Hanlon’s Razor Saves The World (or at least Twitter)

These are crazy times.  It might be the most divisive period in United States history. Depending on how far right or left you lean we have, censorship, riots, conspiracy, and even war.

To put it another way, shit is TENSE. 

And so I’d like to offer a two-word solution to see the world in a more positive light, de-escalate conflicts before they begin, and improve your relationships both personally and professionally.

Hyperbole? Definitely. Life-changing? It was for me. 

Two words: 

Hanlon’s Razor. 

It’s a mental model that can be summarized as:

‘Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by neglect.’ 

In other words, ‘The world is not out to fucking get you, shit just happens.’

Right now, I think the biggest problem both on the right and left is that people feel like the other side is trying to “gotcha!” them. I notice it a lot on both sides. It’s less of a conversation and more of a trap being laid so that the person can say “AHA SEE?!”

This leads to most of us being on the defensive in conversations, assuming the other person has some malicious intent. 

We’ve all heard the cliche that “to assume makes an ass out of u and me” and it’s really true but Hanlon’s Razor is a tool to actually help you STOP assuming. 

Society is in a really precarious moment. We are actively de-platforming people we disagree with. Where are these people going to go? Is the backlash when they find each other and retaliate going to be ten times worse?

On the other hand, some of these powerful people were inciting violence and chaos that you could argue should be quelled. You can’t have a civil discourse if the other party jumps straight to violence right?

So what’s the solution?

The first step is to acknowledge that there is no such thing as an infallible human being.

The smartest people make a lot of mistakes. Hanlon’s Razor says inability or neglect is far more likely to be the cause than malice. These people aren’t trying to take anyone’s freedom or incite violence, they’re just having a massive breakdown of trust and communication. 

When a situation causes us to become angry or frustrated, it can be valuable to consider if those emotions are justified. 

Often, the best way to react to other people causing us problems is to educate them, not disdain them. This isn’t just saying “hey, you’re wrong” on Twitter. It’s showing them information, asking questions, and letting them see for themselves that there’s no black and white solution to pretty much anything. 

In this way, we can avoid repeats of the same situation as well as ending the conversation and having them go find others who engage and support their ideas blindly. 

I sincerely believe like Bill & Ted’s song that saved the world, this simple trick can have incredible downstream effects on the world right now. 

Imagine if we all just assumed that we had the best intentions and put ourselves in the other person’s shoes before speaking. Imagine we start there. What do conversations look like then? 

The problem with this is it’s hard and others aren’t going to do it. So you have to eat shit and get comfortable losing arguments for a while. 

But the good news is by doing it YOU become less stressed out and avoid wasting valuable brain space with negative energy. We only have a finite amount of space in our cerebral health bar every day. This will allow you to preserve yours and be happier.

The other person will run around depleting theirs by letting arguments and fear take headspace.

You will be free. 

And, if we all try a little harder to give others the benefit of the doubt before assuming bad intentions, maybe we can save the world.

You are the 500 people you follow online.

Most people know you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, but the reality is we’re a combination of those people PLUS the 500 people we follow online. 

It happens slowly over time. A funny tweet. A follow for a follow. A new friend at a bar you want to keep in touch with. But now suddenly you’re allowing 50 new strangers in your headspace. 

Their  thoughts on politics, work and media are flooding your brain. Subconsciously influencing your way of thinking. 

After a while, like advertising, their thoughts can be indistinguishable from truth. 

Every follow is, in a way, a vote for who you are fundamentally as a person over time.

Take social media very seriously. 

I suggest doing a conscious audit of what you consume. 

Take a day to go through your feed and pay attention to which posts make you twinge or roll your eyes. Mute or unfollow them. I would caution against doing this too quickly though. Take some time to think about why it makes you uncomfortable. The right kinds of opposition helps you build mental resilience and keeps you out of ideological echo chambers.

Which posts make you laugh, feel good or inspire?

Like and retweet them. Engage with them. We save too much praise for DM and critique things publicly. It should be the opposite.

I’m reminded of the parable of the two wolves. 

“A Cherokee elder was teaching his young grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil- he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt and ego.

