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From ABC, this is the 10 percent happier podcast. I'm Dan Harris. Hello, my guests today makes a fascinating and potentially life changing case, he argues that we need to reconsider how we view intelligence. He says instead of viewing intelligence as the ability to think and learn, we should view it as the ability to rethink and unlearn.


My guest, whose name is Adam Grant, says there is evidence that in a fast moving world, what he calls the critical art of rethinking can position you for excellence at work and wisdom in life, not for nothing. In a world where many of us are stuck in our own information silos, the ability to rethink and open our minds to other people's opinions. Maybe one way we can dig ourselves out of our current social and cultural and political divisions.


Some of you may know Adam Grant, he's been on the show before, is an organizational psychologist, a TED Speaker, a professor at Wharton, and the author of four New York Times best selling books, including one that has had a big influence on me, called To Give and Take, which is all about how generosity can contribute to professional success. I'm happy to report that Adam has done it again. He's written a compelling and timely book. This new one just out is called Think Again.


And in this conversation we talk about how to actually go about the job of building, the skill of rethinking how the people who speak the most confidently are often the least competent and what he calls the surprising upsides of imposter syndrome. Here we go, Adam Grant. Adam, hello, thanks for coming on. Hey, Dan, it's such a treat to be back, although I have to tell you, I have not started meditating. That's fine. I have no plans to berate you for that fact.


What I plan to say off the top of this is Adam Grant has done it again. You've written many books, but the book for me that's been most impactful is give and take. And as I dive into this new book, I realize that this is landing in a lot of important ways for me. So just as an audience of one, Adam Grant has done it again. So congratulations.


Well, thank you. I hope I don't make you rethink that at the end of this conversation. That would be poetic, but I doubt it's going to happen.


So speaking of rethinking, can I just get you to state the basic thesis of this book? This book for me is about rethinking what intelligence means in a rapidly changing world, I think in a stable world, which most of us for a long time thought we lived in, intelligence was basically the ability to think and learn. But now we live in a crazily turbulent world. And I think increasingly being smart, having good judgment, even arriving at wisdom, requires us to be equally good at rethinking and unlearning.


And a lot of people assume that those two things are the same right. That if I'm good at thinking and learning, I'm also going to be good at rethinking and unlearning. But as you know, sometimes the better you are thinking, the worse you become at rethinking, because you can find so many compelling reasons to support your beliefs and essentially outsmart your own ability to question yourself. And I think that's a very dangerous skill set. And so for me, this this book is about saying, look, in many ways, 20, 20 was a year where we were all forced to rethink so many things we took for granted, whether it's where we work or whether we can get access to food and toilet paper or what our stances on racism.


And my hope is that in twenty, twenty one and beyond, we all get to be a little more proactive about rethinking before we're forced to and saying, you know what, there might be some assumptions or opinions that I've held for a long time that no longer fit in the world that I live in.


I said this to you before we started rolling. I think this is of evergreen importance, this argument, and it's particularly important right now. This is the word you used in the book. It's about mental flexibility. And I struggle with it, and yet I've just found it to be incredibly important because there is like and now I'm going to get a little meditative with you, but we'll see if you agree with me on this. I feel the more self aware I become and I'm not super self-aware, but I'm somewhat self-aware.


The more that grows, the more I can see a sort of subtle pain that's associated with dogmatism. Does that land for you? Yeah, that that's such an interesting way to frame it, because I think for most people what Salian is the pain of changing your mind. Right. And just how much it hurts to admit that you were wrong to recognize that some of the major choices that you made in your life, maybe even some of the most important decisions you've made or poorly thought out, and if you could go back and do it over again, you might actually have different views or make different choices.


And that discomfort for so many people, it creates a ton of cognitive dissonance. Right. And it's just easier to be consistent than it is to be flexible. But I think you're you're exactly right that in the long run, it hurts a lot more to stick to convictions that turn out to be false or at least ineffective for us. There was a great psychologist, George Kelly, who had what I think is an endlessly interesting definition of hostility. He said that hostility is the emotional reaction you have when you find out that one of your beliefs is wrong and you always suspected it was wrong, but you don't want to admit it.


And I think you're describing the discomfort at realizing, wait a minute, my hostility is coming from realizing that I probably shouldn't think something that I think. Yes, I've just experienced this over and over again, I cannot speak for anybody else's experience but my own, I've experienced both kinds of pain. I mean, both things are true. At the same time, it is painful to acknowledge you've been wrong. It's also painful to walk around pretending you believe something when somewhere in your psyche you know that maybe it's not true.


I'll say something that's been helpful to me to reduce this a little bit. And this is actually comes back to your work and give and take.


You dedicate a good chunk of the book to something called Powerless Communication, I believe, which is talking in a way that signals to people that you're not dug in. You're not absolutely sure in what you what that what you believe is carved in stone.


A version of that that I've also been taught by some communications coaches who I work with, Dan Clurman and Ditton Iscar shout out to Dan and Woody to they have something they call provisional language Danimal detailer Buddhist's. So they're very much aware of the idea of impermanence and the relentless nature of change.


And so it only makes sense, given that non-negotiable law of the universe to speak in a provisional way because that is aligned with what is true, which is that we don't really know what's going to happen. And so I have found that it is kind of like a self compassionate to adopt as a communication style in say so. The area where I can tend to get the most dogmatic and stuck in my ways is when I'm working with small groups on creative collaboration, like around this podcast or a book that I'm writing or a piece that I'm doing for ABC News, or of course, we're doing for the 10 percent app, your app.


And I have a way of talking like I'm an anchorman. I've been an anchorman since I was twenty. Everything that comes out of my mouth, it seems like I really believe it. I'm reading it off the teleprompter. I have a deep voice, so blah, blah, blah. And the more I sort of pound the table on something, the more miserable everybody else in the room becomes, the less psychologically safe they feel to speak up and the more miserable I become because I know on some level I don't really know.


I think part of what's interesting about what you just said is most of us have spent a lot of our careers getting rewarded for expressing certainty, for exuding confidence, for being authoritative and declarative.


