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Does your brain know about your fridge?
Weird things we usually do…
“I had snacks hidden in my pillow that I would eat; Twinkies, Cheetos, and at the end, a giant cake. I realized that all I wanted to do was sit in cake and rub cake all over my body. It was more than emotional eating. I wanted to bathe in cake, and be covered in cream.” - excerpt from an interview in Paste magazine on the occasion of ‘International No Diet Day’
Isn’t it fascinating to get a peek into a glutton’s world? I started wondering about how their brains tick when they see food. Does it go on overdrive, excited to consume it all? Does it lose control of the senses wanting its share of dopamine and sugar rush?
In the dictionary, Gluttony is defined as ‘habitual greed or excess in eating.’ But what is getting defined is merely the symptom, while the source of this excessive indulgence is completely being missed.
During my peripheral search for answers, I could find three 3 reasons why people suffer from gluttony - genetics, physiological factors, and loss of control eating disorders. None of them hints at a lack of motivation or laziness. It's just that some people’s brains are wired very differently around food, and they can’t seem to help it. It’s like a ghost taking over your body to carry out its agenda.
It won’t help if your fridge is stocked with all the same goodies for the whole month. It won’t help if you have your favorite restaurant open 24/7 just round the corner. It won’t help if you have free delivery of your favorite foods. That’s the curse of many gluttons seeking professional assistance to get rid of their plight.
This might seem like a weird example for my newsletter, but it hints at a very fundamental element of us being humans. Our faculties may seem to be in our control and we might perceive ourselves to be wise in our decision-making, but this might just be an illusion. There are times when you just ain’t in charge, mentally or emotionally. It’s in these times, that your wisdom or your you're common sense gets overwritten by your impulses, causing you to do things that ain’t aligned with your goals and purpose.
Hence the saying “common sense is the most uncommon”.
Let’s look at a few examples -
First Impression Bias #
Ever noticed how your mind makes up patterns that may have no semblance to reality, as shown in the pic above? The mind doesn’t have the whole picture in front of it except for a shadow, and it doesn’t like this ambiguity, which gets it racing at jet speed to make up what’s the shadow all about.
You may judge a book by its red hardcover or reviews on the back page. You may recruit the one who forms a good first impression on you. You may date the one that impressed you the most.
This happens almost daily since it needs only a trigger to get racing with its vivid imagery. It’s in our biological DNA and you can’t do much about it. It’s this impulse that made our ancestors run when they would just hear leaves ruffle at night. The ones that didn’t assume and run, became prey for the lion on the prowl. For the ones that ran and survived, we are grateful to them for bringing us all to life.
This impulse helps in many instances, but not all.
I’ve had friends who have been fired on account of wrong impressions on their bosses, and I’ve witnessed broken marriages, and failed business partnerships due to misunderstandings that have grown to toxic levels with no cure in sight. If only the people involved would take time out to think through these impressions formed up in their minds, or maybe clear these out with conversations that may seem difficult, but could be a game changer.
My wife and I have a pact - we will never go to sleep with any grudges or ill feelings for one another. If there is anything that has irked us or bothered us, the pact requires us to have a conversation before the end of the day and clear it out.
No wonder I sleep like a baby always ;)
Remedy - Don’t buy the story your mind has cooked up as a response to a trigger like an event or a situation. Think through it before you pour your energy and time into a particular direction. Or wait for 10 seconds before you act on the impulse. That small window could save a lot of relationships, money, time, and other resources for you. Some have even suggested waiting for a day before you form an opinion or make a decision.
Negativity Bias #
My wife and I went for a Bollywood movie just released yesterday - ‘Laal Singh Chadha’. We enjoyed it and had a great time together. But I remember one of the audience at the Exit gate going on a loud rant about how horrible the movie was, the lousy acting by the cast, and the senseless plot. I couldn’t help smiling and thinking about the amount of energy that gets wasted in discussing things that didn’t inspire you and even more energy in enrolling others to share that point of view.
There’s a character in the movie that had a beautiful way of describing this phenomenon. Every time she wants to protect her son from this negativity that has taken the form of terrorist attacks or political rallies that turn bloody, she would ask her son to lock himself in a room for a week since “malaria is spreading all over the world”. It was beautifully enacted and come to think of it, negativity bias is a kind of malaria that is waiting to pounce upon you at any moment.
Your mind weighs negative information more than positive one, and that’s why critical feedback hurts you more than the joy you get from receiving positive feedback. Your mind weighs losses more than gains, and that’s why you struggle to forget or forgive mistakes of yourself or others. Your mind finds negative news more credible than positive ones, which makes many news publications and news channels money-making machines for their owners, as they could dish as much venom as possible and you would gulp it down daily.
