137. A new friend each day keeps boredom away.

It’s time to introduce yet another habit.

The habit we will be discussing today and for the following two weeks is one that was brought to my attention recently when I had the opportunity of meeting a delightful man in his 80s who spent considerable time sharing many of his fascinating life experiences with me.

Let’s call him Harry.

Harry, like his dad before him, spent his entire life proudly working as a salesman

Over the course of a sales career spanning nearly 60 years Harry sold furniture, electronics, vacuum cleaners, life insurance, real estate, memberships, subscriptions, cars and even airplanes.

His dad, spent the better part of 40 years selling brushes, pots and pans and encyclopaedias in the days when door to door salesman were a recognized and accepted part of our culture.

Harry, like most others who have enjoyed fulfilling careers, is fully capable of regaling any audience with story after story outlining his adventures.

Harry told me it was a foregone conclusion, as he neared his high school graduation, that he would follow in his father’s footsteps.

Among the many pearls of wisdom his father shared with him Harry singles out one particular suggestion as being the single greatest contributor to the many successes his sales career have brought him.

His father had told him that the quality of his life would, more than anything, depend on the quality of relationships he developed and that he needed to become exceptionally good at developing relationships.

The way to do this, his father pointed out, was to make it a point at least once a day – every day, seven days a week – of introducing himself to, and be starting an conversation with a total stranger

The subject of his attention could be somebody sitting next to him on the bus, working in a gas store gas station, serving him in a store, a stranger on the street, anyone.

There was to be no judgment as to whether this this person would be a good or poor choice as a potential acquaintance, but rather the intent was to polish his interpersonal skills.

The second reason for the importance of this daily routine, his father repeatedly reminded him, was because the single most important question we must remember to always ask ourselves is, “How do you know?”

How do you know that the person sitting next to you on the bus will not become the client to whom you make the biggest sale of your career.

The answer is, of course, you don’t know, which is why it is imperative to meet this person.

How do you know the person pumping gas into your car will not become single biggest source of customer referrals you will ever have.

The answer is, of course, you don’t know, which is why it is imperative to meet this person.

How do you know the person walking towards you and the street will not become the best friend a person could wish for?

The answer is, of course, you don’t know, which is why it is imperative to meet this person.

How do you know the person sitting at the table by themselves at Starbucks will not become your spouse?

The answer is, of course, you don’t know, which is why it is imperative to meet this person.

His father drilled into him the importance of assuming everyone has the potential to play an enormously important role in your life and it is therefore incumbent upon you to introduce yourself and begin a conversation.

In fact, as his dad so often pointed out, you have an obligation to introduce herself to that person so they can to can benefit from knowing you.

The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day. It may seem like an awkward thing to do but, as Harry mentioned, the first two or three times he approached a stranger all those many years ago, his heart was pounding in his chest, he could feel himself beginning to perspire and felt the fear of rejection eating him alive.

But after just a few days approaching strangers became as normal, comfortable and “unawkward” as possible, and after a month or two, it became a habit too rewarding to change.

While in his early 20s, Harry walked into a store to buy a pack of cigarettes. He began his usual introductory banter with the young lady behind the counter who immediately interrupted him to point out that smoking was a bad habit and that he shouldn’t be doing it.

The next day he revisited that store, this time to buy mints, and continued the conversation. Two years later he married that lady and over more than 50 years of marital harmony they raised three wonderful children who in turn provided them with seven beautiful grandchildren.

Agnes passed away nine years ago leaving Harry heartbroken yet eternally grateful to his dad for giving him the best advice any father ever gave a son because that advice gave him more than half a century of joy.

Oh, and Harry never smoked to another cigarette after the night he first met Agnes.

The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day will not only enrich your life with rewarding relationships but, as we have seen, is also a powerful smoking cessation program.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

137. A new friend each day keeps boredom away.

It’s time to introduce yet another habit.

The habit we will be discussing today and for the following two weeks is one that was brought to my attention recently when I had the opportunity of meeting a delightful man in his 80s who spent considerable time sharing many of his fascinating life experiences with me.

Let’s call him Harry.

Harry, like his dad before him, spent his entire life proudly working as a salesman.

Over the course of a sales career spanning nearly 60 years Harry sold furniture, electronics, vacuum cleaners, life insurance, real estate, memberships, subscriptions, cars and even airplanes.

