Does buying running shoes make you faster?

You’ve seen the ads. These shoes are x amount lighter, x times more cushiony or can spring over a goal post on a football field- buy now and save. You are automatically interested, thinking, for a minutia that you could really use lighter, cushionier and springier shoes. Then your common sense sets in. “Why in the world would I want my shoes to spring over a goal post on a football field?”

Does buying running shoes make you faster

Doing the Math

Imagine for a minute that you do the math on these claims. You want to be an informed consumer before you buy running shoes to make you faster. You determine the extra .04 ounces of weight loss in the shoes is equal to the weight of about a half a peanut! 

You scream with frustration! “Argh, these stupid marketers are just playing with my mind!” Math says that if you simply cut one peanut out of your diet every day, you’ll be twice as fast as any Bozo that buys these shoes.

The Math is Wrong

But math is wrong. When it comes to the science of improvement, of personal growth, there is a factor that math can’t measure.

Math can’t measure your mindset.

Math can’t measure your focus.

Math can’t measure your effort.

Math can’t measure the idea that you have in your head the morning after you buy the expensive, springy shoes that tells you just how fast and springy your run will be this morning.

Math can’t formulate how much more you will try to prove that the shoes made you faster, which will cause you to, try harder, burn more calories, lose weight and yes, eventually get faster.

The shoes don’t make you faster, but the idea of the shoes do. The idea that you must prove to your friend that these shoes were a good investment, forces you to go faster. The thought that you are a logical spender causes you to grit your teeth and push up the same hill that, yesterday you slogged up the side of.

So do lighter, cushionier, springy running shoes make you faster?

The answer is no, mathematically they don’t.

Until you buy them.

What do people think of you?

What do people think of you? Are you kind, aggressive, fat, happy, depressed, generous or something else? You can take any number of personality tests or online quizzes to learn more about who your are but there is a problem. 

Learning more about who you are does not tell you anything about what people think about you.

Reading the reviews of your work or your last performance review will not tell you what people think about you, and asking people what they think about you will not tell  you what they think about you.

There are countless problems with the question, what do people think about me. One is that other people’s perspective of you is as varied as the number of people you know. Stephanie may think you’re brilliant because you helped her find a great job but David thinks you’re an asshole because you haven’t called him back in a month. It’s called the fundamental attribution error. People generalize their opinion of others based on a narrow slice of time. The day you were tired changed the person the world saw compared to the day you were first engaged. 

Then there is the problem with them. What is there perception of your political stance, the way you dress or the type of work you do? What they think of you is highly influenced by their beliefs more than who you really are. 

Let’s also not forget that people may hate your last book, but love how much money you give to charity. They may love your music but hate the way you dance. You are not a singular entity anymore than the state you live in. I like Texas. . . until I have to drive across it.

So what do people think of you?


They think the worst and they think the best they are completely wrong and perfectly accurate and everything in between. The question shouldn’t be what do people think of me, the question is how can I serve the people who do think about me. How can I become the best version of myself so that the people around me benefit from my growth. 

How do I accelerate personal growth?

I just finished Unleash The Power Within, the four day, 10-15 hour per day Tony Robbins event designed to help you break through limiting beliefs, learn how to achieve more and become a better version of yourself. It is a massive event designed to answer the question, how do I accelerate personal growth. It was amazing. 15,000 people in the Los Angeles Convention Center dancing, screaming, crying and growing all at the same time, for more hours over a weekend than most people spend all week at work.

It was total immersion, which is one of the things that Tony teaches. One of the pillars of personal growth is to take massive action, which is what we did. But the truth is I didn’t grow while I was there, at least not in any way that is measurable by normal means. My bank account certainly didn’t grow, my health and fitness may have gotten worse, (the food in L.A. is amazing!) and my projects in my businesses suffered because I was there.

Why Go?

And yet,

I personally grew. Most of the time when someone asks how to accelerate personal growth, what they are really asking is, how can I make more money, how can I get more freedom or how can I get something else that I want, faster than the average person. and the answer is to take a step back.

Back Up

Take a step back and evaluate where you are, take a step back and define what you want or take a step back and learn what you are missing in order to make your goals a reality. In this world of constant motion and movement, most of us don’t take the time to stop and gain clarity on where we are going, we just go. It’s like getting in a car and driving whatever direction it happens to be facing, constantly going faster and faster, without understanding where you are really driving.

Accelerating personal growth isn’t hard. If your goal is to learn Spanish, you can do it in a few months, if you want to read 50 books, buy an account with Audible and listen all day, by next year you will have met your goal. But accelerating growth for the sake of growing is a problem.

You have to know where you’re heading before you speed off to get there.

If your product is losing your company money, more sales will just put you in bankruptcy faster. The trick to accelerating personal growth is easy. As Tony says, “take massive action.” This will accelerate everything in your life and it is easy.

Knowing where you are going in life is difficult.

The Correlation Between School and Success

mark rossini

There is a correlation between bad students and big success. But it isn’t what most people think.

Prevailing wisdom says, “The better one does in school, the better they will do in their career, their finances and in life overall.” But the numbers just don’t support that thinking.

Bad Students/Successful People

President George H.W. Bush said “I refuse to release my high school transcript. I failed chemistry and I don’t want anyone to know that.”

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard his junior year, Mark Zuckerberg dropped out his sophomore year.

Here is a list of just a few successful high school dropouts.


What School Doesn’t Do

In this article in Inc., Ilya Pozin explains that GPA does not measure incredibly valuable attributes. Values such as leadership ability, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, or unconventional problem solving go unchecked. In fact, one of the most valuable topics for understanding success is the study of heuristics, which most schools never even touch.

But there are outstanding examples of great students, who failed at life. People like Harry Markopolis, Ignaz Semmelweis and Pol Pot who were champions of education. But they either weren’t able to find success, or in the case of Pol Pot, was just a horrible person. Saddam Hussein was one of the biggest proponents of education. Under his reign Iraq had a 100% primary school enrollment and Hussein set out to make sure every person in Iraq could read.

