Seeking Understanding

Thinking Beliefs and Understanding by Joshua Fletcher

Thinking and Beliefs

The thing I hope to bring light to most is for folks not so much to attack others, or attack external beliefs, or question others, or to question their own beliefs, but to question their own method of how they personally understand what is true before they conclude what they know is true.
Knowing things is different than understanding how to know things
Fallacies are good to notice. They may help us notice a contradiction, but they don’t necessarily mean much by themselves. They other huge thing at play on all of us is believing we already have a method of thinking that works properly and that our bias isn’t important or even is actually the correct place to stand.
This has been my work since I left Harvard.  Actually it has been my work since long before that.  I’ve come to realize it is my life’s work really.  It is the only thing that I see that stands a chance to break us out of all this mess our intellect has created.
Our blindness to the topic of blind we are to where we stand has been so impactful for me and my life.  “You can’t see your eye with your eye”, paraphrased from every important lasting pointer to the truth that I know of…
As I heard and came to see and understand removing yourself from immersion to potentially see importance differently I have become aware of things that were not even visible while I was immersed in a certain project or goal.  Whether in my agency or what I could see about “search” on the internet or with OMG or with my role with my family.  Glad to have additional perspective and pointers on this.
“I used to be such a mess, and then I had this breakthrough, and now I am finally all fixed.”  If you could recall, I have a feeling that before we got “fixed”, we didn’t think anything was broken.
As soon as something we sense troubles us, meaning it doesn’t fit a pattern we recognize, or, it does fit a pattern we recognize that we believe is faulty, or without merit, or even dangerous, two primary things happen.
  1. Our brains seek to understand this new thing (matching).  Our brains fire around and too look for associations of things that we have in our memory (trying to be a bit careful with language, our memory is made up of all sorts of things.  Memory is tricky.
  2. Our brains seek to find contradictions or logical flaws that can discredit the new conclusions (mismatching)
That second method is easier, and typically faster.  It’s fastest and easiest for people who know a lot.  Or rather for people who have a lot of memories (memories can absolutely be contradictory- this creates “devil’s advocates: very interesting term….).  So I use the word know loosely, almost pejoratively.  Our brains are very capable of believing things that are not true, even to the point of believing two contradictory conclusions.
This concept of a belief is quite powerful to understand.  It is arrived at, the the brain, by associations.  Experiences and data points that line up to some degree.  “It’s warm out, I’m wearing my green shirt, it’s spring, I met my sweetheart so, spring is good, this shirt is fabulous, warmth is what I seek…”  They get associated and then they become belief, especially with just a little repetition.
1000 high powered scientists all look at the same data set and are asked if they believe the earth’s climate is changing and they agree can create a belief… just hearing that happened can create a belief in the person hearing just that, with no conclusion even!
A president who conscripts young men as early as 13 years of age and forces them to march hundreds and thousands of miles, many to their death, to kill 100,000’s, not to end slavery, but to create a nation.  Thousands upon thousands of non slave owners killed on both sides.  Thousands of slave owners were killed on both sides, not to mention the number of slaves killed, and nearly 200 years later, we still have massive inequity, hatred and his face on our $5 dollar bill.  (I am not immune to these, biases as this example may show, my great uncle at the age of 13 was hanged in their front yard, in front of his ma, on direct orders from Lincoln in order to “create a nation”.  Think about that next time you recall “pledging allegiance to the flag”.  I love.  I hate Kansas folks worse than any other “minority” for this and it happened hundreds of years before I was even born.  These are things we feel, and even if we intellectual understand them, truly understanding them is a very different matter.
Attacking beliefs can be difficult.  Even what I wrote above can trigger things in people who believe Lincoln was a great man.  He freed the slaves.  Sure.  Catholic priests serve their community for decades and rape small children as well, great men?  Mass murderers help old women across the street, work in charities, kill dozens of people, great men?  No.  We must, absolutely must separate the idea and the concept from the person.  We can get nowhere without that.  If we model Truman for ending the Great War, it become ok, by association to kill innocent men women and children indiscriminately with massive weapons, to “save lives”.
Attacking beliefs can be difficult for many people.  People associate with their beliefs and we identify people with their beliefs.
While our brains hold unfathomable information, not much of it is accessible at any one time.  Something get triggered and then it’s all we can see.  “Don’t think of a blue elephant for the next 10 seconds” kind of thing.