And I think that that style of communication is not helpful either for getting other people to be open or for even just questioning ourselves.


Because what's the the the Hebrew origin of abracadabra I learned recently is I create as I speak. And I think there's such a danger.


Right. And the more I get reinforced for telling people that I have the answers, the more likely I am to actually believe it. And I think that's how we get trapped in cycles of overconfidence. I think that's why we often have so much difficulty rethinking what we believe. And I think there are different versions of this for different people, which, you know, which go a little bit into the mental models that I break down in the book. Whether you tend to think more like a preacher, a prosecutor, a politician or a scientist.


And I've been noticing even since writing the book how often I slip into the wrong mental mode, which is ironic because I thought I had figured something important out. But I was writing this note, like almost everything in psychology, it's much easier to describe to other people and explain clearly than it is to practice every day.


Well, but I think you just landed on the answer there.


It's a practice and you will get better over time. So even if you've literally written the book on this, you're not going to be good at it forever every day. I think that's true. And it makes me wonder if if Dad, if you had written this book, would your goal have been to be 10 percent or. Yeah, or maybe seventy five percent wrong or. But I would just build to that incrementally. So where are the areas for you where you tend to end up in the wrong mental mode and then let's break down the various modes or you can do it in whatever order you want.


Yeah, let's let's start with the modes, because I think there's there's one in particular that gets me in trouble a lot. My colleague Phil Tetlock wrote this brilliant paper almost 20 years ago about how too much of psychology assumed that we were rational economists just making efficient, effective, productive decisions. And what Phil said is, no, that dramatically underestimates the social forces that influence our judgments and our choices every day. And he said so much of our time is spent in the mode of being a preacher, a prosecutor or a politician.


So when we're in preacher mode, we believe we've already found the truth and our job is to proselytize and sell everyone else on that truth. Prosecutor mode is similar, except it's not about me being right, it's about you being wrong. And I have got to win the case and debunk all of your arguments. And then in politician mode, what we're trying to do is we've got an audience of constituents and we're campaigning for their approval.


And what I found initially fascinating about this is that preaching and prosecuting stand in the way of rethinking. It's very clear that if I already believe I'm right and you're wrong, I'm not going to change my mind and you're probably going to dig your heels in and whatever conversation we have and in politician mode, we get a little bit more flexible.


But I think we we update our thinking for the wrong reasons at the wrong times, because we only change when it's going to please our tribe or when it's going to win over our audience as opposed to actually prioritizing the truth over the tribe. Part of what I want to do is I want to get people to think a little bit more scientifically right. And saying, look, my opinions, those are not always valid beliefs. They are just their hunches.


They might be hypotheses. I could test them by running experiments in my life and I might find out that some of my cherished beliefs are actually wrong or incomplete. And what a cool learning opportunity, because I just discovered something. I should be able to take as much joy in finding out that my beliefs are wrong as astronomers did when they discovered Pluto is not a planet, which really annoyed me. And and then I was annoyed that I got annoyed by that scientific discovery.


And then but that didn't answer your question. The mode that tripped me up the most is going into prosecutor mode. It bothers me at my core when people peddle false information. There's a cartoon that has just struck a chord with me as long as I can remember. The protagonist is sitting at a computer and it's clearly late at night. And there's a voice that says, honey, why are you still up? And the answer is someone is wrong on the Internet and that's me.


I'm like, no, no, no. I have to I have to correct that. That's part of why I became a social scientist, is I don't want people to believe incorrect things.


But when I get locked into that mode of trying to convince people they're wrong, it just alienates them.


Where do you slip up?


Do you find yourself occasionally preaching or prosecuting or politicking more than you'd intend? I would imagine that you're at much lower risk for politicking than I am because you really don't care if anyone likes you.


Ouch. No, no. Yes. By the way, did I mean that as a compliment? It's one of the things you do admire about you that you seem to be immune to flattery and praise and sycophants, that you are comfortable standing for what you believe, regardless of what anybody else thinks. I wish I was more like that. Totally. Not really, no. I'm so disappointed. I am here to disappoint you because I've got all three of those.


As you were listing them off, I was like, got it. Got it. Got it. No. Yeah.


Oh, I mean, I think I'm getting better at not falling into those modes just because I see how painful they are. But I don't like sycophancy, but I think there's a whole weird thing of somehow suspecting I'm irredeemably awful and that, you know, that's a whole of actually writing a little bit about that very issue. But yes, for me, the one they all seem like things I do, the one that seems like the thing I do the most that is so unattractive to me about me is the prosecutor thing in particular in like intimate relationships, you know, like arguing with my wife or arguing with a friend or family member where somehow the whole goal has become just, you know, proving the other person wrong and how, like, not helpful is that.


And it just feels awful if you it's like, you know, poison running through your veins.


So true. Well, I want to have two levels of conversation here. The first one is to to talk about why that's ineffective and what the alternatives might be. But the other one is just to say this is a great moment for me to rethink something, which is we've known each other for a few years. And I assume because, you know, you've you've described your tendency to be disagreeable and hard on people. And I made a leap. From that and assumed you must be immune to social disapproval, which is clearly not the case, so I was wrong.


I need to update this belief.


I'm an anchorman who gets ratings and podcast host who can see the growth of the and read the comments.


And so, yeah, I try not to get yanked around by.


One of the most revealing moments for me in recent memory was a Father's Day, not this past one, but pre pandemic. My son was four at the time, had come into my office at ABC News and my wife had moved into a new office. My wife was helping me set it up because she's better at Feng Shui than I am. And then they went home and Alexander insisted on setting up his room at home to look like my office. And then Bianca took a video of him marching around the apartment saying, I'm important, damn, I'm important then.


And I saw I thought my first response was, that's really funny. And my second was I feel seen. And that hurts like this kid sees right through me.


And yeah, if you're you know, you don't make the professional decisions I've made. If you don't care what other people think of you, if you don't have that in you.


And so I think part of the work of growing older and better is to not be so motivated by that joke.


