Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - October 4, 2015

Brian Gongol

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Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.

This week

A 21st Century communications requirement

Give me a magic wand and I'll make every college student go through a minor in communications. But not a conventional "communications" minor -- one constructed from scratch around modern needs. They'll leave literate *and* numerate, and that will include technical, legal, and scientific literacy, as well as accounting, economic, and statistical numeracy. They'll know how to write -- not fluffy poetry and "creative" writing. They'll learn how to write an effective business e-mail, letter of complaint, 500-word opinion essay, and technical manual. If you can't pass that minor, you aren't just parked your butt in a classroom for a few hours a week and drank the rest.

Metaphors and mental frameworks

Most people have heard Lord Acton's dictum: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.

I read a great context on that comment in the book "Giants of Enterprise" by Richard Tedlow: "Every day, every man or woman with power should ask not, 'Am I being corrupted by power?' but rather 'In what ways am I being corrupted by power?' [...] Power does more than corrupt. It does something more subtle and insidious. The word I choose to describe the impact of power is that it 'deranges.' [...] Corrupt people often know they are corrupt. But deranged people are denied that self-knowlege."

Even to those of us who wouldn't think that we have "power", per se, it's an enormously valuable lesson. We see the world through filters and formulas, and we're often unaware of it.

Learning to see the same things through a different filter is perhaps one of the most valuable skills to have in the modern world.

It's said that one of the signs of an agile mind is the ability to frame things in metaphors. I would propose that the most agile minds of all can see things not only in metaphors, but also through more than one metaphor (or at least, more than one filter). That is an especially valuable skill in any context related to money or other resources -- especially because the person who knowingly has something to gain in an exchange has lots of incentive to frame things in the fashion that is most valuable to him- or herself.

For instance:

I can't think of many skills that would do more to put your kids in a better position than training them to re-frame questions in more than one way. That's not to make them insubordinate or ornery, but to train them not to simply accept the context pushed by someone who has something to sell. It's a form of mental agility that applies to all walks of life and all kinds of activity. Breaking loose from the mental frameworks picked by others can make anyone better off.

Tin Foil Hat Award

Yay Capitalism Prize

Quote of the Week

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