It’s likely that anyone who is serious about the art of investing money has at least looked at author Bud Labitan’s fan book, THE FOUR FILTERS INVENTION OF WARREN BUFFETT AND CHARLIE MUNGER, which first hit the bookstores in 2008.
It lays out the thinking processes these acclaimed money-meisters used to frame and make their financial decisions as they built fabulous fortunes for themselves and their clients.
These “filters” are the rules-of-thumb Buffet and Munger developed to help them make good decisions and appropriate moves by allowing them to winnow the grain out from the chaff in the investment options they faced. (They sure made good bread that way!)
The author Bud Labitan, a physician-cum-investor, seems to have made a third career as the guy who explores and explains the ramifications and implications of the filters these financial masterminds shared with the rest of us.
The most important take-away from the book for me is the one about the value of developing a particular set of filters or rules-of-thumb that define what you are looking for as an end result in complicated situations that are likely to recur in your life.
The filters can be used over and over again. Filters and rules-of–thumb are great power tools for your toolbox, it seems to me.
THE DARK SIDE OF FILTERS
Other books about filters and similar heuristics have surfaced over the years. The scariest one for me is Eli Pariser’s book, THE FILTER BUBBLE: What the Internet is Hiding From You. It was published in 2011.
Among other things, Eli Pariser is the chief executive of Upworthy, a website for “meaningful” viral content (it says here).
Pariser lays out (and tries to tackle) the sociological nuances of the never-ending, overriding techy quest of online information and content providers and platforms to “personalize” the information we get whenever we go wandering around the Web
This is not necessarily a bad thing.
Using their little bots to track us in our wanderings through the vast Universe of the Web, the cyberwizards and online community managers build and develop algorithmic filters and such that whisk us off into our own customized, bespoken little worlds where we can find what they tout as answers to our very own heart’s desires.
It is sort of mind-boggling, actually. The Smarty Pants contingent turned the virtual Indra’s Web of Infinite Possibility into a universe of mirrors that reflect back the images of each of the individual pilgrims wandering through the thing.
The end-result is that each seeker ends up seeing only their own reflections coming back at them out of the Wide World Web.
In your customized, bespoken virtual world, you are confronted only with information that supports and resonates with your own mind-constructs.
This has the effect of validating your stance, whatever it is, which solidifies your mind constructs until they become your only “truths” and your real Real.
In the virtual universe where the information that individual users encounter gets run through assorted pre-set filtering algorithms, it gets a lot harder to stumble across thoughts that are different than the ones you are already thinking.
It may even get really hard to get past your previously-reached conclusions and formerly successful solutions to find other, maybe better, resolves to your complex life-problems.
The algorithm crafters are doing jiu-jitsu on your mind, and it’s a wise thing to be aware of that.
Here are some questions to ponder:
- If you never rub up against ideas that are way different than the ones you habitually use, how does that affect your ability to expand your creativity?
- Does your ability to flex and improvise in new situations atrophy?
- And if you have few experiences with ideas that are not like your own, how are you ever going to deal with all those other people who act and look and think in ways that are not-like-you?
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
In my analog life as a residential property manager, I have to constantly deal with people who come to every situation and circumstance with their own mindsets (and their own personalized filters).
Often these differing mindsets may not mesh well. Very different mindsets do tend to collide.
The “gravity” a particular mindset generates can be huge in each person’s life.
When two big planets are moving through each other’s orbits there can be all kinds of very distressing results. The same thing can happen when two very different mindsets have a close encounter.
The effects of these collisions and close calls can be awesome. There is drama. There is trauma. There is a heck of a lot of (sometimes polite) yelling, kicking, scratching, and hair-pulling, and so on and so forth.
Basically, when things come to a head and start bubbling and boiling over, it is my job to figure out how to facilitate helping these battling world-makers build some bridges and doorways that allow them to come to some sort of a meeting of their minds.
One of my aims is to help them move on towards their own individual goals without making massive explosions all over the place.
Lately things have been getting very …ummm…. interesting. In the past nine months, I have been dealing with several problematic situations.
- There is the Steam-Roller who firmly believes that forcing her way through every obstacle, clambering over every challenge and flattening the opposition will get her to where she wants to go. She’s having to deal with the Stoic who just as firmly believes that perseverance and enduring will get you past everything that comes at you.
- There was the Man of Reason who has been trying to deal with a contractor who is a Ball of Resentment making a much-needed repair to the house the Man of Reason owns. The results have been decidedly mixed.
- There are the Born-and-Bred Free Spirits trying to cope with a Suburbia Culture Code that is totally foreign to them and that keeps on blindsiding them with their neighbor’s unspoken rules and mores and norms and such that make absolutely no sense to the Freedom Runners.
- There is the Young and Clueless One who has been trying to deal with a massive mountain of stuff and issues that are a part of the legacy left behind by his hoarder dad. He has been failing miserably.
Let me tell ya, I could use some good filters and rules-of-thumb to deal with these sorts of circumstances.
A COUPLE OF ANCIENT RULES-OF-THUMB FROM THE WISE GUYS
It occurred to me that the ancients had to work on the very same issues that our naturally diverse human mindsets call up. Some of the best minds on the planet (then and now) continue to try to figure out ways and means to get around or under or over or through the dilemmas and challenges that arise.
From the beginning of time, it seems, we humans have kept on trying to figure out how to get along. We’ve come up with a whole bunch of filters and rules-of-thumb – what the Smarty Pants call “heuristic maxims.” Some of them work; others, not so much.
The two most popular filters from ancient times that try to address the kinds of problems that arise when different mindsets bump into each other have gone through every kind of permutation, iteration and revision with a massive pileup of commentary besides.