That's fascinating. And it's a moment of solidarity for me because our middle daughter, I want to say, last year did a Zoome performance for her classmates where she put out a bald cap and came in and said, oh, I'm him Grant, and then gave a TED talk. It was really good. And, you know, it's funny because if you felt like maybe that was a caricature of your political whims or your your tendency to maybe politic more than you'd like, what I saw there was her emulating me in temporary preacher mode.


And I thought, what's so interesting about this is I almost never think like a preacher. But there are certain situations where I talk like one, especially if if I know I'm going to annoy my audience by being too much of a prosecutor. I end up sort of then taking the other side and saying, OK, I've got this alternative that I'm really excited about and if I can get you excited about that, maybe you will let go of your wrong belief.


And it's just not the person I want to be. And it's also, I think, not as productive as it feels in the moment. How do you effectively communicate if you're not in any of those modes at some point, don't you have to pick a thesis and make your case for it? Yeah, I think there's a time and a place to be preaching and prosecuting and probably politicking, too.


I think, though, that what we're all grappling with in twenty, twenty one and frankly probably have been for a while, is the fact that our hardest conversations, whether there are disagreements at work or at home, are with people who hold strong opinions that are different from ours and who are really invested in their point of view. And if that's the case right, if you have a skeptical or resistant audience who cares a lot about the issue you're discussing, they don't want to be preached at, they definitely don't want to be prosecuted.


And the only real way to politic with them is to let them know that you belong to their tribe. Right. And you share their beliefs. Otherwise, you're not one of us.


And so I think the alternative approach that I've gotten reasonably excited about is to actually approach the conversation more like a scientist would, which is to say, you know, Dan, I'm about to have a disagreement with you on something. I don't know. Let's say we discover we we disagree on climate change. What I would do is instead of trying to pick apart your beliefs and hammer you with evidence, what I've learned to do from from all this research that psychologists have done over the past decade is to just get really curious and be fascinated by this unusual creature that sees the world, the same world that I live in so differently from me.


And just ask you a bunch of questions to try to better understand your worldview. And in the process of doing that, I'll look for common ground and say, look, we actually want to find areas of agreement as opposed to starting with the disagreements so that we can both see each other as reasonable human beings. And then what I want to do is I want to make it clear that even if we don't land on the same page, I actually respect you for caring about this issue that I think is important.


And there's a bunch of research showing that people actually become more nuanced and less polarized when there's a just a basic affirmation of I you know, I may not agree with your view, but I respect the fact that you have a view on this issue. And from there, but I'd probably want to do is I'd want to try to understand, well, what arguments do you find more and less persuasive so that we could at least have the discussion on terms that you find to be palatable, as opposed to bringing up a bunch of issues that you already have prearranged counter arguments or defense mechanisms against.


Have you been familiarized at all with the work of the group? They used to be called Better Angels. They're now called braver angels. I've heard of them.


I'm not familiar enough with it to know where you're going next.


So tell me more. They bring reds and blues together and have these conversations that I've witnessed. They seem to be quite successful and their approach was designed by a marriage counselor. And one of the rules is never try to change somebody's mind and to try to in fact, land on what's called accurate disagreement. And the route is through curiosity. I love this idea, this feels like a missing section of think again. Where were you a year or two years ago when I was writing this book?


You've let me down again then.


Here's what I think is intriguing about that approach is the idea of accurate disagreement. It takes a lot of the emotion and the heat out of an argument, right, because the moment I hear disagreement, my impulse as an agreeable person is to say run screaming in the other direction. It's going to be conflict. I'm not going to like it. I don't want anything to do with it. But accurate disagreement does two things. Number one, it refocuses me on my higher value, which is truth.


And number two, it makes me realize that disagreement is not always a bad thing. It's funny because in my world of organizational psychology, one of the biggest revelations about conflict has been that there's an important distinction between task and relationship, conflict where relationship conflict is what we normally cringe at. Right. It's personal, emotional. I hate your guts. The world would be better if you didn't exist. And that obviously turns out to be counterproductive for all the parties involved, typically.


But there's another kind of conflict called conflict, which is much more intellectual. It's about ideas, not about emotions. It doesn't necessarily come with the judgment. We want to debate something because we both care about getting to the right answer. And I like this idea of accurate disagreement because it's a way of inviting people to have a healthy TASC conflict without letting it spill into relationship conflict, which is what happens so often. Yeah.


What are other ideas about how to disambiguate TASC conflict and relationship conflict?


I think one of the most useful steps is actually just to frame the conversation really clearly. And a mistake that the philosophers have pointed out pretty consistently is that people try to argue to win or to make the other person lose. Whether you're preaching or prosecuting, what we should be doing instead is arguing to learn. And so what I might come in to a conversation with, if I want to have a good conflict, is to say, Hey, Dan, you know, I know from past discussions we might have a different point of view on this issue.


And I just I would love to better understand where you're coming from. And so could you walk me through how you arrived at this belief and why you stand where you do and that takes you out of a defensive mode. It also actually lets me learn something which might be useful for our future conversations or if I'm going to talk to other people who happen to share the view that you do. And there is also evidence showing that framing a disagreement as a debate helps.


But I know I'm guilty of taking this too far. And I might say, Dan, you know, could we have a debate about meditation? And three hours later, I've gone into intense prosecutor mode and not even notice that you're not enjoying the debate and you haven't been for the last two hours and forty seven minutes. Right. So I think that that has to be applied with a little bit of caution.


Have you heard of the communication technique or skill called reflective listening? I have, yes. I'll let you define it if you want to. And my question is, though, would that help with what you're describing in terms of talking to people without falling into the mental modes that seem to have pernicious impacts?


I think what you're saying, Dan, is that reflective listening might be a helpful strategy for talking across differences. Is that is that reflective listening? That's reflective listening, actually, in some ways, yeah.


Reflective listening, as I've been taught it by the aforementioned Dan and Ed is when somebody says something to you, you kind of repeat the bones back as concise a form as possible in your own language, which sends the message to them that you've heard them and understood your interlocutor.


And for me, as a circuit breaker and my reflexive move to debate. But sometimes I'm debating with insufficient understanding and sometimes my desire to debate is alienating, even if I properly understood it. So reflective listening can deactivate the amygdala for both sides.