The Student Loan Crisis

Yet we still believe, despite mounting evidence that the path to success is formal eduction. All while wading through a student loan crisis that could be the next downfall of our economy. In a world where over half of borrowers still haven’t paid off their student loans 20 years later, we have a $1.5 trillion crisis on our hands. Not because we need it, but because we are perpetrating a lie. The lie that formal education is the path to success has turned out to be a nightmare for some. It’s a complete farce to most of the people with a 17 year-old student loan for a degree they aren’t even using.

If good students are struggling and bad students are finding great success, why are we pushing our youth to be good students?

Choice Architecture

I was so embarrassed. 

I walked right into the door; not through an open door, but directly into a closed door, hard. My knee struck the bottom half of the door with a loud bang, my head nearly bouncing off the glass where the hand-written sign clearly read, “Pull to open door.” The whole store choice architectureturned and looked when they heard the loud thud of my knee hitting the door that I had pushed hard against the jam. I could feel the color drain from my face as I slowly looked at the cashier, who smiled and said . . . . .

Choice architecture is the study, not of the decisions we make, but how those decisions are presented to us. Restaurants know that a line on a menu about cheesecake is worth much less money to a diner than having the cheesecake brought to the table side on a beautiful cart and showcased. Even if the cheesecake is exactly the same, as a rule we pay more for the presentation. In this example the restaurant has executed perfect choice architecture. They have built the presentation in such a way that we are more likely to choose what they want us to have. 

And I think it’s fantastic. 

Let me explain with another example plucked from the dining profession.


A sommelier is someone who tells you what your wine will taste like before you buy it. Then, when you pay much more for a fancy table, fancy bottle, and fancy description you can say, “oh the sommelier was right, this does have a nutty after-taste,” even though countless scientific studies have proven that a lot of the taste of wine is imaginary. The flavor of wine comes as much from our expectations as the grapes from which it was made. So the choice architecture plays a huge role in the entire experience.

Or think of it from a 21st century perspective.

The last bit of software you bought solved a problem yes, but you paid more for it than for the other option because you had heard of it before, the purchase process was simple and the website was beautiful. You didn’t even shop the competition. If you had, you probably wouldn’t have chosen them anyway because their website is clunky, no one you know uses them and it was a lot easier to go with something you are familiar with than to research another option. The choice architecture guided your decision. You went with the simple choice, which is what most of us do.

We hire people to make our decisions for us.

Mostly because they are better at it than we are. 

Those people that we hire to make choices for us create great choice architecture around our decisions. They arrange and situate our choices to help us choose what they want us to have. 

And it’s great. 

Here’s why.

Snake Oil

On it’s face it sounds horrible. Someone who manipulates the system to get us to choose what they want us to use, buy or have seems shady at best. They are using the same process snake oil salesmen used 100 years ago, right? Well not really. The snake oil salesman tricked people into buying vegetable oil that didn’t do what he promised it would do.

He lied.

But the cheesecake from the table side is delicious, and the software does work. We aren’t being sold, in most cases, a complete lie. We are getting something for the money we spend. The choice architects are not con-men. They are creating expectations for their own product when they dress it up. And unlike the snake oil salesman, they are still around hours, months even years after you buy. They field your comments or service their product for you after the purchase, which the snake oil salesman never did.


Good choice architects present their product as having a higher value than their competition because they know customers can be disagreeable at times. They add options, tweak the light and clean up the presentation to raise our expectations of their work. And often, they raise the price. Yes it makes them more money, but it also elevates what you expect from the product. This makes you more discerning, more demanding but also more appreciative. By presenting simple, beautiful, higher-priced options they are taking the guess work out of our decisions, and we pay more for that service.

We have hired them to make our decisions for us.

Plus you really do think the wine has a nutty aftertaste when the sommelier says it will. Your expectations guide your reality. When you expect the outcome your mind makes you think it’s true. In this article from Psychology Today, David DiSalvo explains this placebo effect. He explains that when a choice architect prices a bottle of wine at $50 and another at $10, we think the $50 bottle of wine tastes better, even if they are both the same wine. It’s a psychological nuance we all have. We anticipate value defined by, among other things, purchase price.

But wait, if we think the wine tastes better, doesn’t it actually taste better?

Your Reality

No one can take away the experience that the choice architect has given us of a better tasting wine, even if all she did was raise the price on the bottle. The wine does taste better, so she did us a favor. We hired her to make our choice for us, and in return she gave us better tasting wine.

It happens every day. We hire someone to help us make a better choice, and usually they do.

Unless you are waking out of the door in a specific store in my home town that has a round handle for pushing and a flat plate for pulling.

Opening Doors

For over 40 years now I have hired people to train my brain that round handles on doors are for pulling and flat plates on the same doors are for pushing. They have done a fabulous job making the decision to push or pull a door a simple transaction for me. For the last four decades I have not stopped at every door I encountered, examined the jam, looked for instructions and then made my choice. It has always been a simple event.

The choice architects in the door opening business have been very proficient and consistent in my life. So proficient that any hand-written sign on the door goes completely unnoticed by me as I confidently stride through a skill I have mastered thanks to the universal standards set forth by our choice architect friends who engineer the door experience.

There could be a flashing neon sign, with elephants doing cartwheels and dollar signs saying “don’t push this door!!” It would be overshadowed by the years of Pavlovian training my brain has been through. It surprises me that anyone would think that writing “Pull to choice architectureopen door” on a piece of paper would fix the problem of the wrong handled door.

The Language of Choice

In fact I would guess that most people of every race, creed and denomination speak the same door opening language as I do. In fact I know they do. I know they do because psychology says they do. I know they do because marketing 101 explains they do. And I know they do because when I could feel the color drain from my face as I slowly looked at the cashier, he smiled and said . . . it happens all the time.

I fired my first choice architect today.

If we want to have any influence with the people around us, we have to understand choice architecture. We must have a sense of how people make decisions. Writing a sign and sticking it to the door was purely a waste of time, nothing more. It was an exercise in futility because the sign never intercepted my conscious during the transaction, and I’m not the only one.

