not following his teachings, shouldn’t you at least attempt to change your approach’
I never got an answer that made any sense to me.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the expression that knowledge is power.
It’s utter nonsense.
It’s the application of knowledge that is power. Knowing something intellectually is meaningless this side of a trivia quiz. You have to implement that knowledge.
My guy clearly has a lot of knowledge about the Bible and even Christian values and he is indeed applying some of it.
But there seems to be a line over which he cannot shift that knowledge into action.
And that is the reason I would feel like a hypocrite calling myself a Buddhist.
The 8-Fold Path
The Buddha taught the 8-fold path that consisted of:
Right Concentration (meditation)
Buddhists should strive to attain all of those things. In fact, if you can nail all 8, then you supposedly get nirvana as an added bonus. Sweet!
I try to adopt all of them as often as I can, but I have to be honest, there are times when I just don’t want to.
There’s a Buddhist meditation called Metta Bhavana or lovingkindness in which you send love in the form of a mantra. They tend to vary from teacher to teacher, but roughly speaking it goes like this:
May you be well
May you be happy
May you be safe
First, you give it to yourself, by saying ‘may I be well, may I be happy, may I be safe’.
Then you offer it to a close friend. ‘may you be well, may you be happy, may you be safe’
Then a person who you vaguely know but have no opinion on.
That’s followed by an enemy or somebody you have difficulty with.
And finally, you offer it to all those people and yourself at once and then expand to all sentient beings.
For a while now I have chosen Donald Trump of the recipient of my difficult person. For the most part, I find it really hard to hold grudges or dislike people for more than a fleeting moment.
Not Trump though, he’s the one constant.
However, I can send him lovingkindness without much of a problem because I genuinely believe he needs all the compassion that the world can drum up.
Trump Is Not A Happy Bunny
One of the things that I think most people don’t realize with Trump. He’s deeply unhappy.
He’s going through his own private hell every day with his constant need for external validation.
Sadly, he’s taking hundreds of millions of people along for the ride and the collateral damage is enormous and depressing.
And that is where it all falls down for me.
A bit like my Christian friend not really wanting to be Christlike if it messes with some values, and/or beliefs, that aren’t in alignment with his religion, I just don’t want to offer Trump ‘right speech’.
I want to rant about his latest misdeeds, his constant barefaced lying, and his moronic ramblings. I want people to know that I despise him and everything he stands for.
But that is the antithesis of being a good Buddhist.
There is no ‘happy ending’ to this post in which I tell you about my enlightenment, but there is a point.
There’s so much finger pointing and blaming going on in this country at the moment that I think we all have a duty to step back and reflect. Not on other people’s behavior, but on our own.
We’re all responsible for our own actions and for how we feel.
Trump doesn’t make you angry and upset (or even happy if you are the lone Trumpist who made it this far down the post), you make yourself that way with how you interpret what’s happening.
I was having fun with the headline, I know no matter what he does, it’s not Donald Trump’s fault I’m not prepared to call myself a Buddhist.
It’s 100% on me not wanting to shift some of the knowledge I possess into action.
But at least I know it’s on me and surely that’s a start?
It was December 26th 1975 and I was stood in line at my local movie theatre waiting to see Jaws.
Even though it was released in the summer in the US this was the first showing in the UK and I was pumped.
And a bit scared.
Because I’d already read the book and sharks are scary, right? Even big plastic two-dimensional ones.
With that movie, Steven Speilberg created fear in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people who ventured into the ocean over the following years after watching the film.
People who had previously never given sharks a second thought were all of a sudden having an extra look around before getting in the water and being extra vigilant once submerged.
A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend via email about the rise of radical liberalism.
He said he was getting as frustrated with the far left as he was with the far right.
I had to agree.
Extremism in any form is not a good thing.
It polarizes people, stifles debate, removes any semblance of trust and serves no purpose.
I pointed out that the far left are just a tiny, but very vocal minority, just like the far right.
I’m a liberal and I have lots of liberal friends.
I’d go as far as to say that of all the people I know at least 75% are left-leaning. And that includes clients because that is the kind of person who hires me.
I’m not sure how many people I know, but it’s a lot, and yet I don’t know a single person who I would describe as a radical leftist.
I know one who is far right, but none far left that I can think of.
Wouldn’t that be weird, if there were so many people with extreme left views and I didn’t know any of them?
We Need To Build A Stronger Military
Congress recently approved a 2019 US defense budget of $716 billion.
That’s approximately two billion dollars per day spent on defending this country.
You can fund a lot of hospitals and pretty much eradicate poverty in this country with that kind of money.
The US Military is larger than the next nine in the world combined.