His dad, spent the better part of 40 years selling brushes, pots and pans and encyclopaedias in the days when door to door salesman were a recognized and accepted part of our culture.

Harry, like most others who have enjoyed fulfilling careers, is fully capable of regaling any audience with story after story outlining his adventures.

Harry told me it was a foregone conclusion, as he neared his high school graduation, that he would follow in his father’s footsteps.

Among the many pearls of wisdom his father shared with him Harry singles out one particular suggestion as being the single greatest contributor to the many successes his sales career have brought him.

His father had told him that the quality of his life would, more than anything, depend on the quality of relationships he developed and that he needed to become exceptionally good at developing relationships.

The way to do this, his father pointed out, was to make it a point at least once a day – every day, seven days a week – of introducing himself to, and be starting an conversation with a total stranger.

The subject of his attention could be somebody sitting next to him on the bus, working in a gas store gas station, serving him in a store, a stranger on the street, anyone.

There was to be no judgment as to whether this this person would be a good or poor choice as a potential acquaintance, but rather the intent was to polish his interpersonal skills.

The second reason for the importance of this daily routine, his father repeatedly reminded him, was because the single most important question we must remember to always ask ourselves is, “How do you know?”

How do you know that the person sitting next to you on the bus will not become the client to whom you make the biggest sale of your career.

The answer is, of course, you don’t know, which is why it is imperative to meet this person.

How do you know the person pumping gas into your car will not become single biggest source of customer referrals you will ever have.

The answer is, of course, you don’t know, which is why it is imperative to meet this person.

How do you know the person walking towards you and the street will not become the best friend a person could wish for?

The answer is, of course, you don’t know, which is why it is imperative to meet this person.

How do you know the person sitting at the table by themselves at Starbucks will not become your spouse?

The answer is, of course, you don’t know, which is why it is imperative to meet this person.

His father drilled into him the importance of assuming everyone has the potential to play an enormously important role in your life and it is therefore incumbent upon you to introduce yourself and begin a conversation.

In fact, as his dad so often pointed out, you have an obligation to introduce herself to that person so they can to can benefit from knowing you.

The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day. It may seem like an awkward thing to do but, as Harry mentioned, the first two or three times he approached a stranger all those many years ago, his heart was pounding in his chest, he could feel himself beginning to perspire and felt the fear of rejection eating him alive.

But after just a few days approaching strangers became as normal, comfortable and “unawkward” as possible, and after a month or two, it became a habit too rewarding to change.

While in his early 20s, Harry walked into a store to buy a pack of cigarettes. He began his usual introductory banter with the young lady behind the counter who immediately interrupted him to point out that smoking was a bad habit and that he shouldn’t be doing it.

The next day he revisited that store, this time to buy mints, and continued the conversation. Two years later he married that lady and over more than 50 years of marital harmony they raised three wonderful children who in turn provided them with seven beautiful grandchildren.

Agnes passed away nine years ago leaving Harry heartbroken yet eternally grateful to his dad for giving him the best advice any father ever gave a son because that advice gave him more than half a century of joy.

Oh, and Harry never smoked to another cigarette after the night he first met Agnes.

The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day will not only enrich your life with rewarding relationships but, as we have seen, is also a powerful smoking cessation program.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

136. A different way of debating.

My wife, Gimalle and I were out for dinner this past weekend with two other couples.

We have a federal election looming and the topic of discussion naturally turned to politics. By the strangest of coincidences each of the three couples at the table firmly supported the platforms and ideologies of one of the three main parties contesting this election.

As is so often the case when opinions become confused with facts, it didn’t take long for voices to rise and for the first glimmers of anger to present themselves.

This continued for a few moments until one person, perhaps a little frustrated by the viewpoints of others at the table, strongly inferred that only a moron, idiot and complete fool could possibly find anything of value in a particular party’s platform.

This prompted a swift retort and it seemed that our pleasant evening of friendly discussion was about to come to an enraged halt.

Then I remembered the topic of this blog we have been discussing for the past two weeks – The Habit of Seeing All Sides – and immediately saw an opportunity to put to the test the use of this habit as discussed two weeks ago.