It's amazing how often people will talk about this as a style of listening and how rarely they practice it. Right. It's I think it's one of the biggest knowing doing gaps that probably exists in our daily lives.


One of the things that I revised my thinking on while I was writing, I think again, is I used to think that reflective listening was sort of the it was the key skill of having an open minded, thoughtful conversation. And now I think it's a key skill. I think that in part because I did a deep dive into this idea of motivational interviewing that comes out of counseling psychology. Have you come across this before now originally to counseling psychologists Bill Miller and Steve Rolnick, where they were working with clients who were trying to overcome addiction.


And so, you know, they'd they'd have someone come in who had a series of DUIs from alcohol abuse or was trying to quit smoking.


And basically, it's interesting because the whole field up until the early 80s seem to be oriented around some degree of preaching about the better options available or prosecuting people for having made horrible choices. And they just they noticed it didn't work for all the reasons we've talked about. And so what they started doing instead was they said, well, what if we all recognize that you can rarely motivate someone else to change and you're much better off helping them find their own motivation to change?


And the only way you can do that, because you have no idea what other people's motivations are. And the more you think you know about other people's motivations, the greater the risk that you're wrong. What if you actually adopt this stance of humility and curiosity where you come in saying, you know what, I don't have a clue what's going to motivate Dan to change, and I'm curious to find out. And so a typical motivational interviewing conversation would start with a series of questions about what is this possible path that you're considering.


Right. So you might be considering stopping drinking. You know, tell me what your thoughts are around, why you might continue or why you might not.


Right. And I don't I don't have an agenda here. My goal is to help you achieve whatever your goals are. And in order to do that, I've got to figure out what your goals are.


And then what will happen is in a lot of these studies, you'll give two kinds of responses. One is called SustainX Talk, where you come up with reasons why you might stay the course. The other is change talk where you might have, you know, some ideas about your desire to change or a plan that you had maybe to to scale back your drinking. And what I think is interesting then is you have choices about the reflective listening that you do.


If you spend too much time in reflective listening around the sustain talk, you basically reinforce people's convictions and let them stick with the drinking problem or, you know, the smoking addiction.


Whereas if you can be thoughtful about acknowledging the sustained talk, but also, you know, really summarizing what you've heard around the change talk and asking follow up questions to say, well, you know, why haven't you followed through on that plan so far?


And what are your concerns about doing that to really help people think it through? Then in over a thousand controlled trials, people are more likely to change when you tilt your reflective listening in the direction that actually helps them embrace the change that they themselves care about. And I think we have to be really careful about this because a lot of people hear this and say, OK, so I'm just going to ask you leading questions and I'm going to manipulate you into doing the thing that I want.


That doesn't work right. You'll immediately see the other person raise their antenna. You actually have to want to help them. And that means understanding what their goals are and interviewing them about what would motivate them to make changes that would achieve their goals, not your goals.


That makes a ton of sense to me, I will say, as I've been taught, reflective listening by Dan and Woody to their kind of two aspects of it, there's the kind of basic reflective listening where you're just reflecting what people have just said to you, also reflecting their positive intention, which is in some ways like not just reflecting what they've said to signal that you've understood it, but also advocating for them in some way, reaching into what they've said, sussing that out and presenting it scientifically as, OK, this is kind of what I've heard, am I right?


And then they'll correct you and then you can reflect the correction.


I always love it when people with very different training and experiences essentially land at the same ideas. And this is exactly what in motivational interviewing is often called an affirmation. So when you think about the skills that a motivational interviewer uses, they're asking open ended questions, engaging in reflective listening, making sure that you get a mix of sustain and change shock because a lot of people are ambivalent and you want to surface that ambivalence and make them realize that they don't have a black and white view of what their future behavior is going to look like or what their beliefs are going to look like.


And then this affirmation is the idea of saying, you know what, Dan? I believe that if you want to, you have the will and the scale to change. It's not my place to tell you how to do that or whether you should do that. But I I'm confident that if that's something you decide to do, you can and will follow through on it. Let me get back to something you said a few paragraphs ago, use the word humility in this strikes me as going right to the core of your book, the new book.


And in fact, I'm eager for my wife to read this book because my wife has struggled for years, notwithstanding what seemed to me to be like unimpeachable inherent qualities of intelligence and compassion and unimpeachable achievements in her life as a physician, she has struggled with imposter syndrome. And you in this book talk about the upsides of the humility that can come with imposter syndrome. Can you talk about that?


Yeah, this is one of the more fun rethinking moments for me and writing. I think, again, we had a doctoral student at Wharton Passim at Toufik, who's now a professor at MIT, and she said, look, you know, imposter syndrome is if you think about it as a syndrome, it's debilitating because you have this chronic sense that you're unworthy and that people are going to find out that you don't deserve all of your success or any of your accomplishments.


And it's not hard to figure out how that would hold people back from setting and pursuing ambitious goals. But notice, though, was that the actual syndrome is pretty rare.


People who are chronically just unwilling to believe anything positive about themselves, pretty tiny fraction of the population. What's much more common is having impostor thoughts and having these moments where we say, well, maybe I don't belong on air right now, maybe I shouldn't be hosting a podcast. Why? Why in the world would anyone read a book that I wrote?


Who the hell am I to have anything to say to anyone else? I can't even get my own life in order. And those imposter thoughts are normal. They're common. And she got curious about what it means to have them more or less often. And so she studied medical students who are who are working on their their M.D. She studied investment professionals. And she basically found that the more often you had impostor thoughts, it didn't do any harm to your task performance.


And it actually made you more compassionate to the people that you were dealing with. So doctors in training, for example, were every bit as good at making diagnoses when they question themselves. But they were more likely to reach out to a patient and say, you know, Dan, do you have any other symptoms or are there any concerns? I haven't heard yet because they weren't sure they had already solved the problem or fix the issue that was initially brought up.


And then in the in the investment case, there was actually some evidence that if you're an investment professional and you have regular impostor thoughts, that you actually made smarter decisions because you are more likely to question yourself and you didn't lock in on your intuition, you would actually gather data to say, you know what, instead of trusting my gut, maybe I should test my gut and find out if the patterns I recognized in the past are not actually relevant to the current investment decision that I'm making.


