Every beginning Requires an end to What wasn't working

The Power of Dead-Ending

The governing dynamic of change, I assert, is reaching a dead-end.

We are all familiar with the concept of “hitting bottom,” but only those who’ve been there truly appreciate its power. Hitting bottom isn’t just for alcoholics, where the term is used widely in AA. It’s for all of us.

The reason all of us must dead-end is because very often the only way we learn is by taking a flawed assumption and testing it against reality. By the time we are 22 years old, we all have a set of beliefs, assumptions, and values that are innocently and inevitably flawed, but we’re sure are near perfect. We bring our reality to the interface of the true reality to see what happens.

The problem is that most people don’t realize they’re doing this. They don’t realize that their authority issues cause their employment problems, their flawed assumptions about another gender cause relationship problems, that their wounding around money causes economic problems, and so on.

What we experience is pain that things don’t go our way, and we rally, doubling down on the values (a studied phenomenon known as the “backfire effect”) that caused the problem in the first place, and go at it again like a bull in a bullfight – tragically destined to lose.

Or, better said, tragically destined to learn. Eventually, the truth about your authority issues, men/women issues, money issues, etc. is unavoidable. You dead-end your paradigm against the immovable boundary of reality and learn.

It would be nice to have learned this in high school, right?

I certainly can’t prove that this is how it works, but I offer it’s observably and intuitively true. Look in your own life. What were your biggest upsets in life and how were they inevitable dead-ends of flawed approaches to reality? How were those bottoms absolutely necessary for your learning?

There are not just individual dead-ends, there are cultural ones. The Nazi Holocaust was a dead-end for anti-Semitism in Germany that existed there for hundreds of years. It took anti-Semitism to the logical extreme. Many empires like Rome and England fell because they took the idea that they should rule the world to a logical extreme, and were unable to manage all the territory they conquered.

In this very moment, the world struggles with the original idea of controlling the COVID pandemic, which most evidence points now to is impossible. The, at first, noble idea of protecting as many as possible no matter what the cost is still clung to by many despite the mounting evidence of the failure, like Vietnam or the war on drugs.

What is the dead-end? Emotional health issues, inflation, supply-chain problems, political divisions, civil divisiveness, and an acute general dissatisfaction with life in the general population.

poll last week released by Monmouth University showed 70% of Americans agreed with “It’s time we accept that Covid is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives.” But the responses were significantly partisan: 89% of Republicans agreed, 71% of Independents, but only 47% of Democrats.

Notice how difficult it is for us to admit that the well-intended idea failed, learn, and move on. The more quickly we can see a dead-end and pivot, the more quickly we evolve. When stubbornly cling to an opinion that collides with Truth, we suffer.

It’s not difficult to see that after Trump erred on the side of not taking COVID seriously enough, Democrats swung to the other extreme. Trump dead-ended his “Reality is whatever I say it is” paradigm while Democrats still cling to their “COVID can be stopped because we have to do the opposite of whatever Trump did” paradigm. But Democrats have been testing Trump’s paradigm in their own way. They changed the meaning of the word “vaccine” to be equivalent to a flu shot, because its effectiveness is not on par with what we used to call vaccines.

Last month, the liberal Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor said, “We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition, and many on ventilators.” The true number was more like 3,500.

Democrats are more likely to exaggerate the severity of the virus. Do you know what the chances of someone being hospitalized with COVID are?

69% of Democrats said 20% or more, compared with 51% of Republicans. The truth is between 1-5% and that’s not adjusted for pre-existing conditions, which makes the number even smaller. In this study only 10% of Democrats and 26% of Republicans got the right answer.

That’s odd, considering it’s been in the news every single day for two years. Then again, half of U.S. adults can’t read a book written at the 8th-grade level. If literacy is this big an issue, what level of critical thinking can we really expect?

Apparently, we can’t even expect critical thinking from a judge in the highest course of the land. But why not?

From the broadest perspective, there is a paradigm that most of the species currently employ that is very much headed toward a tragic, but hopefully productive dead-end. That paradigm is subjectivism: the belief that reality is absolutely open to interpretation.

It’s what actually unites Democrats and Republicans both, though they don’t realize it. Both parties very much want to believe their narratives about the world more than they’re curious about the objective, factual reality. When those narratives are different they clash, instead of getting curious, doubling down on their position, but increasingly neither party is right.

But in the end, reality always wins. All you have to do is wait and see. But you’re far better off if you don’t, and are curious about the nature of reality before needing to be held accountable by it. It’s the same way you’re better off vulnerably asking your boss how you’re doing before waiting for a performance review.

For all of these reasons, I see cleansing our perceptual mechanisms so we can see reality for what it is as the most important work. All of our results are downstream. That’s why I created Clear and Open Membership, to make powerful awareness training available and affordable to anyone. If this makes sense to you, I invite you to take a look.

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