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The Trump Talent Stack

As I explained in my book, there are two ways to make yourself valuable. The first way is to become the best at some specific skill, the way Tiger Woods dominated golf. But not many of us can be Tiger Woods. So that path is unavailable to 99% of the world.

I recommend a different approach. Most people can – with practice – develop a variety of skills that work well together. I call this idea the Talent Stack.

For example, I’m a famous syndicated cartoonist who doesn’t have much artistic talent, and I’ve never taken a college-level writing class. But few people are good at both drawing and writing. When you add in my ordinary business skills, my strong work ethic, my risk tolerance, and my reasonably good sense of humor, I’m fairly unique. And in this case that uniqueness has commercial value. 

Now consider president-elect Trump. He doesn’t have one talent that is best-in-the-world, but he does have one of the best talent stacks I have ever seen. Consider all the ways in which Trump is better than average, but not best-in-the-world. I’ll list the obvious ones.

Public Speaking: Trump is an engaging speaker, and he knows how to entertain a crowd. But no one would say he’s one of the best speakers in the world. 

Humor: Trump is funny. But he isn’t Seinfeld funny. He’s just funnier than most people. That’s all he needs.

Intelligence: Trump is smart. He probably wouldn’t beat Hillary Clinton on a standardized IQ test, but he’s smarter than 90% of the world, and probably far more. That’s good enough for a talent stack.

Knowledge of Politics: Compared to career politicians and political pundits, Trump looks under-informed. But he probably knows more about politics than 95% of the public. And that seems to be enough. Advisors will fill in the knowledge gap. 

Branding: Trump is a world-class marketer and brander. He probably isn’t the best in the world at those things. But he’s very, very good.

Hiring and Firing: One of the most important skills a president needs is the ability to hire good advisors and – equally important – fire the mistakes. Trump has plenty of experience doing both. He probably isn’t the best in the world at hiring and firing, but I’ll bet he’s in the top 10% just from practice.

Strategy: Trump won the presidency in large part because his non-standard strategy worked great. He focused on free media, big rallies, and the key swing states. That was good enough to win. Trump probably isn’t the best strategist in the world, but he’s very good.

Social Media: Trump understands social media in a way that people of his generation usually don’t. Trump might not be the most Internet-savvy politician of all time, but he’s definitely in the top 10%. 

Persuasion: Trump might be the most persuasive person I have ever observed in the act of persuading. But keep in mind that persuasion requires a talent stack too. Trump is persuasive because he combines a bunch of minor skills into one big persuasive toolbox. For example, Trump is good at reading people, good at being provocative to attract energy, and good at sales technique. He probably isn’t the best in the world at any of those minor skills, but when you add them together, along with lots of other subsidiary persuasion skills, and now the Office of the President – Trump might be the most persuasive person on Earth.

Risk management: Trump understands risk. We see it in his business dealings as he isolates different lines of business in their own corporate structures so they can fail without bringing down the rest. We also know that Trump enters businesses that have an unlimited upside potential with limited risk. And he prefers gambling with other people’s money. Trump probably understands risk management better than 90% of the public. 

Trump’s critics have a hard time understanding Trump’s success because he lacks any best-in-the-world talents. They mock his simple speaking style, his lack of policy knowledge, his provocative Tweets and more. But as they criticize the trees they lose sight of the forest. Trump has no trees in his forest that are the best trees in the world. But his forest is one of the best forests in the world.

The takeaway here is that anyone can develop a more valuable talent stack. Just figure out which talents go well together. If in doubt, add public speaking to your stack first. Learn a second language if you can – but only a useful language. And persuasion makes you more effective at nearly everything you do. Those are just examples. You’re the best judge of which skills you need. 

President-elect Trump might not be a good role model in terms of his personal life. And you might not care for his policies. But when it comes to a role model for success, you will never see better. Trump’s talent stack is outstanding. 

On a related note, Kanye West is another good example of a talent stack. He isn’t the best in the world at singing, dancing, writing, or any other skill you would assume is necessary for his job. But you won’t see many people with Kanye’s combination of talents, including his business acumen, his drive, and his knack for self-promotion. Kanye has been building his talent stack for years. And now he’s adding politics. You probably think Kanye has no chance to be president because of his current mental/emotional health hospitalization. But you’d be wrong. Hillary Clinton proved that health concerns are not disqualifying.

I’m not going to predict a future Kanye West presidency. But if you think it is unlikely, you don’t understand the power of talent stacks. It is possible that Kanye is doing nothing in the hospital but recovering. But I like to think he is using that time to learn Spanish. That’s how Master Persuaders roll.

You can read more about talent stacks and the value of systems over goals in my book.