It outspends China (which has almost 1,000,000 more soldiers) by 3:1 and Russian by about 8:1.
Yet very few people bat an eyelid about military spending.
We must support our troops because they are defending our country and keeping us safe goes the refrain.
And to question that is to open yourself up for ridicule as being unpatriotic (if you’re American) and/or some sort of commie weirdo.
Smoking kills more people in the US in a couple of hours than ISIS has done since its inception.
Admittedly, it would take tobacco two days to surpass the deaths from Al Qaeda and 9/11, but that’s all.
Where’s the fear?
Where’s the outrage?
Where are the politicians demanding billions of dollars be poured into halting this genocide?
Crickets and tumbleweed.
There’s something that links sharks, the radical left and concern about ISIS attacks.
It’s the availability heuristic.
The Incredible Power of the Availability Heuristic
It is the cognitive bias that makes us believe that the more we hear about something ‘dangerous’ the more prevalent it is and the more we must fear it.
A person dying from smoking never makes the news unless they are famous. It’s not newsworthy, it’s old hat
As such we rarely stop to contemplate that smoking kills more Americans every 18-months or so than the following wars combined:
The American War of Independence
The American Civil War
World War I
World War II
The Korean War
A sobering thought.
But an American tourist getting murdered in an ISIS attack in some European city is very newsworthy and gets extensive coverage.
And so the fear and handwringing get amped up.
We have all seen the blanket coverage on news channels after atrocities in London, Manchester, Paris, Nice, Brussels and many more.
It’s horrific and an affront to humanity, but the likelihood of it happening to you is minuscule.
Unless that is if you live in certain areas of Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan or India where such attacks are an almost daily occurrence and thousands upon thousands die every year.
That’s the availability heuristic in reverse. The media doesn’t cover it, we don’t hear about it, so we don’t realize the very real danger for people living there.
Somebody dying from a shark attack will always make the local news and sometimes even national news.
A guy was killed recently by a shark off the coast of Cape Cod and that story was covered on the TV here in Orlando.
And do you know why it was covered?
Because there is on average only one death every two years in all the US waters and almost none of those fatalities are at the hands, or rather the teeth, of the legendary Great White.
New Smyrna Beach here in Florida is the shark capital of the world and since records began there have been about 500 attacks (that rises to about 800 when you include all of Florida), well more than anywhere else.
But only 11 were fatal as most ‘attacks’ are nothing more than the shark having a bite out of curiosity.
Sharks much prefer seals to humans.
So unless you bathe in fish guts and then go swimming in the aptly named Coffin Bay off the coast of South Australia with your best mate Sam the Seal, you’re probably okay.
The Real Killers In The Animal Kingdom
If you want to be afraid of another living thing, then fear mosquitoes because they kill hundreds of thousands of people every year by spreading disease.
Or maybe snakes?
Those skinny fuckers are responsible for about 100,000 deaths per annum, although almost all happen in remote areas of Asia and Africa.
A far left politician making some asinine comment about health care paying for itself without any supporting evidence is newsworthy too.
But it’s not common and it’s not the consensus.
Most liberals, like myself, were shaking their heads in disbelief and wishing she would shut up. I think you know who I’m referring to.
Similarly, do we really don’t need to be spending obscene amounts of money on arms to defeat a foe that is making bombs in their kitchens?
If we want to see things as they really are, then we must challenge our thinking.
Our brains want to take the easy way out and the availability heuristic (a heuristic is literally a shortcut in thinking) is one of the ways it does this.
Just because a few people make a lot of noise, it doesn’t necessarily mean there are a lot of them.
Just because the five friends you last spoke to all think Trump is a lying sack of shit, it (sadly) doesn’t necessarily mean everybody thinks that.
And just because you keep being told that we need to spend more money on the Military doesn’t necessarily mean we need to spend more money on the Military.
Did you know that there is zero proof to suggest that, generally speaking, people who have kids are happier than those who don’t?
In fact, there is evidence to suggest to the contrary
Psychology Professor at the University of California, Sonya Lyubomirskiy, cited research in her book ‘The How Of Happiness’ (al) that clearly demonstrated that most parents happiness levels do not increase no matter how much they wanted children.
But when was the last time you heard a parent admit they weren’t as happy since the arrival of their newborn?
Probably never because it’s so utterly taboo.
Not only is it taboo to say that, it’s taboo to even think it. It’s the kind of thought that if we start to be aware of we immediately banish to the corners of our mind.
But think about it for a moment.
Of course there are amazing moments of joy for (hopefully) all parents, but there are also plenty of sleep deprived nights when they are young or sick.