I interrupted the conversation (my wife Gimalle will confirm that I am a world-class interrupter and will also acknowledge that this was perhaps the only time she’s ever been pleased that I have this remarkable gift) and suggested, as we have previously discussed, that we rotate positions and we move our ideology and feelings of support to the couple to our right so that each couple could now present with as much passion fervour and enthusiasm as possible, their viewpoints as to why thepolitical party they had been strongly attacking a moment ago now presented the best possible choice for the future of our country.

At first my suggestion was met with dismissive cynicism but I can be persistent and insisted that we “give it a try.”

It was suggested that as this was my “stupid idea,” I kick off the conversation and so I was forced to present, with conviction and passion, my thoughts as to why I believed the one party whose ideology I personally believe can only serve to bring ruin should it ever be given the opportunity of running the country, was deserving of my vote.

And I did this in as convincing a way as I could.

I found myself digging deep into my own belief system and making strong statements that I believed in my very heart to be false and untrue. As I continued my two or three minute presentation I found myself softening in my views and criticism of that party’s platform and, while I know I will never live long enough to ever embrace those views, by the time was my turn was up and someone else took over the debate, I sensed a much stronger and deeper comprehension as to why how and why supporters of that party have come to believe in its platform.

As the couple to my right presented their viewpoints, while holding their noses and swallowing hard, I could see them too softening not so much in their core beliefs but in the degree of resentment or disagreement with opposing with viewpoints they had bitterly opposed just moments before.

Our debate lasted 30 to 40 minutes and interestingly, while no one’s opinions and beliefs had changed, all of us at the table had softened in our opposition and no longer felt that only morons, idiots and complete fools could have viewpoints different from theirs.

The Habit of Seeing All Sides, when used in this manner, truly forces us to open our minds to options and possibilities that we would previously have discarded.

When using this method one cannot practice cognitive dissonance – this feeling of discomfort we experience when trying to hold two opposing viewpoints at the same time.

Instead, The Habit of Seeing All Sides will raise our levels of empathy so that we can peacefully discuss rather than angrily argue.

Another benefit I experienced that evening was to realize that by utilizing the The Habit of Seeing All Sides, my conviction – my beliefs – were strengthened by forcing myself to argue against them and switching to this method of discussion not only prevented a disastrous end to the evening but actually assured us all of a thoroughly enjoyable one.

The next time you find yourself disagreeing with a friend, colleague or associate, suggest that you “switch sides” and take over to each other’s arguments just a few moments.

Not only will you be pleasantly surprised at your own perspective, you may find yourself enjoying a few unexpected laughs.

And that can never be a bad thing, can it?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

You can never be a bad thing, can it?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

135. An easy way to get smarter.

The book, Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson presented a compelling narrative of how easily and commonly self-justification is employed by either simply ignoring or refusing to entertain opposing viewpoints and perspectives.

Cognitive dissonance is widely understood to be the mental distress or discomfort experienced when we have two or more contradictory ideas, thoughts, beliefs or values at the same time.

Last week we introduced The Habit of Seeing All Sides as a powerful practise to allow ourselves to be better prepared when presenting our argument or side of a story but also as an invaluable tool in developing a keen understanding of the opposing viewpoints of others.

The book details a few tragic examples of cognitive dissonance at its finest.

We are all familiar with tragic tales that surface from time to time of people who have languished in prison for years because police and prosecutors, convinced of their guilt, have elected to pay no attention to overwhelming evidence to the contrary that may have exonerated them.

As heart-rending as these stories are, these instances of injustice are, thankfully, relatively rare but speak volumes to the inherent dangers of being so convinced of the righteousness, truthfulness and correctness of our beliefs that we refuse to even consider the possibility of an opposing viewpoint.

The Habit of Seeing All Sides never takes anything away from our argument but always, when employed with curious objectivity, paves the way for us to grow in ways that can only serve to broaden or thinking.

We all know of people who flatly refuse to entertain any possibility of an opposing viewpoint.

I’ve always found that an unwillingness of some folks to see all sides is rather limiting as refusal to examine another perspective suggests that perhaps an element of fear exists in that person.

The fear might be that hearing, observing and becoming aware of an opposing side may weaken their own belief and, if that is the case, it can only suggest that their belief was not as strong and absolute as they may wish.

Many years ago I watched an interview with a well-known and highly regarded TV evangelist in which he boasted of reading many books that challenge the precepts of Christianity as well as reading a number of books extolling the virtues of atheism.