If you are meeting with family and friends for the holidays, you might find a lot of value in my start-up’s free app, WhenHub. It’s like the Uber app, but for any group of two or more people who want to geostream their locations on a map as they approach a meeting place. No more wondering where everyone is and how long you have to wait. The app is free, and works across iPhone and Android platforms:

WhenHub app for Apple:

WhenHub app for Android:

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A Lesson in Cognitive Dissonance

Imagine you are one of the anti-Trump folks who believe we just elected a racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic, science-denying dictator. Let’s say that’s the movie playing in your mind. That’s some scary stuff.

Now imagine watching the news as Trump reveals in slow-motion that he’s flexible and pragmatic on just about everything. Thomas Friedman at the New York Times just reported that Trump is – as of yesterday anyway – open-minded about climate-change science, and Trump is no longer in favor of waterboarding terror suspects. 

You also watched Trump move to the middle on his immigration policies. And you watched as Trump said he plans to keep the good parts of Obamacare instead of jettisoning it whole.

The areas in which Trump hasn’t budged in his opinion seem to be where states’ rights are involved. Trump would leave it to the courts and to the states to decide on abortion, legal marijuana, and gay marriage. You might not like the fact that Trump wants the federal government to stay out of those decisions, but it isn’t very dictator-like to leave big decisions to the states.

As Trump continues to demonstrate that he was never the incompetent monster his critics believed him to be, the critics will face an identity crisis. They either have to accept that they understand almost nothing about how the world works – because they got everything wrong about Trump – or they need to double-down on their current hallucination. Most of his critics will double-down. That’s how normal brains work.

And that brings us to our current situation. As Trump continues to defy all predictions from his critics, the critics need to maintain their self-images as the smart ones who saw this new Hitler coming. And that means you will see hallucinations like you have never seen. It will be epic.

The reason this will be so fun to watch is that we rarely get to see a situation in which the facts so vigorously violate a hallucination. Before Trump won the presidency everyone was free to imagine the future they expected. But as Trump continues to do one reasonable thing after another, his critics have a tough choice. They can either…

1. Reinterpret their self-images from wise to clueless.


2. Generate an even stronger hallucination. (Cognitive dissonance.)

If Trump’s critics take the second option – and most of them will – it means you will see a lot of pretzel-logic of the type that is necessary hold onto the illusion that Trump is still a monster despite continuing evidence to the contrary. 

Prediction: Expect the anti-Trump press to continue asking Trump surrogates this question: “Why do you think the KKK and white nationalists support Trump?”

The question makes sense if you don’t think about it for too long. But once you realize that Trump has repeatedly and publicly disavowed those groups, you have to hallucinate extra-hard to make the racist narrative work. That’s where the “top-secret-racist-dog-whistle” comes in. You need a theory to explain why the supposed Racist-in-Chief keeps disavowing racists. How does that make any sense?

This is where cognitive dissonance comes in. In order to explain Trump’s disavowal of White Nationalists and the KKK while holding onto the hallucination that Trump is a dangerous monster, you have to hallucinate that he is playing a clever game of pretending to be against racists while secretly planning to purge the earth of all non-orange people. 

That feels unlikely to me. I think Trump just wants to do a good job for the country, thereby bringing money and glory to his family name. And he won’t get any of that by being a racist monster. He only gets that happy ending by being pragmatic and flexible, exactly as we observe him now to be.

I think the total number of KKK members is a few thousand people sprinkled across the country. But what matters more than the absolute number is the trend. The group once numbered over a million. Now they are a few thousand. Did Trump’s election cause a spike in recruitment that will have a lasting impact on the long term trend toward zero membership? I doubt it. But in any case, you have to wonder why the press isn’t reporting KKK membership trends. Every other part of the story is meaningless without that one piece of data. 

Anyway, enjoy the show. And enjoy Thanksgiving too.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, if you are meeting with family and friends for the holidays, you might find a lot of value in my start-up’s free app, WhenHub. It’s like the Uber app, but for any group of two or more people who want to geostream their locations on a map as they approach a meeting place. No more wondering where everyone is and how long you have to wait. The app is free, and works across iPhone and Android platforms:

WhenHub app for Apple:

WhenHub app for Android:

The app is the first part of a much larger vision that I’ll be explaining here in the next month. I think you’ll find our start-up quite interesting because it is formed around a “systems” business model instead of a goal-pivot-pivot model. Much more on that later.

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Persuasion Versus Populism

I’m hearing lots of after-the-fact explanations for why Trump won the election. The most common interpretation of events is that many citizens had a view of the country that pundits, pollsters, and the Clinton campaign missed. But somehow Trump accurately identified the mood of the people – especially in the Great Lakes region – and crafted a message to fit their emotions.

That explanation of events fits the observed data. Trump’s priorities do seem to match what polls tell us people are thinking and feeling. Or at least enough people feel that way to give Trump the Electoral College win. In this view of the world, Trump is a populist who has good instincts about what people want to hear.

But as I have been teaching you for the past year, people can be living in different movies while physically inhabiting the same spacetime. In your movie, Trump might be a populist as the experts are saying. But in my movie, Trump is a Master Persuader. And the script for my movie fits the observed facts just as well as yours. Maybe better.