Similarly, there can often be financial concerns for the family with an extra mouth or mouths to feed and compromises often have to be made with personal goals often being put on ice.
My best friend felt he had to quit playing drums in a band and be around more often when his daughter was born and that was really tough for him.
It’s normal for parents to be anxious about how well their kids will do at school, whether they will fall in with the wrong crowd, whether they will remain healthy and a multitude of other things.
I’m not looking to make the argument that people shouldn’t have kids if they want to be happier, that’s patently ridiculous and there will be plenty of exceptions – such as every parent reading this post!
Meaning Doesn’t Necessarily Equal Happiness
Kids bring other benefits that don’t necessarily mean greater happiness levels and I’m not just talking about tax breaks.
There’s meaning to bringing kids into the world that is hard to attain anywhere else.
There’s also the comfort and satisfaction of having a loving and supportive family – even if you do want to kill each other on occasions.
And if the bumper stickers on half the SUV’s I see around Orlando proclaiming the drivers kids are on the school honor roll, there’s also pride.
Whereas meaning, satisfaction and pride can lead to happiness, they don’t have to.
If you have an important meeting at 7am and it’s 3.30am and you have spent the last few hours trying to get a sick two-year-old off to sleep it’s highly unlikely you can tap into any state other than anxiety and maybe exhaustion.
Similarly, if you get a call from the cops because your eldest son has just rear ended a car at a stop light after having a couple of beers, you won’t be skipping to your car high on life and humming Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a wonderful world’.
And whereas the happy moments tend to be relative fleeting, the stressful ones can stick around for a lot longer and become part of a parents psyche.
There is one thing that a lot of parents worry about that can be eradicated altogether though, and that’s school fees.
About six years ago I was working with a lady who was a single parent with a 10-year-old son. The child’s father was long gone and alimony was not forthcoming.
Fortunately, she was something of a high flier and earned great money.
But, unfortunately it was never enough and she was always pushing, pushing, pushing. Working all the hours she could so she’d continue to climb even higher on the corporate ladder.
She had come to me because her stress levels were through the roof and it was effecting her sleeping, and her overall health and fitness had declined sharply in recent years.
I was curious to know what was driving the need to earn ever more money and it didn’t take much uncovering.
The Cost of Education
She had a desire to build up a huge college fund for her 10-year-old son.
She thought that with the way education costs were rising she’d need a bare minimum of a quarter of a million dollars to be sure he had enough.
I looked at her slack jawed for a moment as I tried to gather my thoughts.
I then asked her whether she’d been through college, and when she said she had I followed up by saying, ‘Did you want your parents to run themselves into the ground and probably an early grave so you got free tuition?’
‘Of course not’ She replied, somewhat incredulously.
‘Well what on earth makes you think your son will want that in ten years?’
Before she had chance to answer, because I didn’t want that at this stage, I followed up with:
‘And let me ask you this. Which kids do you think come out of college mentally stronger and more able to deal with their finances Those who sat around the dorm room all day playing video games, eating pizza and smoking weed. Or the ones who worked 3 jobs and paid their way through school?’
‘I guess the latter group’
‘Okay, so here’s where we’re at. You’re making yourself ill trying to earn money for your son, that firstly we don’t know he’ll even need. He may not want to go to University.
And secondly, you agree will probably diminish his ability to manage his finances and set him up with an attitude that you don’t have to work for things of value. Is that wise?’
And here’s what happened.
She fired me.
Not then and not in so many words, but she cancelled our next session with little notice and when I followed up, she never responded.
I suppose there may have been any number of reasons, but I tend to think that the thought of not working to help her son years down the road felt ‘wrong’ to her. As such she couldn’t shake the belief that he should have it easier than she had.
And that’s the thing. Parents somehow believe that the goal in bringing up kids is to make life as easy as possible for them, but should that really be the case?
Isn’t it facing and dealing with adversity that forges spirit, desire and commitment?
An Alternative Path
Not saving for your kids may make you feel uncomfortable, so let me offer a solution.
I understand with rising tuition costs that it’s not as easy to earn enough money to pay as you go, but it is possible to make a big dent in the costs and there is nothing stopping you helping out with the repayments after they graduate if they don’t get a job that pays well enough.
So by all means start a fund for them, but don’t let it sit there for if/when they make it to university. Let them figure that out for themselves.
Instead use that money to get them out of the United States, or better still North America, for two or three weeks per year. More if possible.
Immerse them in new cultures and have them meet as many people as possible who share a different worldview.
Encourage them to be curious about life, people and this planet we live on because the more they see and experience the more they will want to see and experience.
It’s not a coincidence that people who have travelled extensively, and I’m not talking 5 star travel when the only local you meet is the one delivering your laundry back to your room, tend to be more open minded, empathetic and tolerant.
