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You know what it feels like to have that rush of intense feeling
come up—when the boss sends you a snippy email or that rude
driver cuts you off to exit without signaling.
Breathe out, deeply, and get rid of the stale air. Breathe in, deeply.
Count to ten. Remember that you’re the evolved one. Let the lizard
reaction pass, and allow the neocortex to process the event.

Next Actions
✷ Notice how long it takes you to get over your initial reaction to
a perceived threat. How does your reaction change once you
“think about it”?
✷ Act on that impulse but not immediately. Plan for it; schedule
it. Does it still make sense later?
✷ Write a new movie. If you’re troubled by a given film that keeps
replaying in your head, sit down and craft a new one—this
time with a happy ending.
✷ Smile. There’s some evidence that simply smiling can be as
effective as antidepressant medications.19

5.5 Now I Don’t Know What to Think
The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the
surface of a gas-covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90
million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some
indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.
Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

As we’ve seen earlier in the book, intuition is a powerful tool. It
is the hallmark of experts. But your intuition can be dead wrong.
As we’ve seen in this chapter, your thinking and rationality are
fairly suspect as well. Our perspective is skewed all the way from
our personal values to understanding our place in the cosmos, as
Douglas Adams points out in this section’s opening epigraph. What
we think of as “normal” isn’t necessarily so. You can be misled
easily by your internal wiring, in addition to prejudices and biases
of all sorts, and think everything is just fine.
So, where does that leave us?
19. Personally, I’m pretty sure chocolate is involved as well.

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you might feel in your gut that a particular design or algorithm is the right way to go and that other suggestions aren’t as effective. you’ll develop more of the capacity for accurate self-feedback. so it will become easier over time. we’re all nuts—one way or another. In a similar vein. January 2009) . and chart some benchmarks. TIP 24 Trust intuition. linear feedback. you start off holistically and experientially and then shift to the more routine drills-and-skills to “productize” the learning. As you become more expert in a given area. In short. but follow up with provable. too. For example. Prepared exclusively for Jose Luis Loya gggggggggggggggg Report erratum this copy is (P2. You’re sure the boss is out to get you. How do you know? Everybody is using Java for this kind of application. Says who? You’re a great/awful developer. because your intuition may have been wrong. when I said you want to create an R-mode to L-mode flow? That is.N OW I D ON ’ T K NOW W HAT TO T HINK 152 Remember back in the discussion on learning. too. we need to double-check ourselves and each other.0 printing. And as we’ve seen here. people have bugs. ask yourself why. Now prove it. It could be your expert intuition at work. but verify. Do what you need to do to prove that your idea is a good one. Compared to whom? 20. You need unit tests for yourself. run some unit tests. you want to lead with intuition.20 Feedback is the key to agile software development for precisely this reason: software development depends on people. You need to get some feedback: create a prototype. Despite our best intentions. or maybe it’s just a cognitive bias or other bug. Testing Yourself When you are dead solid convinced of something. Great.

you’ll suddenly see a lot of what you expect. If you expect the worst from peo. an observation.. certain faux news channels have focused on such sensational.Expectations color ple. try to also define its opposite. This action forces you to dig a little deeper and look at your “definition” with a more critical and attentive eye. January 2009) . Just as with sense tuning (discussed on page 233). a theory with its exact opposite. Expectations create reality. Prepared exclusively for Jose Luis Loya gggggggggggggggg Report erratum this copy is (P2. This can help avoid the nominal fallacy described earlier. ask yourself something like the following questions:21 • How do you know? • Says who? • How specifically? • How does what I’m doing cause you to. another label doesn’t count). or an organization.. that’s what you’re primed to see.? • Compared to what or whom? • Does it always happen? Can you think of an exception? • What would happen if you did (or didn’t)? • What stops you from. 22. Chicken Little-esque “news” coverage that you’d think 21. technology. For instance. See Tools of Critical Thinking: Metathoughts for Psychology [Lev97] for more. Thanks to Don Gray for pointing out these questions from the research on NLP meta models.. If all you have is a label.. in detail.0 printing.? Is there anything you can actually measure? Get hard numbers on? Any statistics?22 What happens when you talk this over with a colleague? How about a colleague who has a very different viewpoint from your own? Do they passively agree? Is that a danger sign? Do they violently oppose the idea? Does that give it credibility? Or not? If you think you’ve defined something. Contrast a behavior. and statistics. or at least color it. damned lies. then reality.” Biases can be made quite convincing through the use of numbers. Bearing in mind Benjamin Disraeli’s observation that “there are three kinds of lies: lies. it’s hard to pin down its opposite in any detail (and no.N OW I D ON ’ T K NOW W HAT TO T HINK 153 To help get a bigger picture perspective and test your understanding and mental How do you know? model.