The Master Persuader filter says Trump didn’t identify and match the preferences of the people so much as cause them to think the way they are thinking. My filter on the election says that Trump’s skill for persuasion could have given him the victory with DIFFERENT policies than the ones he championed – such as Bernie Sanders policies. And Trump would look like a populist in that case too.

Keep in mind that most voters are handcuffed to their party’s candidate. That guarantees that most elections will be close, no matter who runs. The winner is the candidate who can move perhaps 5% of voters from column A to B. And the Master Persuader had a year-long election cycle and total media exposure to get that minor task accomplished. This is why I predicted Trump’s win a year before it happened. 

I don’t believe reality is something the human brain can understand. We didn’t evolve with the ability to see reality for what it is. Evolution only cares if we survive and procreate. In this case, people who think Trump is a populist can have babies, and so can the people who think we elected Hitler, and so can the people who think Trump is a well-meaning Master Persuader. That’s three different movies. Evolution doesn’t care which worldview is right, if any. It only cares that we can make more babies. And we can.

Still, it might matter who has the most “useful” movie among us. The Master Persuader movie did a good job in predicting Trump’s success. It also predicts Trump moving to the middle, persuading Pence to be more LGBTQ-friendly, and good relations with other countries. That’s the movie plot I see coming.

But some of you are in a movie that is dark and dangerous. Perhaps you see a world in which the next Hitler just came to power. Some of you see a clown with no skill coming to power because his populist message was effective. Those are scary movies compared to my feel-good film. If you could switch to my movie, and lose nothing but your anxiety for the future, wouldn’t you want to do it? In my movie, we have lots of Trump success ahead and none of the dark possibilities will come to pass.

So how can you tell whether or not you are in the wrong movie? I’ll give you a few clues.


If Trump didn’t win because of his persuasion skills, which other Republican candidate can you imagine beating Clinton?

You might be thinking that Clinton’s email problems and the Comey announcements made her an unusually weak candidate, and that means any sane Republican could have beaten her. But you’d be wrong. The reason that the emails, the Comey decisions, and Wikileaks were so effective is that Trump had been labelling Clinton “Crooked Hillary” for months. That created the confirmation bias trap that made everything Clinton ever did sound suspicious. None of the other candidates would have crafted such a perfect persuasion trap.

I also have a hard time imagining any other candidate going after Bill Clinton so hard that it took him out of the game. Was Jeb going to do that?

If you believe Trump’s skill for persuasion wasn’t the key variable in his win, you have to imagine some other candidate beating Clinton with the same set of policies as Trump. Personally, I can’t imagine it.

If you think Trump is the next Hitler, or a clown who got lucky with his populist message, you have to ask yourself why the stock market and the dollar are both up following the election. The smartest money-managers in the world have already abandoned their old movies and jumped over to movies they see as more useful for making money, apparently.

If you think Trump is the next Hitler, you have to ask yourself why every major world power has already said they think they can work with him, no problem.

If you think Trump is a lucky incompetent who inherited money from his father, you have to explain why he has succeeded in real estate, reality TV, and now politics. Can incompetent people win that bigly in three different arenas while everyone is watching?

If you think Trump has anti-semite advisors, you have to wonder why his son-in-law Jared Kushner hasn’t noticed any of that and is working hard for Trump.

If you think Trump is a racist, you have to wonder how he learned to act so well that he could be in this picture looking as non-racist as a person can look.

And if you think Trump is any or all of the things you heard from the mainstream media, you have to wonder why they were so thoroughly wrong about the one thing that can be measured objectively – the election results.

You might also wonder why the anti-Trump protests are petering out. If a real Hitler came to power, would people get tired of walking around outside to protest? 

The biggest demographic group opposing Trump – including the ones on the street – are young people. Objectively speaking, young people are the dumbest people within every demographic group. I was dumber when I was younger. So were you. So is everyone else. Ask yourself if it is a coincidence that the dumbest people within every demographic group lean in the same direction.

The Master Persuader filter says that young people have not yet experienced multiple situations in which the media scares the public over nothing. To them, the fear of Trump is real because the Internet and the media says it is real. To people my age, we have seen one fake media scare after another. We don’t believe in fake scares the same way that that young people do because we’ve been through it so many times.

As the election season fog begins to clear, most people will start to see Trump as an unconventional president whose policies conform to the preferences of the governed. But that simple movie is boring. I invite you to join my movie, in which each of us has a small role in making America Great Again. You just have to find your part.

It’s a good movie. I think you’ll like it.

You might like reading my book because evolution.

— WhenHub App —

And you might love my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple:

WhenHub app for Android:

Read More →
Generating Cognitive Dissonance for Fun

One of my favorite debate techniques involves the use of questions instead of statements. I’ve never seen this method change anyone’s mind, but it can generate an unusually clear form of cognitive dissonance. And that’s good entertainment for you. 