And so I think there's a sense in which having those fleeting thoughts of maybe I'm not good enough, maybe I don't belong here, that that can become a source of humility. It can lead us to question what we know, recognize what we don't know, and then have the curiosity to discover new information. And that ultimately is how we learn. And so if I had a choice between being a little bit overconfident or a little bit under confident, I want to live on the impostor side because I'm constantly aware of how much is out there to discover.


And that means instead of thinking, I'm an expert, I'm going to be a lifelong learner. The trick is you don't want. The impostor thought to become concretized into a syndrome that's dogging you all the time, making you unhappy even if it does maybe boost your performance.


Yeah, and this is why there's an important distinction between doubting yourself and doubting your ideas or your beliefs. So I think the sweet spot for imposter syndrome is to say, OK, you know, I believe that I can figure this out. I believe that I have the capabilities to solve the problem that I'm tackling. But I'm not sure that my current vision or strategy or tools are exactly right. And I think about that as confident humility. And I've said a lot with entrepreneurs, actually.


I remember asking Sara Blakely a few years ago, you know, how in the world did you decide that you were going to be able to start Spanx when you didn't have a business degree, you had not worked in fashion or retail, you didn't know anything about patents. And she said, I had no idea how to do any of those things, but I was confident in my ability to learn and figure it out. And I think that's the right kind of confidence.


Right. We shouldn't be confident constantly in our knowledge. We should be confident in our ability to learn.


What is the Dunning Kruger effect? The Dunning Kruger effect is one of the most delightful ideas in psychology when you're complaining about the ignorant person you know and one of the most distressing ideas in psychology when you're the one who's the victim. So the classic finding is that the people who are the most confident in their knowledge and skills in any one area are the most likely to be overconfident in that area. So if you have a Super Bowl party. And you've got a bunch of football fans gathered, the one who's screaming the loudest about how the coach called the wrong play is the one who's most likely to be overconfident about his football knowledge.


And part of that, I think, is because a lot of people will say, you know, this is an ego problem, but it's also a knowledge and information problem. That it's David Dunning often puts it, if you lack the knowledge and skills to produce excellence, you often also lack the knowledge and skills to judge excellence. And, you know, I had a I had a funny experience in high school that I always think of when the Dunning Kruger effect comes up, which is I had a friend who accused me of not having a sense of humor.


And I was sad because I love comedy and I love making people laugh and I love to laugh. And finally I asked her after she mentioned it a few times, why do you think I don't have a sense of humor?


And she said, Well, you don't laugh at all my jokes.


Now, I'll leave it to you to judge who lacked the sense of humor, which I think is about discernment. Right. Not just blanket laughter at anything, but, you know, it was a funny example of something that we see all the time. Right. Which is I think that a lot of people see this research and they say, well, you know, it's really dangerous to be a complete novice. And that's not what the data show.


If you literally know nothing about an area, you don't tend to be overconfident. It's not the beginner, right? It's the person who who has just felt like they became an intermediate, who then experiences a rush of confidence that exceeds their competence. And so that's when they start to believe they know things that they don't. And I think the big question for me is what's the antidote to this? And I want to ask you actually, Dan, you have dealt with I can only imagine how many guests you've interviewed over the course of your career who are just confident ignoramuses.


How do you correct for that? There are not many people who have been on this show who would fit that description because of the nature of the show. However, out in the world, in my many, many decades of traveling around the world, now that I'm old of interviewing people, I have seen this a ton. And there's not much you can do as a journalist other than not put too much of them in your story. The worry I have is that very often these people have a lot of power.


And that just speaks to me to the relevance of this book, because increasingly we all have the power of having supercomputers in our pockets and we think we know more than we do without seeing through the fact that we have curated echo chambers that are just reinforcing our prejudices often and we're not challenging our core beliefs.


Yeah, I see that all the time. And I just keep noticing, as you know, as I talk to people who are truly experts in their field, they never boast about how much knowledge they have. What they marvel at is how little they understand and how much more they want to learn. And so for me, the first sign of someone being an expert is them saying, I actually don't know or I don't understand. And I think there's some brilliant research that's helped us figure out how to lead people there gently in a non defensive way, which is the next time you run across someone who is just making claims to know things that they clearly don't, instead of arguing with them, just ask them to explain what they know to an expert or to really unpack how it works.


And a cognitive psychologists first demonstrated this with mechanical and electronic objects. So they'd ask you a question like, OK, Dan, let's what's a hobby of yours? I play the drums. You play the drums. Excellent. So how confident are you in your ability to explain how a drum produces the bass sound that we all love?


I have zero percent capacity to explain that to you. Well, you've clearly read this. So, no, that's actually true. I mean, that's that's that's an encouraging sign of your intellectual humility and your willingness to think again. But interestingly, if you were to ask a lot of drummers, a lot of them would say pretty confident. Yeah, at least I know more about that than a non drummer would.


I don't know more about it than a sound engineer would who doesn't know the drums at all?


Definitely not. But compared to the average person who doesn't play, the drums is dim if you play them, you know more than somebody who has no experience.


I would think that I could see how one would arrive at that conclusion. Yes, yes. So that on average is what a lot of people will do. And you can see this not just with the drums, but, you know, if you ask people how does a piano make music or how are we, you know, connecting over and over some kind of wireless signal right now, how is the sound being transmitted to your ears?


People say, yeah, I'm reasonably knowledgeable about that. And then you just go the extra step and you say, well, could you walk me through the mechanisms when you hit the drumstick on the surface? What's going on inside the drum there? When you press the piano key, like, where is that music coming from? And why do the different cues make different sounds?


And people when they try to do this, they just sound like complete morons, which you clearly were not willing to do, which I applaud. But even before they say it out loud, as they start to think it through, they realize how many gaps there are in their knowledge. And there's a term for this in psychology. It's called the illusion of explanatory depth. That before people really walk through an explanation of something, it's easy for them to assume they know more than they do when they have to connect the dots, they can see all the holes.


