Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The CEO of Your Own Life

In support of individual judgment! There is a pressure in modern society to convince people to buy things they do not need or want, but it extends well beyond shopping malls. So many decisions that effect people's lives are deferred to 'experts.' There is usually an intimidation factor to convince people they do not have the necessary knowledge to make a rational decision about the topic, so must defer to a higher authority. It could be someone with a lot of initials after their name, or policies enacted 'for your safety' to protect you from who knows what. Whether well-meaning or otherwise, the result is that people seem to be giving away a portion of their freedoms, and deferring their own judgment to someone else.

Say you are a CEO receiving input from your hired team. If you don't engage in active questioning of those reporting to you; if you don't understand the limitations of a person's particular perspective; instead, if you always follow a particular person's recommendation, then who is really in charge? I do not mind paying for my own mistakes; that's part of learning. I mind very much being a passenger and paying for someone else's mistake.

We are conditioned in modern society to visit doctors frequently and follow "doctor's orders". This is the first place where I became aware this conditioning to defer to the experts was taking hold. I realize now that as a paying customer, doctors should be giving me options, not orders. The way I see it, some medical tests can provide additional visibility and information that may be difficult to obtain on your own, but the interpretation of that data, and the decision about which options to select should remain with the individual. I think this is eminently rational, but doctors seem very surprised when you engage in this way. (And keep in mind that most doctors are either unwilling or unable to discuss nutrition related options. My intention is to explore those avenues on my own and hire doctors primarily for measuring and monitoring. You can also order many useful tests on your own - ie: Cyrex Labs.)

It's interesting to consider the only time when it is overtly acceptable to restrict an upstanding citizen's freedoms: parental custody of children. I guess the thought here is that children do not have the experience to make their own decisions, so parents are responsible (and legally accountable) for making those decisions (and enforcing those decisions). I can't help but notice a parallel in the relationship between 'experts' and adults vs parents and children in our modern society.

For whatever reason, our society seems to be moving more and more towards a parental control model. Adults are essentially becoming perpetual children in regards to the decisions that effect their lives. The kicker is that people seem to be encouraged to want someone to have that authority (that responsibility) over them.

How often do you hear:
"We worry, so you don't have to."
"We've done the analysis for you."
"For Your Safety"

How nice, you don't have to think anymore. And it gets better <⁄sarcasm>: When you cede your responsibility to someone else, then you can sue them if they recommended anything outside the approved 'standard of care'. What kind of system is this reinforcing? What motivation do even well meaning authority figures really have for exploring other options? The system is essentially encouraging, by legal ramifications, any deviation from approved standards. Even if the standard of care only has a 2% success rate, it is still the latest and greatest, so will be the one recommended. Once you realize this is going on, then you might ask your doctor the likely success rate of a particular recommendation, and possible side effects (including long term). This can help you decide for yourself whether you are willing to accept the 'standard of care'.  If you expect the doctor to make these decisions for you, then you will by default get latest approved standard, even if the success rate is abysmal or has lifelong consequences.

I think lawsuits should be reserved for misrepresentation, fraud, or lack of informed consent. Leave the 'standard of care' out of it. If people took back this responsibility for themselves (and did not sue for being burned by hot coffee), then people would essentially have more money in their own pockets. Companies and authority figures would then not be essentially legally obligated to treat you as a child. Lawsuits have run rampant in modern society, and I suspect a significant percent are essentially caused by people deferring individual responsibility to authority figures. Since they, like children, are no longer responsible for making their own decisions, they get to blame the parent when something goes awry. Society pays dearly for this in more ways than one.

This parental model for adults is so pervasive. How do you get adults to fall in line as children? A big red flag to me now is fear mongering. In other words, I say fear mongering is a job security scam. Quite a gig: Convince someone they are in dire need of just what you have to offer. Happens all of the time now that I see the pattern. Once I realized that all of the large news stations have been purchased by entertainment companies, I stopped watching the news shows - and I do mean 'shows'. Reporting the live feed from a breaking situation doesn't set one show apart from another, so newscasters babble over highly edited footage to 'create content'. Then they argue about their own created content - drama, drama. Most news shows are selling their invented content, not actually useful, raw information. Give me the live feed, and I will analyze it myself, thank you! Otherwise, it's another example where I'm essentially paying for things I don't need or want.

This fear mongering (motivated by power, economics, or otherwise) is creating stress and worry, and causing people to spend their time, energy, and money on invented problems. It's giving someone either money or power, and I've found that's a good way to sanity check things. For example, most magazines make their money not from your subscription fees, but from selling you to their advertisers. It's valuable to know the motivation behind of the information you're getting so you can put that information in proper context.

My thoughts on how to break out of the prevalent adult-as-child mentality:
  • Just notice who is benefiting from any fear-based action you are encouraged to take.
  • Do the people promoting a solution have a conflict of interest? (consciously or not)

Some examples of changes I've made:
  • No more news shows
    • I scan headlines to decide if there's something I want to research further.
  • I opt out of airport full body x-ray scans.
    • I see them as the height of political theater
    • I suspect long-term safety concerns.
  • I'm skeptical of many textbook explanations of history. (Certainty is artificial.)
    • I suspect many more unknowns than knowns.
    • Outliers from the standard narrative are excluded. Doesn't mean they don't exist.
    • Researching other points of view about topics you are interested can be very fun! and is a useful sanity check.

In my experience, the default standard of care is not always the best. If you need to rely on someone else's authoritative judgment in a pinch, that's fine. But there is a difference between consciously following a path with an understanding of the causes and consequences, and automatically assuming your best option is to follow the expert-approved path. We are trained from childhood to defer responsibility to someone else: parents, teachers, then authority figures, but it is ultimately very freeing once you take back full responsibility. It sounds obvious, but the conditioning runs deep (health, politics, security, …). I am grateful for the opinions of experts, but I am much more conscious now to put them in context before I decide if I'm going to act on any particular opinion. More often then not, I find it helpful to merge multiple options and explore my own ideas. Be the CEO of you own life to reap your own consequences, your own rewards!

by Laura A Knauth


  1. Great decisions! :-) I stopped watching TV ads and mass-media news years ago. Since the mid 90s I've been an avid Internet user, so I had little trouble in progressively replacing the TV/radio/newspaper conduits of information with websites and, later on, blogs. Even now I enjoy sort of a transparency filter for words like "crisis" or "threat" in headlines.

    I get more and better information about the real world with sites like than same-old same-old cnn and the likes.

    Give yourself some months and you'll see new things and in a new way... ;-)

    1. Radio show: I listen on my radio or phone mostly every night. NOT a George Noory fan (I think he's an idiot) but love love love John Wells and George Knapp as hosts. But the reason to listen is for the Guests being interviewed. Check out the website for Guests and their links. So much going on in the world that mainstream media NEVER mentions. Kim // Desert Spirit Photography . com