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Extreme Worldview Makeover

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A worldview is the framework through which you view the world and plan, execute and interpret your interactions with other people. Without an effective worldview, you cannot reliably gain the co-operation of others and you cannot sell your ideas.

The tests of effectiveness of a worldview are:

  1. Can you predict the actions of others?
    1. Can you understand others’ motivations?
    2. Can you identify what you need to know about another person to understand her/his motivations?
    3. Can you obtain that information, preferably without directly asking?
  2. Can you formulate plans that depend on the co-operation of others and reliably realize them?
    1. Can you obtain the co-operation of others whose behavior you cannot compel?
    2. How wide a circle of influence do you have?
    3. Can you influence people who you have not known for years?
    4. Can you influence people who are not related to you?

Without an effective worldview, it is hard to get through the day in a developed society.

Worldview Overhaul

If you have to fix your worldview, do it sooner rather than later. My observations are that it will take not less than three years out of your life to overhaul your worldview and replace what does not work in reality with what does. The sooner you get going, the sooner you get to harvest the benefits of the effort.


The first thing to get your mind around is the fact that everyone doesn’t want the same thing. Different people have different goals and expectations. The only way to find out other people’s objectives are to get to know the people for themselves.

Treating people as stock, one-dimensional characters won’t help here. Telling people what they should want gets one nowhere.


People buy emotionally and justify logically.
— Sales maxim

People are good at rationalizing: rationally justifying a goal or course of action they have chosen. This does not necessarily mean that they have chosen rationally. Often, the opposite is true. Successful salespeople know this, and sales demands testing theories of human behavior every day.


Many people take existential positions: statements of what they expect their lives to be like. Often, people engage in repeated experiments to prove their positions, and throw out any data that does not confirm the theory. Is this constructive? No, but it happens a lot.

Maier’s Law: If the facts do not conform to the theory, the facts must be disposed of.
— N. R. Maier, “American Psychologist”, March 1960

A cruise through Eric Berne’s Games People Play (1962) reveals a wide selection of existential positions:

  • “All people are ungrateful.”
  • “Everybody wants to deprive me.”
  • “People can’t be trusted.”
  • “I’m always wrong.”
  • “I am pure.”
  • “I am blameless.”
  • “Everybody wants to dominate me.”
  • “I can live gracefully.”

This is not a comprehensive catalog of all possible positions. Because it is a book about therapy, it is heavy on maladaptive positions (e.g., “I am blameless”) and has less discussion of constructive positions (e.g., “I can live gracefully”). Nevertheless, the idea is valid and offers an analytical toolset for understanding real world behaviors.

A person whose position is “I’m always wrong” won’t usually come out and say that, except possibly disguised in a joking way (ha ha only serious). Instead, you will continually see him engaging in behaviors that are meant to prove that he is right about something, and they are never enough. If, as usual, his plan falls through, it’s par for the course. If he does get some confirmation that he is right about something, he will find a way to dismiss it — or its source. There will often be a good reason why each individual initiative this person starts does not work out. Nevertheless, when you stand back, you will see a pattern of things involving this person not working out.

Early Warnings

People will give you warnings of what’s coming, if you’re listening. There is a beautiful example of this in the 1986 movie About Last Night. Debbie (Demi Moore) has a fight with her live-in boyfriend, so she goes to stay the night with her best friend Joan (Elizabeth Perkins). Joan has a man staying with her, and when he hears about Debbie’s situation, he says, “Guys can be real assholes sometimes.”

Later in the movie, Debbie finds Joan crying:

Joan: I am such a fool.
Debbie: Tell me. I’m your best friend.
Joan: He’s going back with his wife.
Debbie: I didn’t even know he was married.
Joan: Neither did I.

Well, he warned you.


Written by srojak

November 17, 2013 at 9:24 pm