And at that point, they become more humble. They become more curious. They become more nuanced in their thinking. They become more open to learning. And I think what's powerful about this is this is not just true with complex technologies, it's also true with political policies. So there's research showing that if you ask people why they believe what they believe, they'll give you a bunch of reasons to reinforce their pre-existing convictions. If you ask them instead, well, how would you implement that policy?


How would that work in practice? What are all the effects it might have if they start to see those same gaps and they actually start to moderate what might before have been extreme beliefs? So I think how questions are massively underrated. Much more of my conversation with Adam Grant right after this. In 2021, it's finally OK to talk about our mental health, but what is therapy? It's whatever you want it to be. Maybe you're feeling insecure in relationships or at work or not very motivated right now.


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I want to say a word in your defense on the issue of meditation, which has come up a bunch, which is having watched your evolution on the subject of meditation, I think you modeled on the first time you came on this show thinking again, the first time you and I met, I went down Warden, to interview you and we did an interview that ended up on this show and also on Good Morning America. People can go back and listen to it.


And I believe you came into that interview quite hostile to meditation.


And we talked about it and you shifted from hostility to sort of being slightly more open mindedness and maybe realizing that you had misunderstood if one or two things. But it wasn't some big fight we had. We just talked about it. And I could watch you in real time, be willing to reexamine your own convictions, which you adhere to before that stated publicly, which is even harder to to re-evaluate once you've kind of gone on the record with something. I didn't know you were writing a book about rethinking, but in the moment I was impressed with your ability to rethink.


And so when you make jokes about meditation, I want to be clear to everybody that it's not like you're somehow like dug in saying this is some horrible thing to do. I think what I hear is, yeah, I'm open to it. I just haven't gotten around to doing it.


And I may never do it so interesting. Well, first of all, thank you, I take that as a huge compliment that you perceive me as willing to think again because I feel like I definitely want to be someone who is open to that. Otherwise, I'd be a hypocrite writing this book. I have a similar memory of that interaction and I might have narrated it a little bit differently. So here's my version of it and you can tell me where you agree and disagree.


I don't feel like I was ever hostile to the idea of meditation.


I think whatever practices are effective for people and don't harm them or others and have a growing and increasingly impressive science behind them. More power to you.


I think what I was hostile to was being preached at one too many times about meditating and especially being prosecuted as a non meditator. Yes.


And so, you know, the the more the more people had this reaction to me of what do you mean you don't meditate?


The more I wanted to say, well, wait a minute here. You know, there's a little bit of evidence of, you know, some risks and side effects for some people.


There's you know, and there are also other ways to get a lot of the benefits that you want. And, you know, it just it activated my prosecutor instincts.


And I think you give me too much credit for the way I responded in that conversation because I didn't have that reaction to you and I didn't have that reaction to you because you did not preacher prosecute. You had a curious, humble discussion about the science and you were much more open than a lot of the meditation experts and thought leaders that I've spoken with around saying, you know what, I don't believe it works for every person in every situation, and I don't even think you have to do it.


And then you gave me the best, still best argument I've ever heard for it. When I remember saying something like, you know, hey, if you're trying to reduce stress or you're trying to build mindfulness, you know, reading fiction or exercising, also reasonable pass. And those are my form of meditation. And I remember you stopped me in my tracks just with a simple question, which was I think it was a question. I remember it is a question which was, can you read a novel or can you do a workout in the 20 seconds before you get on stage?


Oh, right. I'm like, no, no, I can't. You've got me. And you said I can I can carry this with me everywhere and it is instantly available on demand. And I thought that was the most brilliant argument for why meditation is unique and what differentiates it from a lot of the other practices that I think are good for stress management or mindfulness. But I'm very, very open to the idea, thanks to you. I do want to ask you some practical questions before I let you go here, you have this really helpful thing in the back of your book called Actions for Impact, with sort of ways that we can develop the habit of thinking.


Again, we've gone through some of them, like thinking like a scientist. But there are others that I'd like to get into and one of them you've referenced before, but I haven't let you fully sort of explain ahead on which is defining your identity in terms of values, not opinions.


Oh, fun. You're turning me into a human jukebox here. You have a song and I'm going to play it. Here we go. So this is actually a fun challenge. So, yeah, I think one of the mistakes that a lot of people make that prevents them from thinking again is they start to take their beliefs and as their identity. Right. So you see that whenever you hear somebody say, well, I'm an Occupy Wall Street or I'm a never Trumper.


And those are statements about things you believe to be true or false or or good or bad. And the moment you take on one of those identities is the moment you stop being willing to question the things that you think are true and false. And so what I prefer to see people do is to define themselves in terms that are values rather than their opinions. And so my version of this is to say, look, you know, my my values, my core principles are generosity, excellence, integrity and freedom.


Those are the core values that matter most to me. I am very open about the best ways to live those values. And I might find that some of the practices that I thought were good for being a generous person or for achieving success or for, you know, being a person of honor who lives by my commitments or for, you know, defending the freedom of other people and giving them autonomy. I might have been wrong about the best ways to do that.


And I'm willing to change my mind.


I love that another. And I'm sorry to make you into a jukebox here, but I think these are worth saying and this one in particular is a song that I'd like to hear you sing, because I think not enough of us to do it, especially in the era of, you know, we talked about, you know, being able to curate your own little echo chamber where your prejudices and beliefs are reinforced and you're not challenged. You said one of the pieces of advice you give here in terms of building the skill of thinking again is seek out information that goes against your views.


Can you talk about that?


Yeah, I think we're all familiar with confirmation bias, right. Only looking for information that validates what you already believe and its cousin desirability bias, which is only seeing the things that you want to be true. And I think the people who who kind of trap us in that world are that our support network, ironically. Right. The people who cheerlead for us and encourage us and have our backs, they often are the people that are building the echo chambers or the filter bubbles around us that prevent us from seeing alternative perspectives.


I think what we all need is not just a support network, but a challenge network, which is the group of people that you trust to hold you accountable for being open minded, to let you know when your your beliefs might not be correct.