There’s a division in our Society at the moment the like of which we have never seen before, at least not in my lifetime.
That division is born out of ignorance and fear of the unknown.
And sadly it is being encouraged and exploited by a President who couldn’t give a flying fuck about anybody who isn’t like him and doesn’t support him.
You can do your part to heal the divide by bringing up kids who understand that the unknown isn’t to be feared, but embraced and it’s doubtful university will teach them that.
I was reading a thread on Quora the other day in which people were sharing tricks they knew of that car salespeople used to get people to buy.
One guy shared a couple he was aware of (he wasn’t a salesperson himself), but then went on to say that 30% of car salespeople he’d interacted with and usually bought from, didn’t use tricks.
What he meant was, 30% were so good that he didn’t spot the tricks they were using, so they seemed plausible and legitimate.
All car salespeople use tricks to get you to buy because if they didn’t.
1) They’d be in big trouble with their manager
2) They’d be struggling to hit their quota and be in big trouble with their manager
Whereas this post looks at the motor industry, these methods are used across sales in general.
Knowing in advance the lengths that people will go to to get you to buy from them means you can walk into the process fully armed and aware.
And if you’re anything like me, you can have some fun by dropping in comments like ‘Oh I see you’re trying to anchor me now, how cute’.
Trust me, that fucks with their flow and composure.
anchor on a sandy bottom
Every car sales dealership knows you will never pay sticker price unless you’re dumb as a rock.
So why do they bother, why not just put the actual price on the vehicle window?
Because once you have looked at the top end price you’re anchored to it and nothing you can do will entirely change that.
In your non-conscious mind you now have the belief that that is what the car is worth and anything you get off that price means you got a deal and you stuck it to the man.
They have done research with professors of psychology who knew they had been anchored and they still paid more than those who had not been anchored.
How Do You Avoid It?
It’s tricky to avoid anchoring because you need to know the starting point of the negotiation.
However, if you can say to yourself something like:
‘Whatever the sticker price is I’m going to take 25% off and start from that point’, then you may mitigate it somewhat.
And constantly reminding yourself you’ve been anchored can help too.
2. Getting You To Sign Your Name
They may ask you to write down on a scrap of paper what you’re prepared to pay for the car you have your eye on under the pretense that they need to take it to their manager.
Then they’ll ask you to sign it to show you’re genuine.
The minute you sign it, the chances you’re going to buy shoot up exponentially.
There is research to suggest that when we sign something either physically, or even electronically, is the moment we take ownership of it.
How Do You Avoid It?
Don’t write down the price you want, unless you’re prepared to go stupidly low in which case they probably won’t take it.
Similarly, don’t sign it unless you have decided that it’s the car for you and the price you wrote down is at LEAST 25% under sticker price.
3. Invoking Scarcity
They may tell you that the car is unique, one of a kind and will be gone if you as much as walk to the bathroom.
This invokes fomo (fear of missing out) and it can often influence us even when we know at a conscious level that it’s utter bullshit.
How Do You Avoid It?
Just ignore them.
Remind yourself that close to 50,000 cars are produced every single day in the US and there really isn’t just one that’s just right for you.
This is complicated to explain and very difficult to spot if the person is skilled at it.
An obvious example would be that they may ask you questions about previously buying a car. This is designed to activate the neural network for buying a car.
But it could be super subtle.
Let’s suppose you’re with your partner and one of you is more interested than the other.
The salesperson can seem to change the subject by asking something like, ‘I’m curious to know, when was the last time you two agreed on a purchase like a car?’
Seems innocuous, but really designed to activate the neural network of you agreeing on a purchase.
Priming is super, super, powerful.
How Do You Avoid It?
You have to be aware of it to avoid it and that’s not easy because if done well it sounds conversational.
If you spot something like the above example you could immediately start to think of a time when you and your partner failed to agree on something.
5. Imposing (false) Time Limits
I went to buy car for my wife earlier this year.
We were at a Jeep dealership and the guy was pushing me to make a decision there and then even though I told him several times and up front that I wouldn’t be buying that day.
The car was on at about $31k and he suddenly said in exasperation, ‘If I can get it down to $25k would you buy today?’
I said, ‘No, but at least I know what the starting point is when I come back’.
He insisted it was a today only price. Yet when I went back 2-weeks later, remarkably the deal was still available and we ended up paying a shade over $24k.
How Do You Avoid It?
Just ignore them
If they say they have other people interested in that car – ignore them
If they say that the offer they are extending to you ends that day – ignore them.
Any time limit they impose is almost certainly a false one designed to get you to put pen to paper.