One, if not THE ONE belief it is hard to attack is “I know how to think”.  We don’t seem to have a foothold outside it.  Without a difference in perspective we are blind to even seeing it.  Do you have a method to even begin thinking about that question?  I didn’t until I was out of Harvard grad classes with top marks while drinking a 12 pack of beer every day.  That is scary.  It’s not because I was smart, or dumb or anything else, I just had a strategy that worked that the people who were giving me grades didn’t realize I was using.
To this point in history, very few people concern themselves with how to think properly.  Certainly more people are concerned with how to think properly, and practicing it than there are people who are interested in how to learn more stuff.
We start in the US with a paradigm of school.  A reward system for answers.  We become blind and addicted to this and now, after spending 20 years rewarded for answers, that is the model of life.  Knowing the right answer.  Winning the challenge.  Getting the cheese, the reward, the accolade, the acknowledgment.
It’s interest to note It’s a democracy you become voted into by peers.  An arbitrary standard and then a vote, or peer review process.  If you have the ability to consider this combined with what I’ve written above, It gets very murky of what is right and wrong, good enough, frightening, disagreeable, and so on.  I think most people have very good intentions, and most people really want to help people, but nearly every single person on this planet is blind to not just this system, which is visible, but to how our mind actually works, which is not visible.  That is the main point I want to shine light upon.
The interesting thing with democracy is that it is, in effect, Mob Rule.  More percentage much be right.  It sounds good when you say he won a democratic election.  It sounds scary when they say, mobs are taking over the streets and martial law has been administered.  Odd.
We think of the opposite of democracy as totalitarianism, but it seems much closer to opposite of anarchy, where nobody can tell you what to do, even if 1,000 people all want to take your wallet, they can’t.  If one ruler wants to take your wallet, they can’t.  The conversation depends into human nature typically and then cops and military and all that, but that is completely separate issue.
The point being 1 person can be correct, and 20,000,000 can be wrong and consensus or overwhelming evidence or whatever we call it does not make it different.
So:  “I know how to think” is a very dangerous hidden belief (conclusion).
The topic of thinking is interwoven in this, but back to the topic of beliefs.  Why do you believe what you believe?  There is a very powerful meditation you can do:
“If you were the only person on the planet, how would you choose to spend your time?”
As I started this the first time my mind went to many things, but as I really looked at them, they were for others, or needed others.  My family, friends, kids.  Events, music…  Anything that included a concept of competition.  Anything to impress.  It takes a long time to sort out what you, as you, really are about.  We believe all these things, but we don’t even really know what to believe about ourselves, or rather, we don’t know what the things we believe about ourselves are based on.
I made  a post in facebook about a documentary on vaccinations.  It got a lot of attention from many people.  Some I’ve known for years, since I was 4 or 5 years old.  Kids with fathers who were doctors, nurses, scientists.  Others I’ve met who grew up in families that were largely outdoors all the time, hunting and fishing types.  Still others were more blue collar, working to buy food and clothing and repeating until they couldn’t anymore.  I could keep going on, but the point is, that early in life, before any of us realized it, our beliefs about what is important and real got shaped and pretty much set.  We operate on that, typically, for the rest of our lives.
Ten, twenty, forty years of operating with a belief that we know what is important, and that we know how to think; Those two concepts drift away and become completely an invisible prison.  We just don’t question them because we can’t see them, and anyone who obviously disagrees with what we believe must be wrong, or not seeing things clearly or completely.  We may label them, not the idea, evil, dangerous, stupid or whatever.
The point is, it is not the person, it is their brains.  It’s all of our brains.  Our wonderful brains that went from weird sensory input to being able to spot a loved one by the way they walk.  our brains that went from poking ourselves in the eye when we were babies to being able to perform intricate surgeries.
They recognize patterns incredibly well and they sometimes spot anomalies acutely, and both of those are extremely dangerous when you are looking for patterns.  This is one of the reason why in science they hold double blind with control studies in such high regard.  It tends to account for this.  Those type studies do not in any way account for our blindness to whether we are even working on the correct problem at all, or slicing the problem in a way that doesn’t destroy the actual integrity of the whole.  In medicine, a heart doesn’t work on it’s own.  In society, an individual doesn’t live alone.  In Psychology a brain doesn’t operate on it’s own.
Even though people attach and identify with ideas, and with their brains, it seems advisable to attack ideas and not people.  Every thing gets harder if we so attach an idea to a person that we lose any distinction.
These are initial concepts for a book and a more cohesive body of work based on my life
1972 International Travelall Orange Monster- Fletch