When asked why he would devote time to reading such books, he replied that they served only to strengthen his conviction and his belief and that only by truly understanding the opposing opinions of others  could he believe as deeply, with as much unconditional faith as he did.

No cognitive dissonance there.

It was not a matter of “testing” his faith but rather a function of strengthening it.

A wise teacher of mine used to say that we can only ever experience true and unconditional freedom when we are willing to hold up to the light every single belief we have, examine it from all angles and modify if needed.

His explanation was a simple as it was profound. He said that it is only by examining every side can we truly be sure of the correctness of our beliefs.

Humans are walking, talking opinions dressed up as facts. We believe our opinions to be true, argue for them, fight for them and even go to war over them.

Perhaps, by adopting The Habit of Seeing All Sides, we could save ourselves the damage incurred from the polarization of conflicting thoughts by opening ourselves to the close examination of all sides, truly understanding them and only then forming a lasting, informed opinion.

After all, if, as they say, knowledge is power, then surely The Habit of Seeing All Sides will lead to The Habit of Ever-Increasing Wisdom.

And we don’t want the other side of wisdom, do we?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

134. There’s at least two sides, if not more.

“No matter how thin you slice it, there will always be two sides.” Baruch Spinoza

How true!

This was drilled into me the long time ago by a mentor who taught me a powerful lesson.

He wasn’t the first person to share this sparkle of wisdom with me.

I remember, as a young child, sitting at the dinner table when, on occasion, one of my parents would open a newspaper randomly, select a headline and insist that we debate both sides of the story at hand.

For example if the headline read, “Local man found guilty of excessive speeding,” then I would be expected to present two arguments for debate.

Argument number one would be to explain in as much detail, and with as much conviction as my young mind could muster, all the reasons why the speed at which a driver chooses to drive was solely his/her business and that the government had no right to impose limits on those types of choices.

Argument number two was to ferociously present an argument for lowering speed limits even further and holding accountable, with severe punishment, those who chose to ignore them.

Many years ago a lawyer I knew explained to me her strategy for preparing her arguments for trial.

She would gather as many colleagues as possible and present her strongest argument, with as much factual detail as possible, as if she was representing her opponents and then re-present her case as she was planning to on behalf of our clients.

She told me that this method of preparation had stood her in good stead on numerous occasions for this enabled her to “out-argue” her opponents because she had “out-prepared” them.

Today I would like to introduce The Habit of Seeing All Sides – the habit of opening yourself to all sides and all possibilities of any issue at hand.

In order to do so properly you need to set aside your emotions and your perceptions which will not only prevent you from having a fully open mind but also allow you, based on the strength of viewing all sides, to reach a deeper level of understanding of the issue and by so doing strengthen your case.

I have tried, albeit not always successfully, to apply The Habit of Seeing All Sides whenever I found myself at opposite ends of a discussion with others and by taking the time to not just listen to their argument, but to really and truly hear their argument, and then inject my own thoughts, on that argument,.

Applying The Habit of Seeing All Sides has not only enabled me to become a skilled debater but also, and more importantly, to become even more committed to the philosophy that “Everything you believe to be true is true (for you), until it isn’t.”

The Habit of Seeing All Sides allows one to experience possibilities to which we might’ve been blinded by our determination to prove a point rather than to hear a point and to see a point.

As we have discussed many times before, we, human beings are walking, talking opinions dressed up as facts and The Habit of Seeing All Sides drives home the truthfulness of that very fact.

The more we embrace The Habit of Seeing All Sides, the quicker and easier it is to accept that just because we believe something to be true does not make it a fact and that, if we are willing to accept this as truth, we then become able to accept there are relatively few facts when compared to the sheer number of opinions.

Fiercely arguing the other side of a debate causes us to become less emotionally connected to our perspective and to view the other side through a far broader lens.

The mentor I referred to earlier used to say that true freedom can only be experienced when we reach the point in our personal evolution where we are able to take each belief we have, hold it up to the light with a willingness to let it go and replace it if it no longer serves us.

Those words, in my opinion, are just as true today and I would encourage each of you to earnestly adopt The Habit of Seeing All Sides as a pathway to a less stressful and more balanced life.

If you disagree with me, please send me a 5500 word essay detailing why you disagree, and, of course, a second 5500 word essay explaining why you agree.

You just never know what might happen.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.