The worst that can happen is you don’t get a car you liked, but trust me, they haven’t stopped making cars you like and another one will be right behind.
6. Going Missing
They really aren’t arguing with their sales manager or even sales director.
They’re not in an office fighting for you to get the price down and they’re not pleading with head office.
They’re just chilling.
The longer they leave you (within reason) the more you will be grateful for what they come back with and think you have a deal.
How Do You Avoid It?
Just remind yourself that this person is NOT on your side no matter how much he tries to suggest that.
He’s probably sat in a room playing on his phone just like you are.
7. Using The Law Of Reciprocity
When somebody does something for us or gives us something no matter how small, most of us then have a desire to give something back.
Think of when somebody pays you a compliment.
Your default reaction will be to compliment them back. It’s the law of reciprocity.
Fetching you a coffee or bottle of water may be a tiny thing in reality, but it can help nudge you toward the purchase.
How Do You Avoid It?
Just say no.
You can manage without a coffee for the time being
If you really do need a drink, then go and get it yourself from the vending machine when they ‘go missing’.
8. Complimenting You On Your Bargaining Skills
They want you to think you have had them over, that they are losing money.
They will tell you that you beat them and they are probably not getting any commission, but it’s okay, it happens from time to time.
They know that nobody likes to think they came off worse in a negotiation because it creates a status drop and a dopamine crash.
Similarly, if you believe their lies then you feel good about life as dopamine runs rampant through your bloodstream.
And guess what happens when you’re super stoked like that?
Yep, you’re more likely to be swayed by people than if you were in a more skeptical mood.
How Do You Avoid It?
If you’re really ballsy, you can drop your price again.
They will hate it, and probably you, but if they’re rushing to agree on a price it probably means you haven’t gone low enough.
Otherwise, just remind yourself they’re trying to lower their own status purposefully to get you to buy.
9. Using Conversational Hypnosis
This is used very well by pros, but probably not known by many and it’s also very misunderstood.
Hypnosis is simply a trance state, there’s nothing special about it – we all go into it many times a day without realizing.
If you have ever stared into space imaging your were somewhere else you were in trance.
Similarly, if you have driven from A to C and never noticed you passed through B, that’s because you were in a trance state.
And if you got so engrossed in a task that time stood still then you were in trance (and yes probably the flow state too).
This is how a car salesperson may use it.
‘Imagine you’re out in the car now.
You’re cruising down the turnpike maybe to go on vacation, you have the moonroof open – it’s a gorgeous summer day, the kids are quiet in the back because they’re engrossed in a movie and you’re listening to your favorite music on the amazing sound system blah blah blah.’
This is the mental equivalent of asking you to hold the puppy when you walk into a pet store.
They are trying to get you to ‘own’ the car before you have bought the car.
The moment you start to see all that stuff and really get engrossed in it, is probably the moment you need to get your cheque book out.
How Do You Avoid It?
As they ask you to imagine your journey on vacation, you see yourself broken down by the side of the turnpike with your partner ranting and raving at you for buying such a shitty car.
That should even things out.
10. Asking For A Strange Amount
Do you know how most homeless people can massive increase the amount of money they recieve from strangers?
Ask for not just a specific amount of money, but one that is unusual too.
If they ask for 56 cents it’s far more likely to elicit a positive response than if they just ask for some spare change.
It shatters our reference point of what we thought would happen as well as creating a believe that this person must really need it for something specific.
Your salesperson may beaver way on his calculator for a while before coming back and saying something like:
‘Okay, the lowest I can go is $23,719’
Oh wow you think, that’s a strange figure, he must be being straight with me.
How Do You Avoid It?
You get your own calculator out (or the one on your phone) and do some feaverish calculations of your own.
And then you counter with, ‘I appreciate where you’re coming from, but as you can see from my calculations (show them you’re phone with the number in question on), I couldn’t possibly go higher than twenty one thousand, six hundred and twelve dollars and 19 cents.’
You have just reversed the process and as most sales people will have no clue about the psychology behind what they just tried to do to you, they will be probably think you’re absolutely serious.
So there you have it, just 10 of the ways people use to try and get you to buy.
If you have any you’d like to add, please do leave me a comment!
If you’re a member of Amazon Prime then it’s highly unlikely that you missed ‘Prime Day’ recently where Amazing slashed prices to thousand of items to tempt people to spend online at a time that is traditionally very slow for retailers.
There were indeed some great bargains and we bought a pressure cooker that was less than half the normal price and one we’d been considering for some while.
However, there is a more insidious side to ‘Prime Day’, and that was what has followed.