It Happens All the Time

The cashier said, “it happens all the time.” If it happens all the time, that means the sign isn’t working! The sign isn’t working because no one looks for directions before opening a door. This is choice architecture at it’s purest. The choice to pull or push open a door comes solely from the shape of the handle on the door, nothing else.

So when no one buys your product, listens to your talk or reads what you wrote, it isn’t because they are screwed up. It probably isn’t because your product, speech or writing is bad either. Often we lose influence because we get the architecture of the choice wrong.

If what you are offering is of any value to others, you owe it to them to understand choice architecture, even if all your are doing is helping them open a door the right way.

The Case for Disagreeableness; the “Turn the Other Cheek” Myth

Should people turn the other cheek? For the next 1000 words you will disagree with me.

In the sleepy little town of Snowflake, Arizona (you read it right; Snowflake, Arizona) a man named Joey molested a student in the locker room of the high school after a weights class. Just a few short months later, another man named Bryce walked into the local bank, stoleturn the other cheek $30,010.00 from the business in which he was a partner, after stealing a $10,516 trailer and forging the title into his name.

When both cases were reported, it was nearly impossible to persuade the appropriate leadership to take any action. The leadership in the company turned a blind eye to the theft of over $40,000 and the school leadership flatly refused to call the police on the molester.

Taking Action

When action was finally taken against both men, the townspeople were in an uproar . . . against the people who called the proper authorities! The calls were, “how could you send Joey to prison?” and, “don’t you know a lawsuit could ruin Bryce’s life?”

These anecdotes may portray the town as full of horrible thieves and morally bankrupt people, but it’s quite the opposite. The town is largely LDS, a branch of Christianity with some of the strictest rules concerning behavior this side of the Menonites and the Amish.

The town is full of very kind people who believe that honesty and truthfulness are next to Godliness. You would like visiting Snowflake. You would like it more if you knew someone there. A drive through the town reveals beautiful homes, clean streets and waving neighbors. The populous understands completely that molestation and theft are wrong. And yet these crimes went almost completely ignored. How did these good people see the accounts of these actions, and turn a blind eye?


The answer is disagreeableness. 

But not how you think.

Most psychologists categorize human personality into 5 factors. They are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. The acronym OCEAN is often used as a reminder. Kendra Cherry outlined what are called the Big 5 in her April 2018 article in where she explains that each trait is a range, or spectrum. She says. . . 

pastedGraphic.png-It is important to note that each of the five personality factors represents a range between two extremes. For example, extraversion represents a continuum between extreme extraversion and extreme introversion. In the real world, most people lie somewhere in between the two polar ends of each dimension.-

Where a person lands within the range of each category tells us a lot about that person. I’m sure you can think of someone you know who is extremely introverted, and their counterpart who is the life of the party. Strictly based on those personality traits, I can quickly assess that your introverted friend is quieter than your extrovert amigo. They are also much more calm. These are the traits of those respective factors.


Then there is agreeableness. It sounds more like a positive personality trait rather than a spectrum. Shouldn’t we all want to rank as high as possible on the agreeable spectrum?

The answer is absolutely not. 

I’m sure you don’t agree with me at this moment. But after I describe the dimensions of agreeableness to you, you will be certain I am wrong.

Agreeableness encompasses attributes such as kindness, cooperation and trust. People who rank high on the agreeableness scale are said to care more about people other than themselves while their low-ranking counterparts are more competitive. They care less how others feel and have little trouble insulting those around them. 

So why would anyone want to be disagreeable? Why be the person who insults their peers?

Because it can be the kindest thing we do.

That’s Enough

Joey pinned down a younger, smaller, weaker student. Prior to the commencement of any felonies a very agreeable weights coach named Art walked onto the scene of the large, strong adult man holding down the younger student against his will and said, “that’s enough.” 

Then he left.

He abandoned the victim at the moment the victim needed him the most. Art was much too agreeable to intervene.

When the victim told his parents they immediately went to the school. Larry, the principle said, “that’s just boys being boys.” Larry was too agreeable to cause a ruckus.

Where Was The Principle?

The family went to the police who conducted an investigation and charged Joey with multiple felonies. The question from the investigator was, “Why did the parents have to call us? Where was the principle?” The answer, he was busy being agreeable.

When Hollace, the Superintendent was forced to take action against the coach who turned his back on the victim, he gave Art one day off before the Thanksgiving holiday. Hollace was just to agreeable to do much more.

turn the other cheekWhen the community came together to take a stand, the result was a group that raises money for the school. When pressed as to why they didn’t fight to have Art fired they said, “we don’t want to do anything negative.” The same school that let down one of their students, the same faculty that flatly refused to take action was rewarded by the community with proceeds from bake sales and car washes. The town was too agreeable to disrupt the status quo.

Leaving Town

The victim and his family left town. The harassment and vandalization they received from a few of Joeys friends went unpunished and was more than they cared to handle. The townspeople and their Christian beliefs were just to agreeable to stand up against the aggressors.

One of the characterizations of Christianity is described as turning the other cheek, a phrase borrowed from the Sermon on the Mount. It has been used to describe incredibly kind acts, like the kind treatment of POWs in Communist Korea. In largely Christian societies this act of agreeableness is highly regarded. But it is not something that is universally taught in the New Testament the way it is interpreted now. In Matthew 5:39, during the famed Sermon, Jesus says, “if a man strike you on the right cheek, turn to him the other as well.” 

Turn The Other Cheek

But the sermon is wrought with metaphor. In the same sermon Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” and likened good works of men to light. It is not a section of the Bible that can be taken literally. Aquinas wrote the following regarding the turn the other cheek passage.

“To interpret the injunction of the Sermon on the Mount literally is to misunderstand it. This injunction signifies rather the readiness of the soul to bear, if it be necessary, such things and worse without bitterness to the attacker.” 