What I’ve Learned about the Internet: 2018

In 2013 I was broke.  Not poor, but broke.  I knew a bunch of things.  Things people would pay me for.  Things I was willing to do the work to trade for money, but nonetheless, I had a very very negative bank account balance.
I had a construction company.  In my way of talking, that meant I had a state sanctioned license, was bonded and could legally do work for money on people’s houses and buildings.
I was still broke.  No money.  In debt.
Kinda weird thing, I’d been to college, had a degree, attended grad school and had made money entrepreneurially.  In my twenties I’d racked up three months in a row of over $30,000 profit.  Before (or rather without) the internet.  I’d attended Harvard graduate courses and received A grades.  That didn’t seem to be the problem.  In fact, at the age of 37, I really couldn’t figure out what I actually lacked.  I was healthy.  I liked folks and liked talking to them.  I was fairly open and wanted to share.  I understood a lot of topics.  And yet….  I had negative money.  Married.  Kiddo on the way.  Summa Cum Laude in undergrad.  Division I athlete.  A average from Harvard in Graduate level classes and for some reason I couldn’t sort out what I still needed to learn.  What was I still missing?
It turned out the answer was: Nothing, and A Lot.
When you are climbing in an attic, hands and knees and feet stretched between rafters and it’s 145 degree fahrenheit, it’s tough to take a phone call.  My wife had a special ring, and when I got my balance and had braced myself across a few rafters so I could answer the phone, I heard those words “I know you are going to figure this out, but….” time kinda seems to stop.  The temperature doesn’t register anymore.  It doesn’t seem any different than walking in northern Alaska at -60 below because you blew a radiator.  All those sensations kinda fade and you go inside your head and realize you have made a mistake that you have to fix.    Attic Photo Phoenix- Joshua Fletcher
You made it.
You fix it.
Natalie (my wife) let me know that the utility company had turned our water off because we were late paying our bill.  I had a few hours before I had to explain the situation of not taking a shower tonight to our oldest daughter, and Natalie wanted to give me some warning and heads up.
Mad.  That was the emotion. That was the one I went to when I had to get something done.  Mad.  Mad at myself.  Myself only, but good Lord, I wouldn’t have wanted to be around me because that anger engulfed a lot of space around me.

After I got out of that attic, I drove home slowly.  Not just because my orange 1972 International Travelall was a slow vehicle, but because I didn’t want to face anybody right then.  I didn’t know what to do.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own.  I also knew that nobody I knew had the answer I needed.  I had the cell phone numbers of Nobel laureates I had taken classes from, Olympic Athletes I’d grown up with, State Senators who I’d leased space to run my first baseball card shop business from, a couple billionaire clients I’d guided in the wilderness in Alaska and Colorado.  None of them came to mind and even if they had, I was too embarrassed, ashamed and mad to ask for guidance.