In an attempt to keep things moving Amazon have been emailing their subscribers every day with the chance to get ‘free’ merchandise and a heading of, ‘It’s giveaway time!’.
To get free stuff you needed to click on the link in the email that took you back to Amazon. Once there you would be greeted by a bouncing box and all you had to do was click on it for the box to open and reveal that it was empty or had the free merchandise.
If you were unlucky as the vast majority of people are, that’s okay, because they would then offer you the product at a reduced discount – say 33% off.
This is classic bait and switch.
When you first saw the item you chose to click on you became invested in it. You wanted it because otherwise why would you click?
In your mind at a deep level you already owned that product, you’d been anchored to it in the same way a pet shop will try and anchor you to a cute puppy by thrusting it in to your arms..
Losing brought a certain sense of disappointment, but hang on a minute because then comes the switch with Amazon telling you that you can still get it for way less than it ‘normally’ cost.
If Amazon had sent you the reduced rate as it was in the email you almost certainly wouldn’t have bought, and they know that.
But by lighting your brain up with the chance to get it for free, then disappointing you and then rushing in to sooth that disappointment, you are ripe for the picking.
We are under attack from this kind of dubious at best, downright disgusting at worst behavior from companies that are prepared to do whatever they can to part you from your money.
However, if you know, then you can defend yourself.
You may be wondering, ‘what the hell has this got to do with self development or life coaching?’ and the answer is not really that much.
The truth is I have been writing about self development for over 12-years and I’m bored with it.
When it comes to psychological experiments the period spanning the 40 years or so after the end of World War II was nothing short of scary.
Scientists were physically administering electric shocks to people with sometimes, high doses of electricity, putting others (often children) through severe mental and physical trauma and abusing animals to an extent that doesn’t even bare thinking about for a compassionate human being.
We also had the authorities at Harvard turning a blind eye to experiments with LSD in a basement conducted by students trying to make contact with God, and subjecting a man by the name of Ted Kaczynski to 3-years of humiliation and anguish in the name of science.
In case you don’t know, Kaczynski later went on to be the Unabomber and killed 3-people. You can decide whether the authorities at Harvard deserve any culpability in regard to his later actions.
It’s almost unfathomable now to think of any of the following experiments being sanctioned.
However, that doesn’t mean that the ones already conducted don’t offer an amazing insight into the human psyche.
So, prepare to be appalled, as well as fascinated by what is to follow.
7 Dreadful Psychological Experiments
1. The Stanford Prison Psychological Experiment
This notorious experiment has spawned books and even movies such were the shocking results and conclusions.
In 1971, Psychologist Philip Zimbardo constructed a fake prison under (ironically) the Stanford psyche department and kitted it out with survey cameras so all the action could be filmed.
He recruited 24 undergraduates to either play the part of an inmate, or that of a prison guard.
Whereas the prisoners were kept in their cells 24/7 the guards were rotated on 8-hour shifts.
The guards were instructed to be strict and not to tolerate any ‘trouble makers’ or disobedience.
It didn’t take them long to follow their instructions, when on day 2 the prisoners rebelled and blockaded their cells.
The 2-week experiment lasted a mere 6-days when the ‘prisoners’ were pulled out with Zimbardo starting to fear for, not just their safety, but their lives.
Less than a week was all it took for the guards to resort to shocking tactics of sexual humiliation as well as psychological and physical abuse.
He hypothesized that the followers and enablers of Adolf Eichmann one of the most instrumental Nazis when it came to organizing the Holocaust, may be no more than normal people submitting to authority.
Milgram told his pairs of subjects that he was conducting an experiment on memory and then assigned one of the pair as the teacher and one the pupil or learner.
Unbeknown to the person who was assigned to be the teacher in each experiment (it was done through a rigged ballot), the other person was really an actor aware of the real purpose of the experiment.
The teacher and student were split into separate rooms and the teacher was then instructed to apply an electric shock to the other person every time they got a question wrong.
The severity of the ‘shocks’ were increased incrementally and the participants could even hear the other person screaming in pain.
Yet by and large they kept applying the shocks to such a level that there would have been a lot of explaining to do with dead bodies and severely damaged people if they had been real.
Some resisted at first and said they didn’t like administering the pain, but continued to do so when told by the man in a white coat it was all part of the experiment.
The Take Away
Not only are we all capable of inflicting pain upon others, we are also massively influenced by authority figures and under such ‘perfect storm’ situations all rational behavior evaporates.
If a person in authority (or even perceived authority) delivers a message over and over again from a position of power, eventually we start to believe it,
In the meantime I’m off to buy a white coat.
The Good Samaritan Experiment
Over 40 Princeton students were recruited to supposedly deliver a talk on another part of campus in the early 1970’s.