Let me give you an example with this true story. This one is designed to induce cognitive dissonance in someone who believes President Elect Trump is a dangerous racist.

— Start —

Today I heard a woman refer to her own grandmother as “Italian.” I was offended just listening to her spew this hate. I happen to know that her grandmother was born in this country. It was her grandmother’s parents that immigrated here from Italy. It would be proper to say her grandmother is an American citizen with Italian cultural heritage. But why even bring up her ethnicity at all? Calling her grandmother “Italian” for no good reason is a racist dog whistle to my ears. 

Wouldn’t you agree?

— End —

That’s the question that will trigger cognitive dissonance. But not right away. There are two more steps. 

1. Your subject will disagree, explaining that people often say “Italian” as a shorthand to mean someone has family roots in Italy. It isn’t the least-bit racist.

2. Point out that this is just like the time President Elect Trump referred to Judge Curiel  as “Mexican.” That was racist, so this must be too.

Now sit back and watch the fun.

Your subject will quickly jump from the idea that the mere use of the word “Mexican” is racist to the related argument that Trump used it in the context of saying the judge wasn’t qualified.

Respond with this high-ground argument: In a legal context, everyone understands that judges and jurors can be biased by their major associations and life experiences. That’s why judges routinely recuse themselves from specific cases, and why lawyers reject certain jurors. All people are biased. The best you can do is find people who are not biased on a specific topic. 

In the case of Judge Curiel, we can reasonably assume he associated with family members and friends who shared his Mexican cultural heritage. We also know that specific demographic group is overwhelmingly anti-Trump because of immigration issues. How do you think judge Curiel would feel at his next family gathering if he were to acquit Trump on all charges?

The credibility of the legal system requires that we avoid the appearance of bias and the potential for bias when we can. Any defendant in a court case should have the right to question bias. That’s what Trump did. In a legal context it is appropriate and routine to question bias by association. It only looked shocking because he used the word “Mexican” as a shorthand, the way normal people speak, and he was in a political context at the same time as a legal context.

Aaaand you’re done.

Now watch your subject squirm and change the subject to some other thing Trump did. This method is guaranteed to NOT change anyone’s mind. This is only for entertainment and so you see cognitive dissonance as it forms. It’s freaky.

Update: And if that didn’t get you the cognitive dissonance you wanted, send this article to your subject’s phone and ask the person to read it in front of you. That should do it.

Here’s another one that is shorter. Ask an anti-Trumper this question:

“I wonder why Jared Kushner doesn’t realize Trump and his key advisors are huge anti-semites. Why do you think he hasn’t noticed?”

Then just watch the show.

You might like reading my book because systems are better than goals.

— WhenHub App —

And you might love my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple:

WhenHub app for Android:

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Reprogram an Anti-Trumper with This Article

It would take me too long to explain why this article about Trump, by Scott Alexander, is so important to you and to the country. Stop whatever you are doing and give it ten minutes. 

Seriously. Stop what you are doing. Give this ten minutes. It’s more important that almost anything you were going to do today.

Then save the link for later sharing. Show it to all of your friends who think Trump is a racist monster. This ends it.

The only people who will think Trump is a racist going forward are people who haven’t read this article. If you find someone like that, send them the link. This piece is a brilliant service to the country. Breathtaking.

Here’s the short link for easy sharing:

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Working for the Machines

Today I see in the news that Google is trying to dehypnotize potential ISIS recruits by manipulating what content they see when they try to search for pro-ISIS stuff. That’s mind control. And it works. 

Meanwhile, Facebook is trying to have it both ways by insisting that advertising on their platform is effective while claiming the tsunami of fake news articles about the election – which outnumbered legitimate stories – had no impact on the election. But either way, it’s mind control. Because ads work.

Mind control also takes the form of A-B testing, which is common practice for most tech companies. That involves rapidly testing up to thousands of variables for different ad variations until they know what is the most effective way to manipulate consumers. In other words, mind control. And it works.

Twitter is allegedly “shadowbanning” some users – including me – because they don’t like how I might be persuading people. Shadowbanning means limiting how many of my users see my content. That’s mind control, and it works. The fewer people that see what I tweet, the fewer I can influence.

In those four examples we can see that technology companies have already replaced some portion of human decision-making. Eventually machines will replace ALL of your decisions. 

How’s that possible?

It’s possible because machines make better decisions than humans. Or they will. Consider your health-monitoring wristband. Someday it will tell you when you need to eat and what to eat. It will tell you when you are dehydrated and suggest that you take a drink. It will tell you the best time to exercise, and it will “train” you to do so, with rewards. In the short run, you will see your machines as making helpful suggestions. But once you learn that the machines always make good suggestions – and you do not – you will start taking the machine’s suggestions simply because it is easier.