It has been explained that Jesus was not teaching Christians to lay down in the face of evil, rather to stand up to evil while resisting the urge to hate the evildoer. Turn the other cheek is not a charge to cowardice. It is a call for self-control while fighting evil. In my book SWAY, I laid out the influence of those on the autism spectrum (very convincingly I must say), but their influence does not come from weakness. It comes from strength in their convictions.


When Bryce stole over $40,000 he was mad at his business partner, John. The week prior Bryce insisted the company make his friend Scott a third partner. Bryce explained that he wasn’t comfortable moving forward without Scott as partial owner. John refused to bring Scott on. So Bryce asked the accountant, L’Erin how much money was in the account. She explained there was $35,000 but a $5000 bill was due, plus payroll for the week. 

Bryce, in his fit, explained to L’Erin he was cleaning out the account. He was putting all of the company money in his personal account and he would pay her from that account. L’Erin was just too agreeable to say no.

Unfortunately Bryce stole his partner John’s paycheck and did not give it back. Nor did he pay the crew that was working the week prior. Because that crew was John’s sons, who were filling in for Bryce and his sons while they were on vacation at the beach. Bryce stole the paychecks of his partner and his partners sons and L’Erin never made a peep, because that would be disagreeable.

Just A Reaction

Curt, the project manager also knew about the stolen money. Bryce paid him with a personal check as well. When asked why he didn’t say anything to anyone about what was happening, his answer was, “Oh, that was just Bryce’s reaction.” Curt was just to agreeable to make waves.

We value agreeableness. They guy who never says anything negative and the lady who always has a compliment hold a special place in our hearts, as they should. It is right and good that we value those behaviors. It is a heuristic we use to gauge each other. 

But we have to pay attention to context.

Turning the other cheek means standing up to wrong without hating the wrongdoer.

It is a lesson I am learning while I try to curtail my anger towards a man who assaulted my sons friend and another who stole my sons paychecks. I do not struggle with the standing up portion, it is the other part that is hard for me. I look forward to the day when I automatically get this right.

But today it is hard.

What It Takes

Agreeableness has a place, probably in most situations. But it takes a level of disagreeableness to make change. Steve Jobs was disagreeable enough to disrupt the idea of what a phone was. Gutenberg had enough disagreeableness to change how we record information. Disagreeableness is mandatory to force good onto evil. It took disagreeableness to fight for civil rights, stop the charge of Hitler and even for Jesus to fight against the evils of the first century.

So why would anyone want to be disagreeable?

Because in order to stop bad things, we have to stand up to bad things, which takes a level of disagreeableness. When Art was too agreeable to step in it was cruel, not kind. When L’Erin was too agreeable to stop or report theft it was a felony, not friendliness. 

Why be the person who insults their peers?

Because we have to call out wrong when we see it, and calling someone a thief or a child molester is an insult.

 Even when it’s true.

The Truth About Censorship


In 399 B. C. Socrates was tried by a jury of 500 for refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state and for corrupting the youth. 280 of the 500 Athenian jurors found him guilty. But censorship then was much harsher than today. 

They sentenced him to death. censorship

He was taken to a jail where the execution would be performed and the executioner would be himself. Athenian custom was that executions were performed by drinking a cup of hemlock. The following is Plato’s description of the ordered suicide of Socrates.

The Suicide of Socrates

-When Crito heard, he signaled to the slave who was standing by. The boy went out, and returned after a few moments with the man who was to administer the poison which he brought ready mixed in a cup. 

When Socrates saw him, he said, ‘Now, good sir, you understand these things. What must I do?’

‘Just drink it and walk around until your legs begin to feel heavy, then lie down. It will soon act.’ With that he offered Socrates the cup.

The latter took it quite cheerfully without a tremor, with no change of color or expression. He just gave the man his stolid look, and asked, ‘How say you, is it permissible to pledge this drink to anyone? May I?’

The answer came, ‘We allow reasonable time in which to drink it.’

Beyond The Grave

‘I understand’, he said, ‘we can and must pray to the gods that our sojourn on earth will continue happy beyond the grave. This is my prayer, and may it come to pass.’ With these words, he stoically drank the potion, quite readily and cheerfully. 

Up till this moment most of us were able with some decency to hold back our tears, but when we saw him drinking the poison to the last drop, we could restrain ourselves no longer. In spite of myself, the tears came in floods, so that I covered my face and wept – not for him, but at my own misfortune at losing such a man as my friend. Crito, even before me, rose and went out when he could check his tears no longer.

Steadily Weeping

Apollodorus was already steadily weeping, and by drying his eyes, crying again and sobbing, he affected everyone present except for Socrates himself.

He said, ‘You are strange fellows; what is wrong with you? I sent the women away for this very purpose, to stop their creating such a scene. I have heard that one should die in silence. So please be quiet and keep control of yourselves.’ These words made us ashamed, and we stopped crying.

Socrates walked around until he said that his legs were becoming heavy, when he lay on his back, as the attendant instructed. This fellow felt him, and then a moment later examined his feet and legs again. Squeezing a foot hard, he asked him if he felt anything. Socrates said that he did not. He did the same to his calves and, going higher, showed us that he was becoming cold and stiff. Then he felt him a last time and said that when the poison reached the heart he would be gone.

Don’t Forget

As the chill sensation got to his waist, Socrates uncovered his head (he had put something over it) and said his last words: ‘Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Do pay it. Don’t forget.’

‘Of course’, said Crito. ‘Do you want to say anything else?’

There was no reply to this question, but after a while he gave a slight stir, and the attendant uncovered him and examined his eyes. Then Crito saw that he was dead, he closed his mouth and eyelids.

This was the end of our friend, the best, wisest and most upright man of any that I have ever known-


Today we live win a society that welcomes the free flow of ideas. Anyone can have a blog, speak about almost anything or teach on any subject they choose. Censorship today is nothing compared to the past. There is nothing stopping you from going out and having influence. Start now.

Heuristics and How We Really Make Decisions


You will completely change your influence, once you understand heuristics.