When getting their instructions they were then primed with one of three statements designed to elicit mild, moderate and severe urgency in terms of how quickly they needed to get to the venue and start their talk.
On their route the experimenters had positioned a man doubled up in pain, coughing uncontrollably and obviously in a lot of distress and in need of help.
They wanted to see what effect the urgency of the instructions had on the students likelihood of stopping to help.
Less than 50% of students stopped at all and a mere 10% of those who were told their talk had to start quickly and people were waiting for them.
Some literally even stepped over the man and didn’t stop.
The irony was that these were Seminary students and half were told they were giving talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The Take Away
Many of us will help others, but the likelihood of us doing so is dependent on so many factors, not least of which is, are we in a hurry or not?
4. The One Marshmallow Or Two Experiment?
Another famous Stanford experiment from the 1960’s led by Walter Mischel involved testing the ability of children to resist short-term pleasure for longer-term gain.
4-year-old children were placed in a room one at a time with a bowl of marshmallows and not a fat lot else to focus their attention on.
They were then told that they could either eat one marshmallow now, or they could have two when the experimenter returned in 15 minutes time.
The majority of children opted for the latter option, but then caved in when left alone to their own devices.
You may think that wasn’t very surprising, after all most kids like shoveling sweet shit into their mouths and self control isn’t usually a word adopted to describe 4-year-olds.
However, the real genius of the experiment was the follow up and tracking of the participants.
The kids who resisted were far less likely to have issues with drink and/or drugs later on in life and overall were far more successful than the kids who gave into temptation.
The Take Away
Maybe teaching kids self control should be higher up our collective agendas?
5. The Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes Experiment
The day after the assassination of Martin Luther King, teacher Jane Elliott decided that she wanted to help her third-grade students understand the consequences of being a minority in a Society rife with racism, fear and hatred.
With their permission (although being given permission by an 8-year-old for such an experiment is dubious at best) she split the group into those with blue eyes and those with not.
She declared that blue-eyed people were superior and treated that group accordingly by being more relaxed about discipline with them, giving them longer recess times and paying them more attention.
The other children were ordered to sit at the back of the class and were treated harshly and with contempt.
The most staggering part of this ad lib experiment was the fact that as soon as the end of just the first day massive changes had already taken place.
The blue-eyed children who had been previously struggling started to perform better and similarly the smarter brown-eyed kids were all of a sudden struggling.
Not only that, but the blue-eyed kids soon started to taunt the others and gloat.
Elliott was wise enough to flip the exercise after the first day to give both sides the opportunity to understand what it feels like to be treated in such a manner.
An important finding in an experiment that has been replicated many times with the same results, was that the dark-eyed kids didn’t taunt their fellow students to the extent that they had been taunted.
The Take Away
It seems that for the most part we find it difficult (although of course by no means impossible) to truly empathize with minorities.
Unless that is, we too have been treated poorly because we belonged to a minority group first.
Some people have never been treated poorly by minorities because they were/are too powerful.
6. The Bystander Effect Experiment
In 1964 Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York in full view of an undetermined number of people, but in all probability well over 20, but probably less than the 38 reported at the time.
Her assailant, Winston Moseley didn’t even kill her quickly.
After stabbing her once and somebody shouting at him to ‘leave her alone‘ he ran back to his car, only to return shortly after to stab her multiple times as she lay on the ground bleeding.
The media were up in arms at how many people had failed to do anything and it sparked a storm that has never quite abated.
The Bystander Effect is the belief that the more people who witness a scene such as the one above, the less any one individual is likely to do anything about it.
Psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latane decided to test this theory 4 years after the event.
This time however they used the ruse of somebody having a life-threatening seizure and as per the Milgram experiment the study group could not see the person in trouble only hear them.
The results were startling similar to what happened with Kitty Genovese.
The more people who were aware of the person needing help, the less likely anybody was to offer it.
I sent out a blanket e-mail asking people to step forward.
What I should have done was e-mail people individually and ask them if they’d care to help out.
So if you ever find yourself in medical difficulty surrounded by strangers, don’t cry for help in general.
Instead point at one person and say, “You there, I think I’m about to shuffle off this mortal coil, could you possibly arrange for an ambulance my good fellow” Or something like that.
7. The Robbers Cave Experiment
In the summer of 1954 two buses picked up two groups of eleven 12-year-old boys and took them to Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma.
None of the boys knew any of the others in their group and neither group knew of the existence of the other, at least for the first week.
After the first week social psychologist Muzafer Sherif arranged for the boys to meet one another and for a competitive element to be introduced.
