Wednesday, September 2, 2020

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: What You Know That Just Ain't So


"It ain't so much the things that people don't know that makes trouble in this world, as it is the things that people know that just ain't so."   
Mark Twain     


Marcie and I have a white Amazon Echo at our house that we mostly use to play our favorite music. Sometimes we use our music selections to send affectionate messages to each other.  

On the evening of our 45th anniversary a few weeks ago, Marcie wanted Alexa to play "You've Made Me So Very Happy." I was beaming at her tender sentiment.

"Alexa, play 'You Make Me Happy' by Chicago," she told the machine.

Alexa then announced a song we never heard of: "You Make Me Dance" by "Shades of Chicago." Clearly this was not what Marcie was looking for.

"Alexa, stop."

Marcie tried again, this time enunciating her instructions more sweetly and carefully: "Alexa, please play 'You Made Me So Happy' by Chicago."

Alexa proceeded to play a different song we never heard of, again with "happy" in the title and Chicago in the name of the group, but definitely not "You've Made Me So Very Happy."

"Alexa, stop!" Marcie quickly interjected.

"You tell her," she told me in frustration. "She listens better to you than to me. And it is by Chicago, right?"

"Yes," I replied. "I'm quite sure it is."  

I tried giving instructions, speaking slowly and clearly in my best "Alexa, I'm the boss here" voice. "Alexa, play 'You've Made Me So Very Happy' by Chicago."

Same result: strange song, strange group.

"Alexa, STOP!!!"

Now I too was irritated with Alexis' recalcitrance.  

"Why don't you look it up and play it on your iPad," I suggested to Marcie.

Within a few seconds she reported, "Here's the problem: It's 'You've Made Me So Very Happy' by Blood, Sweat & Tears, NOT by Chicago."

"Alexa, play 'You've Made Me So Very Happy' by Blood, Sweat & Tears."

Alexa then played the correct song. By then, unfortunately, the magical moment was gone, but it was fun to hear.

* * * * *

This little episode may hold a lesson for all of us.

It suggests that it might be helpful sometimes to ask ourselves, "Besides confusing Chicago with Blood, Sweat & Tears, are there other areas in my life in which I should allow for the possibility that what I 'know" perhaps 'just ain't so'"?

From my good friend Nancy Kline, the author of Time to Think, I have learned that all of us operate our lives on the basis of a wide collection of underlying assumptions (what we "know"). While most of them are true, some of them are not true (what "just ain't so") and can limit our ability to think clearly for ourselves and achieve the best results.  

On occasion, a bit of faulty information - such as who recorded "You've Made Me So Very Happy"- gets in the way of a positive outcome. Other times, we have drawn the wrong conclusions from an experience, either our own or someone else's. These can create untrue and limiting assumptions, which can block high-quality thinking and action.

Self-confidence is a useful character trait, but in too strong a dosage, it can injure us. Being TOO SURE, TOO COCKY, can be dangerous. By mixing a little shot of humility with our self-confidence, we can formulate a healthy antidote to knowing too much that just ain't so. With humility, we can question our assumptions from time to time and we can recognize those that might be untrue and might be inhibiting our best thinking.  

This simple act of questioning what we "know" to be true can create a burst of great thinking. I have learned that a wellspring of good ideas often lies just beneath an untrue limiting assumption. Powerful breakthroughs result from identifying and then thinking beyond "what we know that just ain't so."

And it will definitely improve our relationship with Alexa or Siri.

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