I would argue that your political choices are already largely determined by Facebook, Google, Twitter and the other media companies. It feels exactly like free will to you, but it isn’t. And someday soon our technology will tell us how to eat, when to sleep, when to sip water, when to exercise, and even who to date. Once married, technology will tell you the best time of the month for procreation. It might even clear your calendar by rescheduling your day.

The inevitable conclusion of all of these forces is that machines will someday make all of our important decisions. We are probably less than ten years away from that.

Losing your free will to machines might sound scary. But you never had free will in the first place. It was always an illusion. When the machines take over our important decisions we will do the same thing we do now – we will imagine that we are making the decisions on our own. Today our important decisions are made with emotions, and rationalized after the fact. We incorrectly call this process “thinking.” In the near future, our machines will make our daily decisions using Big Data and whatever they know about us as individuals to maximize our outcomes. You’ll like that future because the machines will make better decisions than you, and you’ll have better quality of life.

In the new world ahead, you will be the robot – albeit a moist one. The machines will be doing the thinking and making the decisions. You will simply do what they program you to do. Like a robot. And all of that will happen before Artificial Intelligence is popular. In terms of capability, all the machines need in order to take over for human decision-making is lots of relevant data, body monitor sensors, and some pattern recognition software. We’re almost there.

You might like reading my book because you haven’t taken 10,000 steps yet today and your fitness band says you should.

And you might love my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple:

WhenHub app for Android:

Read More →
The Hypnosis Lawyer

Did you see the story about the Ohio lawyer that allegedly hypnotized his female clients against their will and molested them? He was just sentenced to 12 years in prison for “kidnapping.”

You might be wondering if it is possible for a hypnotist lawyer to put people into trances in his office, sexually molest them, and have them leave with no memory of the event. The answer is no, unless he discovered something that other hypnotists don’t know about.

But he went to jail anyway.

Your first clue that something is fishy is that a lawyer who is allegedly a first-class hypnotist couldn’t win a court case. Joking aside, that is unlikely, given that the standard for conviction is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I’m not a lawyer, but as a trained hypnotist I’m fairly certain I could give a jury reasonable doubt about their own existence. So the fact that a jury of human beings convicted this lawyer conflicts with the fact that he is allegedly an amazing hypnotist. It’s possible. But it is unlikely.

So how can we explain multiple women coming forward with similar stories of blurry memories and sexual abuse involving this same lawyer? There are two possibilities that I can see.

1. The defendant is the first hypnotist in the world (as far as I know) to learn how to put people into trance in casual conversation and make them forget multiple sexual molestations.


2. Several women experienced cognitive dissonance and independently hallucinated similar molestations.

A year ago – before you started reading my blog posts about persuasion – you probably would have assumed the logical explanation is that a super-hypnotist did in fact put several women into trance against their will and molest them. After all, what are the odds that several women would have the same story?

But if I have taught you anything this year it is that mass delusions – and small group delusions – are totally common and expected in life. On the other hand, the rise of the world’s most powerful super-hypnotist – who can’t win a jury trial – is unlikely.

I’ve been a certified hypnotist for decades. And I’ve studied the field of persuasion for years. In all of that time I have never heard about or seen a verified case of someone losing memory from a hypnosis session. 

But I have heard of lots of cases in which multiple people hallucinated similar things that didn’t happen. Usually there is some trigger for cognitive dissonance. In this case – hypothetically – the women might be embarrassed that they got into sexually-charged conversations with their lawyer. If their behavior conflicted with their self-images, cognitive dissonance would kick in.

But how in the world could several women all have similar stories? That’s unlikely, right?

No. That sort of thing is more common than you imagine. Sometimes it happens because police ask leading questions, such as “Did anything unusual happen when you were in his office?” And “Do you remember everything that happened?” And of course, “We are investigating claims that he used hypnosis to molest clients.” Any questions along those lines would produce similar-sounding hallucinations. That’s what happened in this famous court case. It’s a well-documented phenomenon.

I feel confident in saying that the women involved in the case believe their own stories, whether the stories are true or not. In other words, they all could pass lie detector tests, and they are probably super-credible witnesses because they believe what they are saying. (I wasn’t there, so I can’t know what happened.)

From my perspective as a trained persuader, the most likely explanation for the lawyer’s situation is that he did in fact use conversational persuasion to generate sexual arousal in his clients. That part is totally feasible and not terribly difficult for a trained hypnotist to accomplish. If the clients found themselves enjoying the experience, and going with it, they might later realize their behavior did not match their self-images. Especially if they had husbands or boyfriends. That setup would almost guarantee that cognitive dissonance happens to “explain” why the women acted in ways counter to their self-images. Add some leading questions from investigators and you have enough to create several similar-sounding hallucinations of unwanted sexual molestations. 

And keep in mind that these women were likely to be in the 20% of the public that has a strong reaction to suggestion. If a hypnotist identified them as being especially suggestible, the investigators could plant suggestions in them as well, but only accidentally in the latter case.

