Smart people do stupid things. On a regular basis.
I know because I’m a coach to top performers. Smart, talented, ambitious people. And I get paid to help these smart people stay smart, not stupid!
Whether you’re fascinated, bored or confused about GameStop, Reddit and Robinhood—they have been filling our news feeds for the past few days. In the least technical and financial summary I can manage—GameStop’s stock soared in proportion to the number of people paying attention to it. Which resulted in a hedge fund, Melvin Capital Management, losing $2 billion, while a YouTube streamer, named Roaring Kitty, made more than $13 million.
When something happens in the world of finance (or technology, politics, economics or business) I’m less interested in an industry analysis and more interested in a human analysis.
And a human analysis almost always comes down to one thing—as Rory Sutherland (Vice Chairman of one of the largest and most renowned advertising agencies in the world) puts it:
“In real life, most things aren’t logical, they are psycho-logical.”
Rory Sutherland is one of my favorite thinkers on the power of thinking differently. He is the author of a wonderful book, Alchemy: The Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense.
I highly recommend his book—I’ve got both the hardback and the audiobook. But Rory is a hard man to summarize, so I will introduce you to him in his own words, in order to teach you two important principles for coaching high-achievers:
- Psycho-logic vs Logic
- Magic Exists
1. Psycho-logic vs Logic
- “It doesn’t pay to be logical if everyone else is being logical.”
- “Logical ideas often fail because logic demands universally applicable laws but humans, unlike atoms, are not consistent enough in their behaviour for such laws to hold very broadly.”
- “It is much easier to be fired for being illogical than it is for being unimaginative.” [So true. I was once fired for being too imaginative in a logical world].
- “We have a culture that prizes measuring things over understanding people.”
- “An inability to change perspective is equivalent to a loss of intelligence.” (I’ve written about that here: How to Double Your Clients’ Intelligence – and here: The test of a first-rate intelligence).
- “Economic logic suggests that more is better. Psycho-logic often believes that less is more.“
- “Our brain has evolved not so much to find a right answer, as to avoid a disastrously wrong one.” (That’s a very important principle when coaching, as clients are often run by their unconscious fears. Our job is to surface them).
2. Magic Exists
- “In psychology, one plus one can equal three.”
- “Wine tastes better when poured from a heavier bottle. Painkillers are more effective when people believe they are expensive. Almost everything becomes more desirable when people believe it is in scarce supply, and possessions become more enjoyable when they have a famous brand name attached.”
- “If you never do anything differently, you’ll reduce your chances of enjoying lucky accidents.”
This image is from the cover of another excellent book—if you coach top performers—The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes, by David Robson.
Your most powerful tool as a coach is a great question
By the way, your second most powerful tool is listening deeply to the answer!
Here’s Rory Sutherland on questions:
- “If you want to annoy your more rational colleagues, begin a meeting by asking a childish question to which the answer seems self-evident – the fact that sensible people never ask questions of this kind is exactly why you need to ask them.”
- “You will never uncover unconscious motivations unless you create an atmosphere in which people can ask apparently fatuous questions without fear of shame.”
- “Whether we use logic or psychologic depends on whether we want to solve the problem or be seen trying to solve the problem. Saving the world indirectly may not make you look like a hero; talking about the plight of polar bears makes one feel a good deal worthier than promoting the redesign of recycling bins, but the latter may be more effective.”
Here are 4 of my deeper dives on the power of questions:
- 35 questions that will change your life
- The Secret to 100% commitment is answering 3 questions
- 4 questions to get kick-ass testimonials!
- 2 questions you should NEVER answer…
The biggest gift you can give a top performer is your willingness to challenge and provoke their thinking.
If you really want to help smart people not do stupid things, on a regular basis, read these 3 articles:
(ii) Bloody Hell!
You’ll thrive as a coach when you can look for what most coaches could never see and you are willing to say what most coaches would never say.