A huge portion of potential influencers spend mountains of time finessing their message, campaign or product, and less time developing the personality of the influencer or messenger. This is a huge mistake. That the message, campaign or product has to be high-quality and good for the audience should be a given. But focusing on small details around the product or message is a mistake if the messenger doesn’t resonate with the audience because of  little known psychological quirks called heuristics.

In the incredible book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, he unequivocally proved that the personality of the messenger is not only pivotal, but actually has more to do with influence than the messages themselves.Gladwell described the real reasons doctors are sued for medical malpractice. And it has much less to do with medical malpractice than we think.


Gladwell writes, “The overwhelming number of people who suffer an injury due to the negligence of a doctor never file a malpractice suit at all. Patients don’t file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care. Patients file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care  – and something else happens to them.”

He continues,

-Recently the medical researcher Wendy Levinson recorded hundreds of conversations between a group of physicians and their patients. Roughly half of the doctors had never been sued. The other half had been sued at least twice, and Levinson found that just on the basis of those conversations, she could find clear differences between the two groups.

Medicine or Bedside Manner?

The surgeons who had never been sued spent more than three minutes longer with each patient than those who had been sued did (18.3 minutes versus 15 minutes). They were more likely to make “orienting” comments, such as “First I’ll examine you, and then we will talk the problem over” or “I will leave time for your questions” – which help patients get a sense of what the visit is supposed to accomplish and when they ought to ask questions. They were more likely to engage in active listening, saying things such as “Go on, tell me more about that,” and they were far more likely to laugh and be funny during the visit.”

Interestingly, there was no difference in the amount or quality of information they gave their patients; they didn’t provide more details about medication or the patient’s condition. The difference was entirely in how they talked to their patients.-

In a nutshell, the personality of the doctors determined if the patient would sue them for medical malpractice, not the quality of care. Gladwell goes on to explain situations where patients wanted to sue because they felt they were given inadequate care. But when they realized the suit would hurt the people in the office whom they liked, they chose not to continue. 


This is the power of personality. It is a measuring stick by which most of us gauge the degree of influence we allow someone to have in our lives. We do not accurately evaluate every decision, purchase or vote and come up with rational choices. The personality of the influencer is what researchers call a heuristic, in the context of influence. Heuristics are gauges, or rules of thumb that we have gathered to make processing information easier, and often they are very often wrong.

In Richard Thaler’s book Misbehaving, he explains some of these mistakes in practical, real life, economical examples. He explains that a man who suffers from hay fever mows his own lawn. When asked why he doesn’t hire a kid from the neighborhood to mow the lawn for $10 the man says it isn’t worth it. In other words he would rather save $10 by mowing a lawn and suffering through the hay fever.

Loss Aversion

So, in logical, analog terms, hay fever is worth $10 to that man. But when he is asked if he would mow a different lawn of roughly the same size for $20 the man says absolutely not. This thinking is irrational. If hay fever is worth $10 to the man then it should definitely be worth $20.

But the man is reacting to a heuristic that behavioral analysts call loss aversion. As a rule we over-value what we already have to very inaccurate results. The man with hay fever is valuing the $10 he is saving more than the $20 he would earn mowing the other lawn.

Loss aversion is an example of an irrational heuristic that influences most people. But these heuristics, irrational or not, are usually the guardrails of our decisions. They offer us the ability to make decisions in multiple contexts.

Two Cord Puzzle

In 1931 a psychologist named Norman Maier found one heuristic during a very simple experiment. Maier was interested in understanding how people solve problems. He devised a puzzle that has since become known as the “two cord puzzle”. Maier hung two cords from the ceiling of his lab. The cords were far enough apart that people could not grab each at the same time. Then he asked people to come up with ways to tie the two ends of the cords together.

A Solution

Most participants came up with solutions that involved using the items in the lab to reach one cord while holding the other. Extension cords were tied to the end of the ropes, poles were used to hook the end and pull the two cords together and other miscellaneous solutions were created. But Maier had another solution in mind. He wanted to see how long it took people to come up with his solution. So he continued asking the participants to come up with new ways to solve the puzzle, until they ran out of ideas.

The Right Solution

Maier was looking for the participants to swing one rope in a pendulum fashion. Then they could grab the other rope and catch the swinging rope when it came towards them. Very few participants worked out this solution, until they were given a seemingly accidental clue.

During the experiment, Maier would walk around the lab until, when people had run out of ideas, he would brush against one of the ropes and set it swinging motion. Most people would arrive at Maiers solution, after seeing the swinging rope.This experiment showed how easily we can be nudged with a solution to a problem without realizing it.

But that wasn’t the interesting part.

The fascinating part came after the experiment ended.

My Solution

Only one-third of the participants realized they’d been given a clue when Maier bumped the rope. The other two-thirds explained they arrived at the solution themselves. They fully believed they solved the puzzle, without help, even though they didn’t.

The majority of participants were easily persuaded to solve the puzzle Maiers way, with Maiers help, the whole time thinking it was their idea.

It happened through a psychological concept called priming.


Imagine I show you pictures of delicious food for 30 seconds. Then I blindfold you and expose you to the smells of those same great dishes. Then I quickly remove the blindfold and in front of you is a whiteboard with the letters S-O-_-P. I ask you to fill in the missing letter. You will most likely spell the word soup. In fact you probably thought that was the answer before I explained it.

But, with a little priming I can change the answer.Heuristics

Imagine now that I showed you images of dishes being cleaned, brooms and clean laundry. Then I blindfold you and expose you to the smell of lemony cleaners and bleach and pull off your blindfold to the same puzzle.

S-O-_-P now becomes soap.

Priming is another example of a heuristic, like loss aversion. Our thinking, decision making and even memory is affected by the context of the situation.


Remember, heuristics are shortcuts or rules of thumb that our brain uses to speed up our decision making process. They are, for the most part a good thing. But they can be very easily manipulated and with them, so can you. The priming heuristic is one of the most commonly manipulated heuristics.

Here is an example of the priming heuristic in action.