The other is good- he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

This same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too.”

The boy thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,

“Which wolf will win?”

The elder simply replied,

“The one you feed.”

Tsalagi Tale

Which wolf will win on your feed?

The negativity and anxiety will increase with every bad follow. The positivity and energy can compound with the right base. Control your feed, control your mind.

This is an atomic habit that will compound and slowly transform you into the person you want to be. 

I recently joined an online writing community Write of Passage. I knew before starting that I would be required to be more public online and I had the same fears as anyone would. Would I be ridiculed or humiliated for “trying” online? I made a safe for work handle (hence @SFWGreg) with the honest belief that after I bombed out of this class I could burn the account and go back to lurking and RT wrestling jokes. 

Since it was a new account I started my base following everyone in my writing cohort. I didn’t have the built up garbage follows I had for the last 10 years. The shitty coworker, the finance bro, the anxious trending topic commentator. 

Everyone on my new feed was a writer or aspiring writer and that means they were thinkers. The right blend of optimistic but rational. It felt like a whole part of my brain that had lied dormant for years. I want to feed that good energy and expand it now while constantly pruning (muting) the bad. 

I recommend quarterly audits of your feed. I’m actually due for one myself.

It’s a good reminder as well to BE one of the good 500 people in someone’s feed. If you read this, go ahead and try to help someone out today online. 

There we go, I just fixed Twitter 😉

Inputs & Outputs

I recently responded to a tweet by Derek Sivers that asked “What non-obvious ways do you find or make BALANCE in your world?”

My response garnered enough attention that I felt it warranted a short article. 

I think the reason it struck a chord is that it was simple. I divide my day between Inputs and Outputs. 

It’s sort of a combination of ideas from the books The One Thing, (focus on accomplishing ONE thing today that has the most impact)  The Art of Learning (physiological triggers) and Deep Work (short but intense period of distraction free work)

Outputs are what I produce.

Writing this article is an output. Working on NooWave is an output. 

Inputs are what I consume.

E-mail is input. Texts are inputs. All these things worming their way into my brain and distracting me. Inputs are distractions from Outputs.

It’s probably important that I mention that I actually start my day with inputs. I don’t have any special willpower. I ease into my day by mainlining Twitter and doomscrolling. I mess around, read texts and emails.

I like the idea of physiological triggers for switching into output mode. Go for a walk, listen to music or move to a certain room 

Flow State Coffee (cheap plug) is my trigger for doing physiological important creative work. It’s a signal that it’s time to hit some outputs. 

Once I finish my coffee, I place my phone in a kitchen timer safe, activate my Freedom app and produce something. Anything. 

Usually this involves writing. I’ll draft our weekly update emails for NooWave or articles like this.

Anything I do needs to be something I produce and free from consumption. Even if it ISN’T done, it’s something I HAVE done. It’s moving myself forward, even if only an inch. 

At a certain point I get hungry and cranky. Usually around 12-1pm. Since I’m an intermittent fasting guy (shocking to read in a “productivity article” I know)  eating is a signal to my brain that it’s time to allow inputs.

I fully submit to my lizard brain and respond to emails, browse Twitter and Reddit. I’ll talk to customers or take meetings with partners. 

After my brain hurts from doing this I go workout as a release and an unofficial ‘end’ to that day. 

I don’t think inputs are bad. Inputs are serendipity, creativity and they’re fun usually. All good stories come from inputs. 

My day is probably 25% output and 75% input.  It’s important to have both and a little bit of output goes a long way. One without the other leaves me feeling empty. 

I find this simple tactic of breaking up my day leads to a very relaxed consistency which compounds and is a far more balanced way to work every day. The days feel easy and the weeks lead to real progress. 

Of every morning routine, lifestyle hack or GSD program I’ve tried this is the easiest and most effective one to stick to. I’ve implemented this around March 2020 and NooWave went from an idea in my head l to a real business, to profitable as of yesterday! 

Don’t overthink it. Have a trigger for small but focused periods of outputs and do that consistently. Enjoy your inputs. 

Hopefully this was one of them.