tl;dr: As a marketer-and as a person- it’s self-defeating to find a narrative and stick to it. What we can learn from a MAGA hat and butterflies.
The other night I went to a meditation session led by followers of the Buddhist master, Thich Nhat Hahn.
After the session and teaching were over, there was a group discussion on the topic of “inter-being,” the idea that all things are connected in one way or another.
As part of that, the teacher challenged us to share examples of where we had failed to realize “inter-being” and didn’t feel connected.
The example he brought up was, in the wake of the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, he was really struggling to think about the shooters in anything but a negative light, even though he knew they were-somehow-a part of the larger whole.
That was a good thought starter and it led to a fascinating revelation subsequently.
Apparently, the members of this community had gone on a group excursion the previous weekend to a nearby botanical garden.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
One woman shared that, during her stroll through the garden, she noticed a teenage boy gingerly picking up butterflies from the path and moving them out of harm’s way. She felt uplifted when she did.
However, upon closer inspection, she noticed that this same boy was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and she noticed the revulsion she immediately felt.
It was difficult for her to reconcile the two feelings and she struggled with it.
That was really interesting, but what really got me intrigued was the woman who spoke immediately afterwards.
“The story you just told really spoke to me because I noticed the same boy. Except I had a different angle. A different perspective.
I saw the MAGA hat and I saw him pick up the butterflies.
But, I assumed he was killing the butterflies…because I saw the hat.”
Stories Under Review
I don’t know this woman or remember her name, but I was proud of her.
The ability to recognize the story one tells oneself is a skill in and of itself.
However, the ability to go back and recognize that the story one told oneself at the time was, in fact, wrong is an entirely different level.
We all do what she did.
We see a limited piece of a much larger picture and our brains fill in the missing blanks, which is what they are designed to do.
However, as the 2nd woman discovered, sometimes our brains are just flat out wrong.
Go Back and Look for Different Perspectives on the Story
The other day I was talking to the marketing team from a start-up in a tech sector that is, by all accounts, a growing wave.
However, over the past few months, they had difficulty in renewing client contracts.
When I asked as to why, they told me “oh, the client said that it confirmed what they already knew, and they were just happy to have that. They didn’t see the need for further investment.”
That may be the case, but I suggested that it might be worth another look.
If this sector is growing as we all think it is, then it stands to reason that this company is probably going to spend more on it in the future than the past.
So, it’s possible that they are totally satisfied and not investing any more.
However, it’s also possible that the former client is just not investing with them.
The marketing team saw the interaction from one angle and took the client’s word at face value.
I wondered if the client didn’t want to have the confrontation and told what he thought was a white lie.
Maybe the client wasn’t killing the initiative.
Maybe they were moving the initiative from their view and putting it into someone else’s view.
It’s easy (and sometimes satisfying) to jump to a conclusion.
It’s less easy to find other witnesses and evidence to expand the perspective we have on a story.
How We Arrive At Our Views
I subscribe to the Daily Dharma newsletter.
One recently was titled “How we arrive at our views”.
Once we perceive, we habitually jump to thoughts and feelings about what is being perceived.
These thoughts and feelings, rooted in past experiences and conditioning, then influence the mood of our mind.
When perception, thoughts, and feelings are repeated or imprinted through experiences, they solidify into view or belief.”
-Ruth King, “Mindful of Race”
Two Women See a MAGA Hat was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.