If you are wondering how easily a group of humans can be thrown into the same hallucination, consider that half of Americans believes their country just elected a racist, homophobic, sexist and the other half thinks we elected an open-minded guy who is no more sexist than most people. No matter which half of the country is right, the other half of the country is in a deep hallucination. We just don’t know which half. (Yes, I know that you know the other half is hallucinating. But keep in mind that the other half thinks you are the one hallucinating.)

Anyway, back to the lawyer. I don’t know the facts because I wasn’t in the room when any of it happened. But one woman wore a wire and recorded the lawyer talking inappropriately. So we know something wasn’t right. I doubt he was innocent of all wrongdoing. I’m just explaining the limits of hypnosis as I understand them. In summary:

Hypnosis Can’t: Make you forget you were molested in a lawyer’s office by the time you walk out. (As far as I know.)

Hypnosis Can: Produce intense sexual arousal, even in conversational form.

Cognitive Dissonance Can: Make a group of people see the same hallucination. (This is common.)

We can’t know for sure what happened in the case of the hypnosis lawyer. I just thought it was a good teaching moment.

You might like reading my book because I am not a lawyer.

And you might love my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple:

WhenHub app for Android:

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The Thought Experiment that Broke Your Brain

Here’s a little thought experiment you can try at home. Identify a Clinton supporter who cares deeply about keeping abortion legal. Ask the person if they would support the following change in Federal law:

Proposed: The Federal government declares abortion to be legal under federal law – now and for all time – for both the doctor and the patient, when the procedure is done in the first trimester.

I expect that most people who favor abortion would agree with this proposed law. It says exactly what they want – that abortion would be legal under federal law.

The trick is that I just described Trump’s policy preference for abortion. Trump prefers that abortion be legal from a federal perspective and stay that way. States would still be free to impose restrictions, but the federal government would be out of it. 

Notice that all I did for this thought experiment was restate Trump’s position as a positive. Trump wants to select Supreme Court justices that take the federal government out of the abortion question and leave it to the states to decide. 

Historically, the reason our Constitution leaves a lot of power to the states is because local governments have a better feel for their citizens, and some states are very different from others. One size doesn’t fit all. For practical reasons, you want the government that is closest to the people making the life-and-death decisions such as capital punishment, abortion, and doctor-assisted-dying. 

That thinking made sense a few hundred years ago when people were not as mobile and the Internet didn’t exist. But imagine how different things would be today if Roe Vs. Wade were overturned in the courts. Here’s how that would probably end up:

1. Some states would immediately ban abortions.

2. States with bans would become cancerous to major employers who can’t recruit talent to a state with no abortion rights. Over time, most states would have to cave to the economics of it.

3. Volunteer networks would spring up that provide services to transport women who want abortions to neighboring states. There is so much passion around this topic that you can guarantee an immediate work-around network will emerge, probably with apps that help women find rides and housing in nearby states. This wasn’t practical before Roe Vs. Wade but it would be totally feasible now, with the Internet and changing views on the acceptability of abortion.

4. Insurance options might pop up that pay for transportation and housing to neighboring states for abortions. Just order an Uber car and submit the receipt to your insurance plan for reimbursement.

My point is that unlike the era in which Roe Vs. Wade first came into being, the Internet makes it far more practical to have state-specific abortion laws. Social media would make it difficult for employers to locate in abortion-limited states, and apps would make it easy to organize trips to neighboring states for abortions.

None of this describes a world that I prefer. I’m just thinking it through with you. This is a good time for my disclaimer.

Disclaimer: My personal opinion on abortion is that men should stay out of the debate and let women collectively decide what the laws should be. My reasoning is that women have an extra level of appreciation for the topic, more skin in the game, and they are generally better informed on this topic than men. Whatever women decide for abortion laws will be more credible than any decision that is watered down by the opinions of men. This is one of several ways in which I am more liberal than most liberals. 

You might want to buy my book because winter is coming.

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How to Break an Illusion

Anti-Trump protesters believe they are fighting the good fight to stop a racist, homophobic, sexist monster. But about half of the country – the half that I’m in – is in a different movie. In our movie, we selected a new president and half of the country is in cognitive dissonance over it. Assuming the protesters are the ones experiencing the illusion, and not us, how can we release them from their zombie-like existence so they will stop blocking traffic?

I’ll tell you the general approach.

The main thing you have to do is violate the frame. Clinton framed Trump as a monster, and now protesters are locked into that illusion. If Trump does things that can be construed as monster-like, the illusion is strengthened. But every time he violates that framing, the illusion gets a crack. If it cracks enough, it breaks.

For example, half the country thought Trump was going to eliminate every good thing about Obamacare. But recently the public learned that Trump wants to keep the most popular provisions and just “fix” the rest of it. That violates the monster frame. But it isn’t enough by itself. You need more violations.