Already the boys had created distinct group cultures culminating in giving themselves the names of ‘The Rattlers’ and ‘The Eagles’.
However, this was taken to a whole new level when it was announced there would be a series of competitions including a baseball game.
The Rattlers took over the field immediately even planting a flag to demonstrate that they now owned the field even before the game had gotten underway.
From thereon in things deteriorated rapidly from name calling and verbal abuse to ransacking of the ‘oppositions’ living quarters and stealing of property.
Like The Stanford Prison Experiment the organizers soon had to step in to avoid the very real chance of physical violence.
During a 2-day cooling off period the boys were asked questions about one another and even though only 2-weeks earlier they had never met any people in their group they still viewed them far more favorably.
The Take Away
From an ethical stand point like a number of these experiments it leaves a lot to be desired. All the participants were white and all boys aged 12, so it’s hardly representative.
However, we see this kind of behavior all the time and at almost every level.
A certain unnamed President has crushed it!
He has taken the ‘us and them’ model to a whole new level.
But do you know why, and maybe more importantly, how, he has done that?
Because he can, and because too many people have allowed him to.
And (for the most part) they are not bad people – they have just been conned by a second-rate car sales person who understands cognitive biases.
I know, I know, you’ve got shit to do and that’s a long time, but stop whining and do it anyway because research conducted by clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson suggests it will be well worth your while.
I’d prefer you to use a pen and paper for this, but if you’re not sure what a pen and paper are, then it’s fine to use a word document on your computer.
You’re going to be writing two distinct stories. In one you are the hero and in the other, the villain.
Let’s start with the villain so we can then end on an up note.
In this rather depressing kafkaesque tale, you get pretty much everything in your life wrong.
Life Goes Wrong – Very Wrong
You’re life is driven by fear and the need for immediate gratification.
Every tiny negative element of your personality is magnified.
Your diet goes south along with your fitness and your relationships.
One poor choice and/or mistake is followed by another and then another as you look to recover.
Maybe you get behind the wheel of a car having had one too many drinks and you kill somebody resulting in you losing your job, most of your friends and your liberty.
Or, it could be that you make poor health choices and you get seriously, life-threateningly ill – and it’s directly related to those choices.
Or, perhaps you start your own business thinking you’re on to a sure fire winner, but it struggles from the get go.
The more it struggles, the more money you pour into it, desperate to make it work.
First you mortgage your house.
And then you turn to the friends to loan you money. A couple even dig into their personal savings after you promised a high return on their investment.
Finally, in an act of sheer desperation and against all advice from those close to you, you look to borrow money from less legitimate sources with crazy interest rates.
Nothing works and the business just soaks up the cash and spirals downward along with your relationships and self esteem.
Don’t think something like this can’t happen to you because it absolutely can.
All of us are one or two poor decisions away from starting a domino effect that ends up with us sliding into the abyss.
If this is making you uncomfortable, good, because it’s meant to.
In fact if it doesn’t make you feel bad, then you probably haven’t taken things far enough.
The more real you make it and the worse it makes you feel, the better it can serve you.
When you have finished writing, read it through one time and absorb the negative motions.
Then take a few minutes to clear your head and remind yourself that was just a story and there’s no need to dwell on it any longer.
Life Goes Right – Very Right
Now to the good stuff.
I want you to think about how your life is going to look in the future if you do everything you say you will do, want to do, and know you should do to ensure a life worth living.
It could be that you are super fit and healthy because you’re following through on every promise you have made to yourself and others.
Maybe you’re really enjoying and succeeding in your job? Or even that you’re running your own successful business? It doesn’t matter which because you’re crushing it.
Or perhaps you’re in the kind of nourishing and loving relationship that you yearn for. One that other people look at with respect, admiration and maybe a little bit of envy.
You could be taking part in some form of giving back and helping others less fortunate than yourself because that gives you a deep sense of meaning.
It doesn’t have to be just one thing.
In fact it shouldn’t be just one thing. It should be a combination of many things, as long as those things are aligned with your core values and just writing them down makes you feel good.
The only criteria is that what you’re writing motivates and inspires you and that if you were on lying your death bed a great many years from now you would look back with pride, satisfied that you made the most of your life.
Add as much detail as you can and make it as real as you can.
This isn’t a 60-second exercise where you jot down a few notes and move on, this is designing your life.
Well done for completing this because very few people will have.
There’s no need to be constantly reminding yourself of the dark outcome, except maybe when you think any poor decision making traits or bad habits are likely to raise their ugly head – then offer yourself a gentle reminder.
However, when your motivation is flagging you could take out the desired outcome, the future that you know deep down is possible, and absorb all those possibilities.