When changing industry, a different approach is essential
“A fool thinks himself wise, but a wise man thinks himself to be a fool”, as quoted by William Shakespeare.
There are many challenges on the journey of life. And even more challenges within a life changing journey.
As you age, grow, and gain experience, that wealth of experience brings a certain assuredness of the life you have trodden. With over thirty years in the logistics industry behind me, I hold a certain authority due to a reputation built through many years of integrity, dealing through all levels of hierarchy.
When I attend logistics industry conferences, a majority of the room will know my name. Due to this experience, my opinions and thoughts are listened to and taken on board with interest. I can speak with authority because it has been earned. I have lived and breathed logistics for over thirty years, so the flow of information I talk about is natural and second nature.
After seven years of research and learning within the health & wellness industry, and as I begin stepping into the realms of educating others, the authority I have been used to in logistics is dialed right back to zero.
I can no longer make statements which I know to be true, simply because I know them to be true. These statements must be backed up by evidence to have a fully rounded view of the subject at hand. I have had to critically think about myself, so I can begin approaching people I want to help.
Evolution of Critical Thinking
We all believe we are rational and logical, whereas in fact humans are not designed for this at all. For the vast majority of human history we have naturally evolved to be successful. To sense when things are not right; to know a snake could be dangerous even if we have never seen one before.
Homo Sapiens have been on the planet for 300,000 years or more. Whilst it is generally believed the first human civilisation emerged in Mesopotamia some 10-12,000 years ago.
It then took another 7000 years for the first humans to begin writing around 3000BC. This was initially used to keep count of trades, which conversely allowed civilisations to grow.
It would take another 1000 years for the first scriptures to appear where stories could be told and shared. And it wasn’t until the age of enlightenment (1685-1815) with the growth of scientific discoveries, that critical thought arose into what we know today.
Prior to the enlightenment discoveries, critical thinkers were rare and often made mistakes based on assumption.
It is important to understand this evolutionary process so I could truly analyse myself. To realise that we are first and foremost survivalists. This is why when talking about my new knowledge, it’s important to realise the person being spoken to is on high alert as their survival instinct sense a possible dangerous snake within their midst.
Only with well thought through reasoning stating scientific evidence in an easy to understand way, and by listening carefully to the other person’s view, would I have any chance to be in the position of authority to be heard. And most importantly to have the necessary positive impact desired on their lives.
Critical thinking is your ability to know something is true, but to be open-minded enough to know there could be other sides to a story. It is not only good enough to know there could be other truths out there, but also go searching for those counter arguments to learn about them.
Bias Based On Own Experiences
As an example, I am quite forthright in my belief that a ketogenic diet is not equal to losing weight. But there are plenty of people out there who truly believe by just going on a ketogenic diet they will lose weight, because this is what happened to them.
I need to understand why they believe this, when all of the scientific data points towards a caloric deficit being the fundamental driver for weight loss.
Only by digging into the other side of the debate, I can fully understand why people hold this belief so dearly. And by understanding why they believe this to be true, only then can I begin to put counter arguments together to attempt to shift their bias.
From that point of understanding, I can attempt to convince them otherwise with the facts regarding energy balance.
Two System Thought Process
Psychologists believe that humans have two systems for processing thought. System 1 is what we more commonly understand to be intuition. Whereas system 2 is a more mechanical deliberated process.
An easy way to picture these systems is by asking two mathematical questions. Firstly, what is 2+2? Immediately and instinctively you know the answer to be 4. But if you were to be asked, what is 23×56, unless you happen to be a bit of a maths freak, you would more than likely have to go into a thought process to calculate the answer to this. That is system 2 at work.
I often wondered why, when driving in unfamiliar areas, I had to turn off or turn down the radio. As soon as I had to think about where to go, the radio became a distraction whereas previously it was a pleasant accompaniment.
When you’re driving along knowing where you are, system 1 is at work which is a relatively calm process. But as soon as you find yourself having to think about where to go, that’s system 2 activating because your intuitive system 1 was not able to help.
Therefore when you are thinking in system 2, all other noise and information can become a distraction.
Why Are We Wired This Way?
The world is a complicated place. Arguably made more complicated with new technological inventions which continually call for our attention.
System 1 exists to make the world an easier place to navigate. To allow our preconceived ideas to rule our thoughts.
As an example, if we hear of a man whose hobby is to paint watercolour landscapes, was born in the countryside and loves dogs, we automatically assume this must be a very nice chap. This description of a very nice chap also happens to describe Adolf Hitler. And with all the critical thinking in the world, he could never be called a very nice chap.
We humans have a limited natural attention span. The more we focus on one thing, the less we see of anything else. So with a few pieces of information, we put together a picture of somebody who would match that description, even when clearly there are many details missing.
It’s easier to construct this narrative based on our own experiences and bias, whilst ignoring a whole host of missing information.
These life experiences paint our internal pictures, which inform our cognitive bias on any given subject. The satisfying feeling we have when putting things together that make sense is called cognitive ease.
We must be wary of cognitive ease as it lulls us into a false sense of understanding, which stops us critically questioning anything we learn
Heuristic comes from the Greek word “to discover”. A psychological heuristic is a method of getting a good enough answer about something, even if it’s not perfect. It’s your rule of thumb, or the above average probabilities based on your existing knowledge at that time.
A representative heuristic states; we will judge something to be more likely if it closely resembles its parents group. This takes me back to understanding the effects I have on people within my current differing positions of authority in the logistics industry, compared to the health & wellness industry.
When talking to others about health, my representative heuristic is currently not at the point it needs to be for me to be heard as an educator with authority. Even though I look like a healthy fit 52 year old, the person I am talking to does not know the amount of research and self practice made in the last 7 years to gain the knowledge I have today.
They see somebody who works in logistics, and is in pretty good shape. But they do not see me as an authoritative figure in health and wellness.
Conclusion: Chameleon Approach
One of my strengths and reasons for success over the years has been an ability to communicate with people at all levels.
When I was a salesman trying to win my first successes as a naïve 21 year old traipsing the streets of Hong Kong, I was happy to talk to the shipping clerk at their desk. But also comfortable meeting the company owner in the boardroom.
Humility kept me level-headed. And as success grew I had to continually review and check that humility remained in place. There were times it shifted, plenty of times I had lost it and reached arrogance. But by regularly critically analysing this about myself, I always managed to find the necessary humble parity required to keep progressing in life.
It is that approach I will continue to apply today as I transition from one industry to another.
Whilst remaining a highly experienced knowledgeable fountain of the logistics industry in my day job. I must also remain an apprentice within my future industry of health & wellness.
It is essential to remember this is not yet what I am known for. Even though the dreams inside my head about the future have me fully painted as a much sought after, highly respected member of the evidence based health industry.
As I begin helping others live longer, stronger lives, I must never forget where I am from and what it has taken to get me here. I am lucky to have reached this point in my life and learned from many mentors throughout my years in logistics who have given me the opportunity to grow, along side the correct way to do it.
Thank you Mark Payne, Nick Coverdale, Gerd Glaeser, Thomas Choi, Ruediger Elste, Daniel Richner and for sure many others not mentioned. Logistics is far from finished, and I hope to work with more like-minded mentors on my continued journey through life.