Picking Reince Priebus for Chief of Staff was a good step because it makes Trump seem presidential and flexible. That’s another violation of the monster frame. But a small one.

Unfortunately, picking Steve Bannon as chief strategist adds confirmation bias to the monster illusion because Clinton’s team polluted Bannon’s brand during the election. Bannon adds confirmation bias to the monster illusion.  I assume Bannon is a great strategist or else Trump wouldn’t risk keeping him. 

Yesterday on Sixty Minutes Trump said gay marriage was already settled by the Supreme Court, and Trump is okay with that. That’s a crack in the illusion that Trump is anti-LGBTQ. But not enough. And Trump’s selection of Pence to run the transition team supports the monster theory because Pence has some anti-gay history that needs fixing.

The obvious next move for the Master Persuader involves asking Pence to “evolve” to Trump’s positions on all LGBTQ matters. Everyone expects a VP to pretend to be a full supporter of the President’s policies. That gives cover for Pence to update his LGBTQ views because…

– Religious conservatives will dismiss it as mere politics, believing Pence privately holds views that match their own.

– Anti-Trumpers will see a major violation of the monster frame.

– I will explain it all later as Trump doing “pacing and leading” to bring the Republican Party toward the center where it is strongest. Because that’s what is happening. 

Trump has lots of other ways to crack the monster framing in the coming months. He can say more about his “New Deal” ideas for helping African-Americans. He could flip a foreign leader from a critic to a friend. He could come up with some ideas on lowering college costs. He could say more about his plan NOT to deport undocumented citizens who have obeyed the law since coming to this country.

He has lots of levers. Expect him to push one lever after another until the monster framing cracks. By summer the story will be that he’s the most flexible and centrist president in our history.

It is worth noting that Trump and Clinton had very different unframing challenges. If Clinton had won, her job would have been to convince the public she isn’t crooked. But you can’t do that simply by doing some honest things in public. We expect that even crooked people do honest things when watched. Clinton literally had no path to remove her “crooked” label.

But Trump has a more solvable framing problem. Clinton’s team labelled him a racist, homophobic, sexist. Trump can violate that frame enough times to break it over time. But it will take a lot of cracks. You’ve already seen several. Expect more to come.

If I were in Trump’s place I would look for a bigly frame violation and soon. The public is already primed for him to “moderate” away from his campaign promises. This is the time to do it.

In summary, you can’t prove you are honest by NOT stealing something in public. But you can prove you are not a monster by saving a kitten from a tree in public. Monsters never do that sort of thing. This idea is so true that it became the title of the best book ever written about movie script writing: Save the Cat

Watch for Trump to save some kittens – as many as necessary – until you can’t hold in your mind the frame that he’s a monster. Enjoy the show. The Master Persuader is just getting started.

You might like reading my book because kittens are so cute.

And you might love my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple:

WhenHub app for Android:

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The Cognitive Dissonance Cluster Bomb

Earlier this week listed 24 different theories that pundits have provided for why Trump won. And the list isn’t even complete. I’ve heard other explanations as well. What does it tell you when there are 24 different explanations for a thing?

It tells you that someone just dropped a cognitive dissonance cluster bomb on the public. Heads exploded. Cognitive dissonance set in. Weird theories came out. This is the cleanest and clearest example of cognitive dissonance you will ever see. Remember it.

This phenomenon is why a year ago I told you I was putting so much emphasis on PREDICTING the outcome of the election using the Master Persuader Filter. I told you it would be easy to fit any theory to the facts AFTER the result. And sure enough, we can fit lots of theories to the facts. At least 24 of them by CNN’s count.

Generally speaking, the greater the persuasion, the more cognitive dissonance you get. Trump is – in my opinion – the greatest persuader of my lifetime. I expected this level of cognitive dissonance. Next time you see a persuader of this magnitude, you can expect the outcome to be cognitive dissonance in that case too.

This brings me to the anti-Trump protests. The protesters look as though they are protesting Trump, but they are not. They are locked in an imaginary world and battling their own hallucinations of the future. Here’s the setup that triggered them.

1. They believe they are smart and well-informed.

2. Their good judgement told them Trump is OBVIOUSLY the next Hitler, or something similarly bad.

3. Half of the voters of the United States – including a lot of smart people – voted Trump into office anyway.

Those “facts” can’t be reconciled in the minds of the anti-Trumpers. Mentally, something has to give. That’s where cognitive dissonance comes in.

There are two ways for an anti-Trumper to interpret that reality. One option is to accept that if half the public doesn’t see Trump as a dangerous monster, perhaps he isn’t. But that would conflict with a person’s self-image as being smart and well-informed in the first place. When you violate a person’s self-image, it triggers cognitive dissonance to explain-away the discrepancy.

So how do you explain-away Trump’s election if you think you are smart and you think you are well-informed and you think Trump is OBVIOUSLY a monster?