Ray is an eighth grader who wants to play a joke on his little brother Tom. He tells Tom to spell the word white, which Tom does. Then he asks what color paper plates are. Tom says they are white. So far he’s two for two. Ray then tells Tom to spell the color of snow, which of course is w-h-i-t-e.

Finally Ray tells Tom to spell what cows drink as fast as possible. Tom thinks he’s being tricked into spelling white again. So he smugly spells m-i-l-k. Ray laughs and explains to his very primed little brother that cows drink w-a-t-e-r.

A Tool

Priming is a very powerful, psychological tool. It can be used to help people get in the right mindset before a talk, help people with diets and even improve marriages. But manipulators can use this tool to influence their victims into thinking that poor choices were their idea. They corrupt the mind of the innocent with thoughts that lead others to the actions they are trying to illicit.

Priming is just one example of a heuristic that effects our decision making. Other examples include:

Consistency heuristic

a heuristic where a person responds to a situation in a way that allows them to remain consistent.

Absurdity heuristic

is an approach to a situation that is very atypical and unlikely – in other words, a situation that is absurd. This particular heuristic is applied when a claim or a belief seems silly, or seems to defy common sense.

Common sense

a heuristic that is applied to a problem based on an individual’s observation of a situation. It is a practical and prudent approach that is applied to a decision where the right and wrong answers seems relatively clear cut.

Contagion heuristic

causes an individual to avoid something that is thought to be bad or contaminated. For example, when eggs are recalled due to a salmonella outbreak, someone might apply this simple solution and decide to avoid eggs altogether to prevent sickness.

Availability heuristic

allows a person to judge a situation on the basis of the examples of similar situations that come to mind, allowing a person to extrapolate to the situation in which they find themselves.

Working backward

causes a person to solve a problem by assuming that they have already solved it, and working backward in their minds to see how such a solution might have been reached.

Familiarity heuristic

allows someone to approach an issue or problem based on the fact that the situation is one with which the individual is familiar, and so one should act the same way they acted in the same situation before.

Scarcity heuristic

is used when a particular object becomes rare or scarce. This approach suggests that if something is scarce, then it is more desirable to obtain.

Rule of thumb

applies a broad approach to problem solving. It is a simple heuristic that allows an individual to make an approximation without having to do exhaustive research.

Affect heuristic

is when an individual makes a snap judgment based on a quick impression. This heuristic views a situation quickly and decides without further research whether a thing is good or bad.  Naturally, this heuristic can be both helpful and hurtful when applied in the wrong situation.

Authority heuristic

occurs when someone believes the opinion of a person of authority on a subject just because the individual is an authority figure. People apply this heuristic often in matters such as science, politics, and education.

List referenced from

Final Thoughts

Heuristics can become very powerful tools. But they are something that can be manipulated into unethical and even illegal actions. Psychopaths use heuristics, often to control their victims. ABC used heuristics to a very unfortunate end. Jonathan Freedman taught us about psychological reactance using heuristics in young boys. It’s important to use heuristics to help people, not to manipulate them. It is said that the difference between a good influencer and a bad one is as follows. The good one gets people to do something the people want. The bad influencer gets people to do something the influencers wants.

Which one are you?

Jonathan Freedman, and Psychological Reactance

Jonathan Freedman, psychological reactance is a very popular term in the anti-child-spanking community of parents. If you dig into the research behind the movement you will find his name. You will also find this study cited repeatedly. Freedman didn’t study how to change a child’s behavior in the moment. He studied how to influence lasting change.

Freedman knew that in 1965 most boys of seven to nine years obeyed their parents as a result of the threat of spanking. Spanking was the gold standard of parenting then. There was not an anti-child-spanking community, in fact it was just the opposite.

Spanking in Monaco

Consider this Sunday Dec. 12 1965 article in the Chicago Tribune titled Princess Grace Does the Spanking in Monaco.

-In a rare interview with this reporter, Princes Grace discussed how she raised her family.

“Children need much love and affection,”she said, “but also some discipline. “I’m rather severe with mine.”jonathan freedman, psychological reactance

Did Rainier ever apply a hairbrush to his offspring like ordinary fathers?

“Well, sometimes I use my hand on them,” she replied.

“Prince Albert,” his mother said, “already is being taught that it will be his duty one day to govern the principality,” and she added: “It is fairly easy to teach him. He is quiet, and thinks a lot.”-

He is Quiet and Thinks A lot

Any parent of a toddler knows what a relief those moments of silence can be. The article is not asking about the validity of spanking or if the family used spanking. It asked how did the family used spanking and who did it.

This occurred in the fractured era of Churchill’s death, LBJ’s Great Society, the start of the Vietnam War.It happened during the assassination of Malcolm X and the racial tensions in the American South with Dr. Martin Luther King leading the charge. In that backdrop, the validity of spanking was not on the forefront of societal happenings. The quick peace and quiet it brought must have been a huge relief.

But a small experiment happening in this pivotal moment in history would go on to influence the parenting style of the nation.

This excerpt from Readings in Managerial Psychology by M. Boje explains it best.

Jonathan Freedman

“An experiment by Jonathan Freedman gives us some hints about what to do and what not to do in this regard.

Freedman wanted to see if he could prevent second to fourth grade boys form playing with a fascinating toy. But only because he had said that it was wrong to do so some six weeks earlier. Anyone familiar with seven to none year old boys must realize the enormity of the task. But Freedman had a plan. If he could first get the boys to convince themselves that it was wrong to play with the forbidden toy, perhaps that belief would keep them from playing with it thereafter. The difficult thing was making the boys believe that it was wrong to amuse themselves with the toy-an extremely expensive, battery controlled robot. (This was in 1965)

Threats vs. Options

Freedman knew it would be easy enough to have a boy obey temporarily. All he had to do was threaten the boy with severe consequences should he be caught playing with the toy. As long as he was nearby to deal out stiff punishment, Freedman figured that few boys would risk operating the robot. He was right. After showing a boy an array of five toys he warned them, “It is wrong to play with the robot. If you play with the robot I’ll be very angry and will have to do something about it.” Then Freedman left the room for a few minutes. During that time, the boy was observed secretly through a one-way mirror. Freedman tried this threat procedure on twenty-two different boys, and twenty-one of them never touched the robot while he was gone.


