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Accepting Irrationality

Published 8/8/2018

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What was the last time the opposite of what you expected occurred? Now I'm not talking about something different occurring, but quite literally the opposite. In today's episode we're going to take a quick look into why this can happen. Even against our most kind of convicting intuitions, why we can actually experience something that is entirely the opposite of what we expected to experience. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea, my goal on the show, is to help driven developers like you connect to your career purpose so you can do better work and have a positive influence on the people around you. As you grow in your career, you will learn more and more just how important it is to understand yourself. Not just understand your preferences, not just understanding your own values, but how you work, how you operate as a human being, and also how other human beings tend to operate. This seems like a constant discussion and it seems like something that you can file away into knowledge that you have. It seems like you can accomplish this knowledge to a reasonable degree and then move on to more interesting things. But as it turns out, this is a lifelong journey. You're going to continue encountering new experiences with new mixes of people, new relationship context that you haven't encountered before. You're going to continue encountering new parts of your own way of interacting with the world and the more that you invest in understanding yourself and understanding others and the way that you work and why you do the things that you do and why others do the things they do, the better you will be as a developer. And not just as a developer in general, having a high degree of self-awareness and emotional intelligence and the ability to understand why people behave the way they behave, this builds your relationships, this builds your ability to interact with others, to lead other people. Because what you will end up learning inevitably is just how little you do understand. It's how often you are actually wrong. This is kind of a scary thing to realize that beliefs that you've held for a long time or practices that you have engaged in for a long time, ways that you have spent your time that they are somehow flawed. This is a very difficult revelation to come to. Now once you get comfortable with recognizing and learning about your flaws or learning about kind of the inevitable biases that you will be subject to because you're human, once you get comfortable with that, you can start to live more aware of those flaws and those shortcomings. This has a profound effect on how you can deal with other people because as you learn just how flawed your own perception is, your own practices or your own perspectives, your own beliefs, just how easily you can connect to the shortcomings of those things, that will allow you to see others through the same light. If you recognize just how strongly you have held on to beliefs that you now reject, if you take some time to look really dig deep and remind yourself that you're constantly growing and you're constantly learning, again, this has a profound effect on your ability to have empathy for other people who are different than you, who have a different perspective than you. So, I want to talk about this experience of expecting one thing and getting quite literally the opposite. We're going to talk about that in a moment, but first I want to talk about this awesome partnership that Developer Teahas with Breaker. We announced earlier this week that we broke over 10 million downloads of this show and that's incredible. This show has always been free because we have awesome sponsors and we're not going to stop having awesome sponsors. We love our sponsors on this show. We also wanted to provide an avenue for listeners to support the show directly. So in response to that, we've partnered with Breaker. They allow you to subscribe to an ad-free version of this show. It's kind of the perk of subscribing to that special feed. But really what we're doing is we're providing you a way to show support back to the show and to give us that feedback, that extremely valuable feedback, letting us know that you actually get value out of this, that you're actually your job, your life, your skills are improved because you listen to this show. So as long as that's happening, as long as people are able to get value out of this show, we're going to continue making episodes. We make three episodes a week of Developer Tea. And again, it's going to continue to be available for free in our normal ad-supported model. That's not going anywhere. But we're adding this extra avenue using Breaker. So how do you subscribe? Download the Breaker app. Right now it is supported on iOS and Android is coming soon. By the way, we will announce on this show when Breaker is available for Android. So you don't have to keep tabs on it for yourself. As long as you continue listening to Developer Tea, you will get that information. But once you've downloaded Breaker, search for Developer Tea and you'll see the premium feed. It's a premium version of Developer Tea. It says ad-free in the title. And all you have to do is subscribe using that Apple Pay mechanism. It's an in-store purchase. It's a super easy thing to do. And it's super helpful to us because it tells us that you are willing to support us directly. Thank you so much to Breaker for inviting Developer Teato be in this launch partner position. We really appreciate it. So we're talking about this idea of expecting one thing and then experiencing the opposite. And the inspiration for this episode actually comes from a very simple study that was done. And we'll kind of set this up. If you're going to a fast food restaurant, we've all probably been to a fast food restaurant. And hopefully we all try to avoid going to fast food restaurants too often. But when you do go to a fast food restaurant, sometimes there are options on the menu that are a little more healthy than other options. For