One of the most enduring, it seems, is The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
That iteration of it comes from the Christian Bible, but for centuries before there even was a Bible many of the world’s peoples had that one as a rule-of-thumb.
Some version of the Golden Rule can probably be found in almost every ethical tradition, according to Simon Blackburn, an academic philosopher who studies metaethics (the thought constructs that are the underpinnings of various systems of ethics).
It certainly is a good rule-of-thumb. The Golden Rule can and does engender all kinds of charitable efforts, good works, loving kindnesses, and sweetness-and-light blessed helpfulness on the part of the givers.
However, there is a downside to the thing.
The actions taken by do-gooder people guided by the Golden Rule can be irritating, possibly noisome, and maybe even downright dangerous for the recipients of the (often unasked-for) “blessings” of these Gold-following sorts.
Some deep-thinking folks have pointed out that the Golden Rule, as scientist Carl Sagan observed, takes no account of very real human differences.
Maybe I don’t WANT to do what you think I should be doing to reach your sort of good life. Maybe I don’t think your good life looks so grand.
There are many examples throughout history of the Golden Rule being used as an excuse, an invitation, and sometimes as a Divine directive to meddle in the lives of other peoples in ways that may actually be harmful to them.
Is it so strange to imagine that a person might not really appreciate your heartful efforts on their behalf? Are they supposed to feel grateful to you for your doing something for them that they really didn’t want in the first place?
I did have to laugh when I came across a story about how one man’s hell might just be another man’s paradise. I found it in Eric Weiner’s book, THE GEOGRAPHY OF BLISS: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Place in the World.
According to Weiner, when European missionaries first landed in Greenland several centuries ago, they offered the pagan natives the standard message: Convert and you get to go to Heaven. Don’t convert and you will be condemned to an eternity of Hell.
So, the curious natives asked, “What is this Hell like?”
“Oh, it’s very, very bad,” the missionaries told them. “It’s very hot…all the time.”
The Greenlanders looked around at the frozen Arctic tundra that was their home and thought on it some. They decided that maybe they would prefer Hell.
Another ancient rule-of-thumb is the so-called Silver Rule — what some people call the “negative” version of the Golden Rule. It actually is a whole other movie.
Instead of looking at the good you can do for other people, you focus on the bad you can avoid doing to them.
When he was asked to sum up the whole of the Jewish rabbinic teachings in one phrase, Hillel the Elder, a renowned teacher of his time, said, “What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man.”
He said that this one phrase was “the whole of Torah and the remainder is but commentary.”
The chief value of the Silver Rule, it seems to me, is that it tells you to stop and think before doing anything and to try to make sure you’re not making some situation or other worse for everybody involved.
While the Silver Rule is less likely to engender outpourings of burgeoning do-good efforts that the Golden Rule will, it does keep you from annoying folks and might keep you from doing them (or yourself) irreparable harm in the name of your kind of good.
There are, of course, other metallic rules. I’ve run across the Bronze Rule, the Iron Rule, and the Platinum Rule in my perambulations. There’s even a Diamond Rule, and I suppose there are probably Rules that are named for assorted other minerals.
None of these have quite the same panache and patina of the Silver and the Gold, but neither of those ancient filters help me figure out what I am needing to do in the situations that I keep having to face as the middle person in a confrontation between adversarial mindsets.
AND THEN THERE IS THE GRACEFUL WAY
I do know that there is one other way of dealing with the conflicts and conundrums that arise out of the interactions of people with very different mindsets.
It’s a way that transcends the various differences between people and transmutes the sticking points and the potholes and bogs into building materials that help to make a smoother path for everyone concerned.
I’m not really sure it has a common name. I would call it “grace,” but that word has been effectively co-opted by evangelical Christians and I’m not sure they mean the same thing I do when I use the word.
- When I say “grace” I mean what the online dictionary defines as “simple elegance or refinement of movement.”
- When I say “grace” I mean the kind of “courteous goodwill” that respects the validity of another’s point of view.
- When I say “grace” I mean “a smooth and pleasing way of moving” and “a polite and thoughtful way of behaving.”
What I have noticed in my years of watching and working through assorted conflicts is that between every set of polarized extremes, there is a middle way that can lead you past all of the pits and mantraps with sharp sticks and the buried ordnance strewn all around.
Somewhere, under all the details and hoo-hah, there is very often at least one set of appropriate actions that can help to allow a good resolve for everybody concerned.
The deal is, though, the actions you choose to make have to be well-executed in their proper time and place with firmly held goodwill towards everyone involved in the situation.
The most important thing to remember in all of this is that you’re just one element in the thing and maybe you can’t do a heck of a lot. It can get really frustrating.
The biggest problem with this way of walking is that it isn’t left-brained logical and it is a lot counterintuitive.
You can only find the appropriate actions to take if you can set aside your own notions and preconceptions of all of the differences between you and the other persons involved and focus instead on your commonalities.
Perhaps it is just another form of practicing the South African style of walking called Ubuntu – You are Me and I am You.
It seems to me that the deepest meaning of this style of walking is this simple thought:
You are more than my brother, more than my sister. You ARE Me.
(I haven’t been able to get the moves right all the time yet, but I do keep trying.)
Here’s a poem:
That things will change,
It is a given…
There is no argument:
ALL constructs WILL be riven.
Still and yet, the world
Keeps turning in its place.
Still and yet, there’s joy,
And rainbows and grace.
Change comes, change goes,
And so do you and I.
The thing we get to keep
Is the way we walk and fly.
By Netta Kanoho
Header Photo Credit: “When Worlds Collide: Spheres of Influence” by Matt via Flickr (art by Peter Thibeault) [CC BY-NC 2.0]
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