So a strong threat was successful while the boys thought they might be caught and punished. But Freeedman had already guessed that. He was really interested in the effectiveness of the threat in guiding the boys’ behavior later on, when he was no longer around. To find out what would happen then he sent a young woman back to the boys’ school about six weeks after he had been there. She took the boys out of the class one at a time to participate in an experiment. Without ever mentioning any connection with Freedman, she escorted each boy back to the room with the five toys and gave him a drawing test. While she was scoring the test, she told the boy that he was free to play with any toy in the room. Of course, almost all the boys played with a toy. The interesting result was that, of the boys playing with a toy, 77 percent chose to play with the robot that had been forbidden to them earlier. Freedman’s severe threat, which had been so successful six weeks before, was almost totally unsuccessful when he was no longer able to back it up with punishment.

It is Wrong . . .

But Freedman wasn’t finished yet. He changed his procedure slightly with a second sample of boys. These boys, too, were initially shown the array of five toys by Freedman and warned not to play with the robot while he was briefly out of the room because, “it is wrong to play with the robot.” But this time, Freedman provided no strong threat to frighten a boy into obedience. He simply left the room and observed through the one-way mirror to see if his instruction against placing with the forbidden toy was enough. It was. Just as with the other jonathan freedman, psychological reactancesample, only one of the twenty-two boys touched the robot during the short time Freedman was gone.

The real difference between the two samples of boys came six weeks later, when they had a chance to play with the toys while Freedman was no longer around. An astonishing thing happened with the boys who had earlier been given no strong threat against playing with the robot. When given the freedom to play with any toy they wished, most avoided the robot, even though it was by far the most attractive of the five toys available (the others were a cheap plastic submarine, a child’s baseball glove without a ball, an unloaded toy rifle, and a toy tractor.) When these boys played with one of the five toys, only 33 percent chose the robot.

From the Inside

Something dramatic had happened to both groups of boys. For the first group, it was the severe threat they heard from Freedman to back up his statement that playing with the robot was “wrong.”It had been quite effective at first, while Freedman could catch them. Should they violate his rule later, though, when he was no longer present to observe the boys’ behavior, his threat was impotent and his rule was, consequently, ignored. It seems clear that the threat had not taught the boys that operating the robot was wrong, only that it was unwise to do so when the possibility of punishment existed.

For the other boys, the dramatic event had come from the inside, not the outside. Freeman had instructed them, too, that playing with the robot was wrong, but he had added no threat of punishment should they disobey him. There were two important results. First, Freedman’s instruction alone was enough to prevent the boys from operating the robot while he was briefly out of the room. Second, the boys took personal responsibility for their choice to stay away from the robot during that time. They decided that they hadn’t played with it because they didn’t want to. After all, there were no strong punishments associated with the toy to explain their behavior otherwise. Thus, weeks later, when Freedman was nowhere around, they still ignored the robot because they had been changed inside to believe the they did not want to play with it.”

Jonathan Freedman, Psychological Reactance

Freedman proved that, at least in young boys playing with robots, forcing them to act a certain way did not change their minds about acting that way. Threats only created the desirable situation in the moment, but it did not create lasting change. In fact, a natural, psychological reaction that we all experience probably had the opposite effect from Freedman’s demands. This natural occurrence is called psychological reactance…………Quick and Stephenson 2008 study proved that dogmatic language initiated psychological reactance. The following are examples of that language.

  1. Imperatives such as must or need
  2. Absolute allegations, such as  cannot deny that or this issue is extremely serious.
  3. Derision towards other perspectives, such as any reasonable person would agree that

We can see that demands get us the opposite of what we are after. In contrast, messages that are less dogmatic do not provoke psychological reactance such as.

  1. Allusions to choice such as you have the chance to or we leave the choice to you
  2. Qualified propositions such as there is some evidence that or their issue is fairly serious.
  3. Avoidance of imperatives or derisive language. Rather than saying, “Take out the trash,” say, “Please take out the trash.”

Psychological reactance explains why so many people have lost their influence on society. From Harry Markopolos, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, and possibly you. Are you making demands, or offering options? How much more influence could you have if you simply changed how you speak?

David Hawkins and Kindness in POW Camps


David Hawkins

In June of 1957 a young Mike Wallace was broadcast into the homes of America. The white smoke drifting up from his cigarette bore a stark contrast to the black background behind him, and the colorless video accentuated the contrast even more. He opens with, “My guest tonight is the youngest U.S. army turncoat of the Korean War. You see him behind me,” a picture of a young, handsome man flashes on the screen next to Wallace. He continues. “He’s David Hawkins of Oklahoma City.” The screen goes dark. Suddenly the words, The Mike Wallace Interview flash across the black backdrop with cigarette smoke wafting behind the words as they are simultaneously spoken by a man with a deep voice. For some reason there is the sound of a drum being struck twice. Then the interview starts. This is the point where the irritation for Wallace becomes visible.


He fidgets with some papers as he explains, “Three years ago the United States was stunned by an announcement from war-torn Korea. U.S. army private David Hawkins and 20 other prisoners of the communists have become turncoats,” Wallace over pronounces the word turncoats. He continues, “they had renounced their own country and disappeared behind red China’s bamboo curtain.” Hawkins is quietlyDavid Hawkins smoking behind him, leaning on the arm of his chair to the right. Wallace partially swivels around, not facing Hawkins but instead, speaking to him from the left side of his face, as if the empty blackness behind Hawkins was more worthy of his attention.

“Dave,” Wallace says, “let me ask you this.” He goes on to explain that the New York Times had published a piece suggesting that the “turncoats” hadn’t really converted to communism, but that they had committed crimes against their own, and didn’t want to face whatever punishment the U.S. had in store for them.