You're most thoughtful critics. And what I'll often do when you know, when I'm forming a hypothesis about something that I think is true is I will reach out to somebody who I know holds a different point of view or who I know is more knowledgeable than I am in that area and ask them, where do you see holes in my thinking? And that's a great way to to make sure that I'm not just drinking the Kool-Aid that I've found to be delicious, that I'm actually learning from somebody who has different tastes.


What about for those of us who aren't, you know, formulating hypotheses as for a living, but we're just sort of, you know, going about our lives there, ways to seek out opposing points of view on social media, the way we're tailoring our feeds, et cetera, et cetera, that could make us better citizens, happier humans. Yeah, one of my first principles when it comes to social media is that I follow people who make me think hard, not people who make me feel good.


And so I'm interested in, OK, do I respect the thoughtfulness and rigour and integrity of somebody's thought process, regardless of whether I think their conclusions are right or not? And that means the information that I've curated to come in front of me is not usually opinions that I agree with its opinions that really stretch my thinking, that evolve my thinking. And last I checked, that's the whole point of learning. It's not to affirm our beliefs. It's actually to update and evolve our beliefs.


Are there downsides here? You know, because I've done this experiment for the last four or five years of kind of trying to self gaslight by really exposing myself to as many opposing points of view as possible, because I'm writing about how we can work with our own biases. So I've tried to experiment on myself in this regard.


And I wonder, is it possible that you could become so open minded that you lose sight of important and really in the end, non-negotiable truths? You know, for example, the. Mainstream media has been accused of a kind of both sides ism that normalized some of the transgressions of the Trump administration.


Yeah, I think I think there's a danger. I think the the easiest way to avoid the danger is to recognize that rethinking doesn't have to change your opinions. You can open your mind without changing your mind. And what I mean by that is to say, look, you know, you should be receptive to different points of view, especially if you have a strong conviction on an issue. Right. That means you're most vulnerable to confirmation and desirability bias, but you should also have standards.


One of the questions that I like to ask other people when they're getting really dogmatic is what evidence would change your mind? And I want to be really clear about that, I'm not asking what would change your mind. I'm asking what evidence would change your mind, because I want to have a conversation in the realm of facts and data, not opinions. And I try to hold myself to the same standards, which is this is actually something I learned from Jean Pierre Boogum, who's a super forecaster in the book, who predicted Trump as the winner of the Republican primary, where Nate Silver had him at six percent and most forecasters thought he was a joke.


This is back in November. Twenty fifteen.


And one of the things that John does as arguably the world's most accurate election forecaster, he actually competes in tournaments to do this is when he forms a tentative opinion. He actually makes a list of the conditions under which he would change his mind. And that way he's staying open. But he's also saying, look, I'm not just going to flip flop when somebody makes a persuasive argument, I'm actually going to have criteria around what I would consider to be rigorous logic or, you know, truly convincing data.


And then I know that I'm evolving as opposed to just kind of changing in what might be the wrong direction.


There's so much in this book, and I fear we've just skimmed the surface, which I guess your publicist will be happy to hear that because people have to go read the book now, which I recommend they do.


Let me just ask you before we close here, is there something that I should have asked but didn't did I commit any sort of malpractice here?


Not that I know of, but I have a question for you. Sure. Which is in the spirit of the book, what do you think I should rethink of anything that I wrote, any topic I tackled, any discussion we had today? I think one of my fears in writing this book was that I was going to get locked into particular ideas about rethinking, and that would obviously be hypocritical. And I don't want readers to agree with every conclusion I've drawn.


What I want them to do is to do some rethinking based on the framework, the data, the ideas. And so I'm sure there are things that I got wrong or that I missed. What do you think is something that I should be rethinking?


Two things to say. I think if I had to guess the area where you're likely to get the most pushback, it'll be around. Some things are just wrong and I shouldn't rethink them, and even just doing that is going to create danger of missing the, you know, the crimes that are unfolding in front of us from whatever political point of view you might have. That's not where I go. Personally, I just suspect that's what you'll hear. And I will say I'm a terrible forecaster so that that may not be right.


Selfishly, the thing that I would actually really like to see you rethink is willingness to try meditation and why I say that's selfish it because I really just want to hear what it's like for you after you've done a couple of months of it straight. If that ever comes to pass, it may never come to pass. And I'm certainly not pressuring you to do that. I want to frame this as purely selfish because I'm always super interested what smart people are going to say after they've had a certain dosage of the practice.


Can I react to both of those? Sure. So on the meditation front, you had me. I would love to see you try meditation. I'm up for it. Let me know which practice you would recommend. I'm happy to try anything that you think is worth try. And then you've never steered me in the wrong direction in the past. And if this is the first time, then at least we'll learn something about where I should rely on your judgment and where I should question it.


But then you said try it for a couple of months and I started to feel daunting because I have this heuristic that I don't add anything to my schedule unless there's something I can subtract. And so I would need to find something to remove that I do on a regular basis in order to fit this in at some level. So we either have to find something or you have to persuade me that there's a micro version of this experiment a day or a week where there's something to be learned either for me or for you or both.


Yes, you're absolutely right. And I normally wouldn't say it that way to people. I was trying to, you know, maybe gently encouraged to try this because I realized that does sound daunting. So I reframe it to say that there's like a ten day introduction course on the 10 percent happier app and it's only like five to ten minutes a day. So you could reduce your Instagram or Twitter time by five to ten minutes and you probably be happier just by dint of having done that and do this instead.


And I'd be curious to hear your reaction whether it lands in any way.


I'm absolutely up for that and I'm already starting to think through, OK, what would motivate me to keep doing this? And the reality is I think I would be motivated to try it and then to persist with it if I saw some benefit to people that I care about because I don't feel personally like I need it. And so that's been one of the barriers is if I don't have to do it, it's another task.


But when I think about a few of the hyper anxious people in my life and I'm an anxious person already, so the people who are even more anxious than me, I think that if they tried it with me, it would become something I would really stick to because I would feel like, OK, whether this is really going to be life changing for me or not, they need something. And they've tried a lot of other things and they're not working.


And so let's give this a real shot. And if I'm in with them, maybe they'll follow through, too.