You solve for that incongruity by hallucinating – literally – that Trump supporters KNOW Trump is a monster and they PREFER the monster. In this hallucination, the KKK is not a nutty fringe group but rather a symbol of how all Trump supporters must feel. (They don’t. Not even close.)

In a rational world it would be obvious that Trump supporters include lots of brilliant and well-informed people. That fact – as obvious as it would seem – is invisible to the folks who can’t even imagine a world in which their powers of perception could be so wrong. To reconcile their world, they have to imagine all Trump supporters as defective in some moral or cognitive way, or both.

As I often tell you, we all live in our own movies inside our heads. Humans did not evolve with the capability to understand their reality because it was not important to survival. Any illusion that keeps us alive long enough to procreate is good enough.

That’s why the protestors live in a movie in which they are fighting against a monster called Trump and you live in a movie where you got the president you wanted for the changes you prefer. Same planet, different realities.

You might enjoy reading my book because you like movies.

And you might love my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple:

WhenHub app for Android:

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While You Were Looking in the Wrong Direction

I’ve written a few times that Clinton deserves credit for breaking the glass ceiling for the highest office, at least in our minds, and that’s where it matters most. In 2016, no thinking person believes gender is a job requirement for president. That isn’t even a thing anymore. And Clinton did that for the country. You have to respect that.

However, it is also true that Clinton tarnished women’s “brand” during the course of the election, with an assist from her opponents. You can respect much of what Clinton accomplished, but in the end she was an imperfect role model at best.

Meanwhile, over at the Trump campaign, we watched the best hirer-firer of our time replace Lewandowski with Manafort before replacing Manafort with Conway. Each campaign manager was right for a respective phase of the campaign. Lewandowski was the street-fighter that got Trump attention during a crowded primary. Manafort was the well-connected operator who could guide him through the Republican convention and the nomination.

But Conway took it home, against heavy odds. Her work was – as we can clearly see – insanely good.

Trump succeeded in large part because of three brilliant, super-tough, ultra-effective women: KellyAnne Conway, Katrina Pierson, and Ivanka Trump

If you cried on election day because it was a bad day for women, perhaps you were looking in the wrong direction. 

You might like my book because other people do.

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The De-Hitlerization of Your Brain

The election is over and Trump supporters are trying to mind their own business, as usual. Meanwhile, Clinton’s supporters are on the streets to protest people who act the way they are acting. How did things get this crazy?

Well, most of it has to do with Clinton’s persuasion experts and supporters framing Trump and his supporters as the next coming of Hitler. Here’s a fresh example.

With this kind of messaging you should not be surprised to see crowds attacking Trump supporters. The attackers feel they have the moral authority to do so. Here’s a fresh example where a group of Clinton supporters repeatedly beat an older Trump supporter on camera. The scary part is that they appear to be proud of it, as though it is morally justified.

My observation of the anti-Trump protests is that it mostly involves young people. This is their first fake-Hitler scare. They don’t realize that Reagan was compared to Hitler, both Bush presidents were compared to Hitler, and Romney was compared to Hitler. I assume lots of European and other leaders have also been compared to Hitler. You might want to point that out to any young person who thinks this is the first time we’ve seen this.

I’ll also work on a de-hypnosis system. This one isn’t easy because fear is the top form of persuasion and you can’t out-fear a Hitler fear. If I were president I would try to break the spell by doing something so out-of-the-box that observers can’t hold this new information in their head and still hold the Hitler frame. For example…

Imagine Trump proposing reparations for slavery. That’s as out-of-box as you can get. And imagine that reparations take the form of a special tax on the top 1% of the wealthy to fund free college for any African-American students (including adults returning for trade school or college) for the next 25 years. 

I’m in the top 1%, but I wouldn’t mind a tax that had such a positive long-term impact on the country. It seems like I would get my money back from that sort of investment. 

I think you could only pass this sort of law if you wrapped it into a plan to give everyone some sort of student loan relief or free college in the future. But some group has to go first in any plan.

You can argue about whether this is a good plan or a bad one. I can see both sides. But in the context of persuasion, it would go a long way toward breaking the hypnosis spell that imagines Trump is the next Hitler. You can’t be Hitler and also in favor of reparations for slavery. People won’t be able to hold the two competing thoughts in their head, and they will default to the one that is in the headlines.

In the meantime, if you are trying to dehypnotize a frightened friend who fears a Trump presidency, remind them that every Republican leader has been compared to Hitler. Also remind them that Hitler didn’t have social media to keep him in check. Today we know what happens on every street corner everywhere. (Case in point, the video I linked above.) The public is watching. Everything.

And I can promise any Clinton supporter that if the government ever shut down social media, Trump supporters would be on the street with you. And probably in front of you.

For now, Trump supporters are playing it smart and staying semi-hidden. That’s the right play. Let’s see if tensions subside on their own. So far the demonstrations have been peaceful. 

You might enjoy my book because people demonstrate.

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