example, something that's grilled rather than something that's fried or something like a salad rather than a cheeseburger with a bunch of high calorie sauces all over it. Right? So this is something that we all know about. So let's say that you wanted to help people make better choices in a restaurant like this in a fast food restaurant. If you brainstorm around ways to help people make better decisions, you probably will arrive at the same solution that many professionals would arrive at as well. That is to expose just how bad this food is by showing how many calories, for example, are in that big juicy cheeseburger and then to show the same information about the healthier choices. So the person should be able to compare and then make the right decision, make a better decision. It seems like a totally reasonable solution. And in fact, it is a totally reasonable solution. Or at least it's a rational solution. If someone sees two options and one is clearly better for them than the other, then the rational person should choose the better one. But here's the takeaway for today's episode. People don't always act rationally. Now this isn't really all that surprising. Of course, people don't always act rationally. All of us have experienced emotional situations where we know that we're acting rationally. Sometimes we get in arguments where we say things that are totally irrational or maybe we make the same mistakes over and over in our code. Maybe we choose to walk down the same path of not testing our code because somewhere in our brains we've convinced ourselves that this time is different. Even though if we were being rational, we wouldn't have convinced ourselves that this time would be different. And as it turns out, the way that people would parse this information in the fast food restaurant is they would look at the gaps between, for example, the cheeseburger and the salad. And perhaps the calorie count on that salad is higher than they expected. It may be closer to the cheeseburger than they expected. And so to rationalize or at least to convince themselves that the cheeseburger is not that bad becomes even easier. It may have been that they perceived that the cheeseburger's calories were higher than they were and that the salads calories were significantly lower than they actually are. And so they aren't going to get that health benefit that they expected to get. Unfortunately, when the ends up happening is when enough of these, these same decisions are made, the effects accumulate. So it may not be a big gap for one meal, but when you start doing that on a daily basis, it does create a big gap. Of course, this outlines another feature of human decision making that we are now focused that we don't really make decisions with the idea of a habit or a long term effect in mind. We make decisions with a much shorter frame of reference. So it's an amazing experience, kind of a phenomena of an experience. Can you expect one thing, for example, providing information to people about the health quality of the food they are eating and you expect it to have a particular effect, to expect a particular outcome? Quite literally exactly the opposite happens. And this happened in this study and it can happen in your work. It can happen in your personal relationships. It can happen in your relationships with colleagues. It can happen in your job search. Now, of course, the details of each of these situations can be expressed in a variety of ways, but the fundamental truth is that people are not necessarily predictable, or at least not necessarily rational. Sometimes people are predictably irrational. And if you've heard that phrase before, it's because it's the title of a book by the behavioral economist and professor Dan Airelli, encourage you to go and check out that book, as well as other books by other behavioral economists like Richard Thaler, as well as the one that we talk about, perhaps more than any other book on the show, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Coneman. There's a whole list of these books. If you're interested in these subjects, but here's the underlying reality. The truth that you must walk away with is that when you expect something from a person and you're basing that off of a rational response, right? A rational response being something that is illogical, something that is, you know, increasing the welfare of a person and decreasing their risk, right? And in equal portion, it's important to consider how they may behave in a completely different way. I've one more piece of advice before we close out today's episode for you. Once you realize and really kind of accept the reality that people are not always going to act rationally, and in fact, almost never will people be purely rational. And by the way, when I say people, I'm including you and I'm including myself as well, just because you know about a bias doesn't mean that you can avoid it, right? Even once you've accepted this, it's incredibly important that you don't take it on as your personal kind of mission to make other people be rational, not because people can't become more rational, but rather because there are better ways to spend your energy. If you can understand other people, then instead of trying to change them, you can collaborate with them more effectively. If you can understand why someone behaves in the way they do, rather than trying to change the way they behave, then perhaps you can be more productive in your relationship with them. This is a very important point to make because especially for people like managers, sometimes it seems like it's our job to try to mold the behaviors of other people. As it turns out, we are much more rewarded if we understand other people and give them the space to express the things that are truly human. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Again, if you haven't downloaded Breaker, go and check it out. It's in the iOS app store. Of course, it is coming to Android soon. You can subscribe to the premium ad-free version of Developer Tea and show your support for the show right inside of Breaker's search for Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.