I'm curious, you describe yourself as an anxious person. I would describe myself that way for sure. Still, even after all this meditation, although I'm less anxious, do you describe yourself as anxious and you have described some things you've done to work with it, which I have for what it's worth, I strongly approve of including exercise and reading fiction.


Given the data around the impact of meditation on anxiety, which is, you know, reasonably strong, why would you need the extra motivation of doing it for other anxious people in your life instead of yourself?


So I think the easy answer is the time commitment.


If I haven't really given it a serious shot, it's because I just I feel like I have enough on my plate already. And it's the same way that I resisted for years when my dentist told me to floss my teeth. I've never had a cavity. Why should I? And then, of course, I finally got Gabonese and then I started. Now I'm a religious philosopher. But just the idea that I was going to spend an extra minute each day doing something that didn't seem directly productive, I just it didn't it didn't do it for me.


And so I think that's what's happened primarily. I think the other the other reason that I haven't gone for it is. For the most part, I feel like I'm a very high functioning, anxious person and that it's mostly just an internal sensation every once in a while. I feel like it affects, you know, it kind of leaks into a talk that I give or I stumble in a conversation when I've got nervous and I could have been a lot more fluid and eloquent.


But I don't feel like it's caused real harm, it's just kind of a nuisance, and so I guess the nuisance factor hasn't for me yet outweighed the time investment it would take.


Yeah, that makes sense. It does. But it should. Right.


Because I waste at least I waste at least as much time beating myself up over the situations where I was a little bit anxious and I stumbled through an argument or an answer. And I shouldn't have I could redirect that time toward trying something like meditation and seeing if it's effective for me. I'll send you a resource that will be quick and easy, and as long as you truly believe that, I will not quiz you or follow up about it unless you actually want me to follow up.


No, I'm I'm open to it.


And part of my personal motivation for writing think again was I wanted it was that it was an opportunity for me to plant a flag in the ground for people that I think are extremely thoughtful to push me to rethink more often, because I know that when I have, you know, feisty debates, I do get too much in prosecutor mode. And I wanted to make it very clear that I'm somebody who is willing to change my mind in the hopes that there would be people who convinced me to do that.


And you're one of the people that I would look to for that, Dan. So I am absolutely up for this. Let's do it if you want to talk about it afterward. I would love to for my own learning and for whatever you're curious about, figure out what comes out of it. So I'm up for that. You're the first person who's ever gotten me to say yes to this since I think I was 11 or 12 doing karate with those little meditation's at the beginning.


And then just going back to your your first comment, if I understand your point, you're saying that some people push back on the idea that there are certain beliefs that are are too sacred to rethink or that are too dangerous to question.


I'm getting a sense from my peregrinations on Twitter and constant consumption of podcasts that there's a feeling of why are you asking me to understand the other side right now?


They're so clearly wrong that what I need to be doing is not spending time understanding them, but fighting their actions which have such deeply deleterious effects. Yeah, I think that's a that's a fair critique, and I would direct anybody with that view to Chapter eight because my my eye opening moment on this was realizing that hearing the other side is not the solution. It's actually part of the problem. There's there's a psychologist, Peter Coleman, who has a difficult conversations lab, where he shows that if you just get exposed to the other side's argument, it doesn't really do any good because it's clearly wrong.


You can find a lot of ways to decimate it. What he shows is that you want a complex that spectrum and say, you know what, it is not black and white. What you think is a liberal conservative divide or a Democrat Republican divide is actually a complex spectrum of beliefs. That's multi issue. And different people are different points along that spectrum. And so, you know what? You're I don't think you're going to make much headway with the people who are in the right or who are who are storming the Capitol.




I do think, though, that there are a lot of people there might be 70 million of them who voted for Donald Trump. And I would say a fair number of them don't agree with everything that he says, don't agree with some of the things that he does, and I don't think we all need to go out and say, I'm going to go and understand. What I think we need to do is we need to say, well, what's the most effective approach?


If the goal is to try to get people to to be more open on something that they have already closed their minds on, then I'm willing to do whatever it takes to advance my values and I guess maybe a different way of getting out. What I'm trying to say is I think we need to we need to see the nuance in the middle of the spectrum. We need to recognize that there are a lot of people who voted for a candidate that we may hate.


And this is true on both extremes who are not one dimensional human beings. And if we can recognize that there are some issues that we actually see eye to eye on, we're more likely to have a reasonable conversation. And I think America would be a better place if we had more reasonable conversations. I'm not saying with people who hate your existence or who think that you deserve to be punished for merely having an opinion. I'm saying with people who who have a view that's different from yours and it's just been too easy to demonize.


And I don't think we solve this problem by having less thoughtful conversation. Well said, thank you not only for coming on the podcast, but for doing the work you do, as you know, I've made no secret that give and take had a big impact on me playing a role in the book I'm working on right now. And I and the more I talk to you about this new book, the more I realize this one is going to land probably in a similar way.


So I really appreciate your work and I really appreciate you coming on.


Well, as always, that means a lot to me. Dan, I can't wait to read this book that you've been working on, and I appreciate all the ways in which you make people more mindful in the world, because I think so much of thinking, again, is about being less judgmental in the way that we evaluate ourselves and other people and the choices we make. And you're sort of a portal to people being more open minded, which is what I'm trying to accomplish here.


Big thanks to Adam, go check out his book, it's called Think Again, and I really think and I don't have to think twice about this, I think the book is going to be a big hit. I want to thank as well everybody who worked so hard to make this show a reality 2.5 per week. Samuel Johns is our team leader, the senior producer, D.J. Kashmir is our associate producer. Our sound designer is Matt Boyington from Ultraviolet Audio.


Maria Wartell is our production coordinator. Also want to thank everybody from the TV side who weigh in with such useful advice on the regular djent point. Nate Toby, Liz Lemon and Ben Rubin. Oh, and Ray Housman, who is constantly pitching in with helpful advice. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn't end with a hearty salute to my ABC News comrade's Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohan. We'll be back on Friday with a bonus meditation from Matthew Hepburn, the title of which I love.


This is I Don't Want to Meditate. See you on Friday for that.