It’s the same biological tendency that makes you see fault in others, but none in yourself. Comedian Louis CK has something profound to tell you about this phenomenon - ‘Everything is amazing right now and yet nobody is happy.’
You can’t get rid of it until you are a human. If you could get your hands on Elon Musk’s Neuralink chip, then just maybe possible. All the best for that happening in this lifetime.
Remedy - One of the ways to blunt the curse of negative tendencies is to fill your being with loads of positivity. You could have a gratitude journal and write down 3 things that you're grateful for, on a daily basis. I have been doing this practice for years and it helps. You could start your day with meditation, and it goes a long way in making you a calmer person. You could also enroll for experiences that delight you. I have recently started learning Handpan and I’m loving it.
Confirmation Bias #
“The human mind did not evolve to be good at understanding truth—the human mind evolved to be good at understanding what is most useful for the human mind. And spoiler alert: what is useful is usually not true.” - Mark Manson
Is the sun yellow or does it appear to be?
Does the sun rise from the east or does it appear to rise from the east?
Are cereal breakfasts really good for your health or does the packaging makes it appear so?
Your mind has formed certain ideas, and it could fight real hard to prove them right, no matter what the cost. It’s that rigid one track mind that makes you get into arguments to prove your point of view since that’s your unshakeable truth. But how true is that truth?
Just like the people on the elephant view the animal from different vantage points, it appears different to all of them, with no overlap of any kind. So who amongst them is saying the truth?
You might sometimes use the reference of all evidence that you have gathered supporting your point of view. But what about the evidence that supports an entirely different point of view?
I remember a business meeting in 2013 where I was pitching a business idea to someone from the hotel industry. I vividly remember him analyzing me, my every word, my every question and we did have a productive conversation for over 2 hours. The next day we got to know that he won’t be going ahead with the idea and that’s normal. What was funny was the reason he gave to the person who introduced us - “If Manish is successful enough then how come he isn’t wearing Gucci or Louis Vuitton shoes?”
In his world, the shoes you wear signal the success you have. But in my world, for the success I want as an entrepreneur, I will need to be frugal or simple in my lifestyle. So was he wrong? Was I wrong? What’s the truth here?
There is no right answer. There is no absolute truth. Everything is an opinion, a narrative, a story that you choose to believe or let go of.
And hence confirmation bias is a real tricky one - it makes us overconfident about our beliefs and opinions, even at the risk of appearing cocky and arrogant. A shocking but real example of this bias shows up in this snippet where a CEO of a company loses his cool over the analyst community that doesn’t think any good about the company’s share price.
You might think that the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company could do that, but you never would. Are you sure about that?
You too have been seduced into thinking that ‘I’m right and others are wrong’ and it will happen again, there is no escape unless, of course, Elon Musk comes to your aid.
Remedy - Never forget that everyone has gone through their own journey, upbringing, experiences, failures, successes, and circumstances. Twins living in the same house could turn out very different decades down the line, so how would two people living miles apart ever think alike on every single point?
Only when you respect that everyone is unique in their own way, that’s when you could open up your mind to think from different angles instead of only your way. Only then will you gather enough patience to deal with people and create win-win solutions. Only then will you be at peace with walking away from people that do not support the life you desire to create.
Reading Stoic Philosophy and also Autobiographies has helped me immensely to understand these tricks the mind plays on me and I have to be on my guard always. It’s a conscious effort to seek disconfirming evidence for my hypothesis, instead of only looking for evidence that supports it.
Recommendations for the week #
While researching this topic, I came across a brilliant and funny video from one of the world’s best ventriloquists (a person, especially an entertainer, who can make their voice appear to come from somewhere else, typically a dummy of a person or animal). This video will make you laugh your heart out. But more importantly, your mind gets deceived by what it sees, even if you know that it’s the person making the sounds and not the puppet.
Ryan Holiday wrote a fantastic piece on ‘This Is The Best Career Decision You Can Possibly Make’ and I highly recommend you read this one. Whether you’re a professional, employee, entrepreneur or a C Suite Exec, this write up has a lot to offer to everyone committed to reaching the pinacle of their chosen endeavors.
I’ve recently started watching a new show on Netflix ‘Incredible Attorney Woo’ and I’m loving it, and so is my wife. It’s beautifully shot, it’s funny and colorful, and it’s wholesome in every possible way. The trailer itself would give you an idea of what’s in store for you, in case you decide to give it a shot.
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Wishing you all a smashing weekend. 🪅