A Warmer Welcome

Hawkins had been captured shortly after his 17th birthday. He was shot, lost conciseness, and when he awoke the first words he heard were, “We are friends. We are not going to hurt you.” He was in a Chinese communist hospital, and this was much warmer welcome than the one he received from Mike Wallace.

The Korean War, like any war, was a complicated political and fundamental contention that, at it’s core, pitted capitalism against communism. WWII resulted in the division of Korea along the 38th parallel. The communist controlled, north side butted squarely against the U.S. occupied south. In 1950 the communists from the north crossed the 38th parallel, sparking what would be the Korean War and a debate between communism and capitalism that still rages, in one version or another, today.

50/50 Chance

As Hawkins awoke to hear the kind words of his doctor, there was no doubt he was uneasy. At the time there were basically two halves of the communist enemy. There was the North Korean half, which often did not recognize the Geneva Convention mandates. Frequently, South Korean POWs were used as labor for military purposes, which is strictly forbidden by articles 49-57. Or they were indoctrinated to communism, then assigned to the most dangerous battles and positions in the war. The stance of the Koreans in doing this was, why kill ours, when we can kill theirs.

The Other Half

Then there was the Chinese half of the North Korean army. They also frequently ignored the Geneva Convention guidelines, but for a much different reason. They adhered to the Confucian Code. Although Confucianism is a deep system of actions and beliefs, it is often described as being built on three values.

  1. Filial Piety. Respect for parents and elders.
  2. Ritual. Observance and adherence to systematic signs of respect and faith.
  3. Humaneness. Caring and empathy for other humans.

In other words, if you were captured by the North Korean army, you could be captured by a Korean enemy that used you as fodder, or by a Chinese enemy that viewed you as an equal. Hawkins, along with mountains of others, had been captured by the Chinese.


So many soldiers were captured that the Chinese army had to hire hundreds of staff to manage the POW camps. Amongst those hired was Zhou Shangun, a translator.  She said of the POWs, “They didn’t know our policy. They didn’t know if we were going to kill them, or force them to do hard labor or keep them in China forever and not let them return home. So they worried a lot.”

But most, at that point had little to worry about. Qian Meide, who was also a translator said, “My supervisor asked me to read the regulations to the POWs. It began with Dear Students. I was very surprised and asked why, because to me they were prisoners and we were their captors. My supervisor said yes, they are students and you are instructors.”

Complete Equality

The Chinese often held lectures and classes for the prisoners, athletic events between camps and essay contests for the POWs. It was the latter that produced the comments of U.S. soldiers, which the Chinese used as propaganda. After the soldier had experienced unexpectedly kind treatment, great meals, and lectures explaining the communist view of the world, the Chinese captors would offer small prizes to the winners of essay contests. More often than not, the winners of these prizes had dotted their essays with small, pro-communists statements. After all, these men had come to Korea with the purpose of killing the Chinese. Now, those same Chinese were treating them better than some had ever been treated at home. William White, a black POW said of the Chinese, “For the first time in my life, I have witnessed complete equality.”


In his fabulous book, Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini explains why the Chinese offered small prizes for men who won these contests. He explains that, not only were the little, pro-communist statements great for propaganda, but they also held a deeper, psychological power. The power of written commitment.

The prizes for these essay contest were kept purposefully small. Cialdini explains that items such as small bags of rice went to the winners. The reason was the Chinese wanted their POWs to own what they had written. They needed the authors to think that they themselves believed the small incremental shifts that were happening in their opinions. If a prisoner was offered something very valuable for his winning essay, he could explain away his writings. But no one would compromise their beliefs for a bag of rice, would they?

Not a Simple Answer

The answer is not simply yes or no. It depends on the value they placed on the rice. They would not place massive value on a bag of rice, if they were being treated as guests rather than prisoners. Imagine the poor souls detained in the Korean POW camps. If they were offered the opportunity to build a bridge rather than fight their own, on the front lines, in the most dangerous places, for the enemy, just for writing a pro-communist essay, it would be easy to explain away writing almost anything.

A Bag of Rice

But what is a bag of rice to a man who is so healthy, he is competing in athletic events? The reason a bag of rice was a small prize had everything to do with the condition of the recipient. In an article by Reuters named, American POWs remember life in Japanese prison camps, Wayne Miller explained that their food ration was usually two bowls of rice, with little meat or vegetables. Imagine offering that prisoner a bag of rice for a sentence degrading capitalism. That bag of rice could double his calories for a day. When you are starving, that is a huge reward. But, the men under the kinder, Chinese control in Korea weren’t starving, so the bag of rice seemed small, and the sentence written supporting communism seemed their own.

David Hawkins Explains

Not long after the contentious beginning of the Mike Wallace interview with David Hawkins, Wallace is finally facing Hawkins. He asks, “You became a turncoat…Why? What did you have against the United States?”

Hawkins voice is soft and quiet. He answers, “Well Mike it wasn’t actually that I had, uh, something against the United States.” He stops. Perhaps the longest pause during the interview. Hawkins seems to be searching for his actual feelings. He goes on, “I underwent the, uh, mass indoctrination program that the Chinese, uh, instigated in the camp, and there was a lot of things that they told me that, uh, sounded to me like common sense.”

Welcome Home

As part of the agreement of peace, a 90-day window was offered to any soldier to consider, or reconsider his choice. If they had initially renounced their citizenship, they could change their mind and choose a repatriation plan. After denouncing the U.S. two soldiers did change their mind. Edward Dikenson and Claude Batchelor returned home. They were both immediately court-martialed. Their repatriation plan included prison sentences. Batchelor served 4 1/2 years and Dikenson 3 1/2, but both were sentenced to much more.

Lewis Griggs, one of the “turncoats” said in a televised interview, “Even if I had wanted repatriation, the fate of Dikenson and Batchelor would stop me.”

Kindness caused US soldiers to choose to stay with their captors in Korea. It’s one of the things that make those on the autism spectrum so influential, and it could be the thing that helps you take your influence to the next level.