1972 International Travelall Orange Monster- Fletch
The drive back to my house; all I remember was the sound of my engine.  Still running.
I don’t really remember that evening.  The talk with my wife and my oldest daughter about the water and utilities.  I knew we weren’t going to starve to death or die of thirst.  It was hotter than hades here in Phoenix, but with water, you won’t die.  I didn’t want to just put a bandaid on the problem, I wanted to fix it.  Actually what I wanted to do was get rid of the condition that had led to the problem.  There had been an underlying element in my life: I had the wrong goals.  I set goals.  I achieved them.
Then I wound up with my utilities turned off.  Either all of the education I’d had from academia, from the same coaches that created olympic and professional athletes, that had won Nobel prizes had been wrong, or I had missed something.
I had had money before.  I’d earned it  I’d spent it.  It was gone.  I needed more than a way to make money.  I had plenty of those.  Still for some reason I found myself broke.
I had an incredible relationship with my wife.  I had close friends. I was close to my family, but at this point, I knew this was a problem I needed to figure out on my own.
I had (and still have) this old brick of a MacBook laptop.  It didn’t work unless it was plugged in to the wall.  Some battery charge control issue.  I also couldn’t get on the internet at home.  No budget for that home internet nonsense, but luckily Starbucks was a few hundred yards away (not meters, I’m from the US).
Starbucks Sign Cross Streets Bethany Home and 16th Street Phoenix
Starbucks Sign and Patio Filter Bethany Home Phoenix
My starbucks (I call it that, it’s mine) opened at 4am.  I was there when they unlocked the door and bought a grande brew for a couple bucks, plugged in to power and accepted the terms and conditions.
If you haven’t ever searched for “make money online” or “market my business online” you may not relate to this next piece.  There is a barrage of ads.  Of strange “push button millions” offers and the like.  I really didn’t want any of that.  I had a business and when I got customers, I made money.  Problem was, I didn’t get many customers.
I kinda knew my website was OK if people found it, because several customers had wound up on my website, and then called me and commented on why they wanted to go with me based on my website and specifically what I had written and how I had positioned myself to try to help folks whose houses didn’t work well for energy efficiency or comfort.  There just weren’t many people who were calling, so my idea was to get more people to my website and hopefully get more folks to see who I was and what I was offering.
As dawn broke and more people started streaming in to the Starbucks I was at, I put on some over the ear headphones so I could focus on what I was reading and listening to and needed to understand.  This old pair of blue of white Sony headphones that my oldest daughter still uses.
Wolverine Steel Toe Work Boot- Joshua Fletcher
Anyway, luck seems to kinda work out if you have patience and if you don’t take yourself out of the game.  After a few hours, I found a video online with a guy named Mike Long sitting on a couch (of all things) talking to a dude with sleeve tats about ranking websites on Google.  From here, right now, I still have to call it luck.  I can’t really tell you why I clicked through on that video and why I followed the trail of the tatted guy (Greg) to this course called OMG Machines, but I did.
I could tell Mike was a marketer.  The way he spoke and such, it was obvious something was for sale, but at the same time, he was drawing attention to things that weren’t normal.  Rather, they weren’t common.  Things about duplicatability, about a method and system.  Almost underplaying the huge personality and charisma thing I’d seen elsewhere, and Greg…  Well he was just someone who was ultimately believable.  I wish I had a better word for it, but he was believable.  You could tell he wanted to help for sure, but even more than that, you just got a sense that he really really knew what he was talking about.  I kinda wish I’d bookmarked that video or saved it, but it will live on in my memory forever.
So maybe obviously, I wanted to learn more from these guys.  Problem was, as I mentioned earlier, I was broke.  I’d watched enough to know that if what they shared in the course actually worked, I could rank my business website on Google, create more phone calls and get out of the situation I was in.  That would have been easily solvable, except that I had no money.
I didn’t ask my wife. I didn’t phone my parents.  I didn’t ask my best friend who was an engineer at Intel.  I went on the back porch, dug through a cardboard box with a bunch of unopened mail, stickers, silverfish bugs and dust and found the title to my truck.  I drove it down to the title loan company and because it was so old and in disrepair, the terms I got were crap.  $1200 bucks, and if it wasn’t paid in full in 90 days they would take the truck.  I headed back to the house and called some of the subcontractors I had worked with and sold my thermal camera, my blower door fan, manometer (air pressure tools) and got enough to buy the course, and effectively burned every bridge I had to go back to being a construction worker in this capacity.  For “f” sake, I am not trying to convince anyone to have to do this.  I hope nobody has to.  This last year when I finally told my parents about what I’d done they felt horrible about me not asking them for a loan or money or whatever, but at some point in a man’s life, he has to make some decisions that he alone pays the consequences for.
Well, I sold the stuff and got some money.  Water was back on and I was back at Starbucks, every morning, when they unlocked at 4am.  I watched, learned, built and then laced up my steel toed boots and went to work.  I went home.  Ate with the family and went back to starbucks to work until they closed at 11pm.  I slept enough.  I felt somewhat proud in doing what I could to build and not beg.  Within 45 days I had 30 websites getting online traffic and phone calls that I could take and help folks out with.  I paid off back bills.  I paid off some subcontractors that I was behind paying on.  At a certain point, around 60 days into my website building, I had so many phone calls coming in that I wrote up some data, sent it to Office Depot to get printed and set a meeting with a sub-contractor who did a lot of the same things I did.  I brought him the data of the traffic and phone calls I was getting.  I let him know which of the jobs I’d hired him for had come from the websites I’d built and ranked, and I asked him if he wanted to “buy” the phone calls from these websites.  He was definitely interested, but he was also pretty coy.  He said, yes, I’d like those jobs, let me think about it. I’d pressed the issue by asking if he wanted to buy.  At the “let me think about it” phrase I interjected, of course, I can’t even sell because I’ve promised to meet with Company A, Company B later this week, and I’m only starting a conversation about whether we can all work together to help these folks and make money ourselves.  I left his office with a check for over $10,000 that afternoon.
Lots of shit (pardon the language) has went down since that day.  My mom emergency flighted from Alaska with Lymphoma, my dad having five surgeries for a heart attack and infection, my middle daughter getting a fractured skull, my wife getting diagnosed with cancer, losing an uncle to cancer…  All sorts of things that life will bring, to everyone.  What I am thankful for is that I had the means and life to be present for these events and get through them in a way that I never would have been able to do if I had been working in home improvement.
So, that’s the tip of the iceberg.  The real good stuff that lead to all the good and displaced much of the bad is hard to explain in a simple article.  I’ll be forever grateful to Mike and Greg for being on that webinar back in early 2013, and especially to David, who decades earlier had set a plan in motion that led to creating something that has led me to a place where the life I always saw for myself and my loved ones is a life that I can put together.
Where is Now Poster

How the Brain Processes and Re-assembles the World of Reasons

There are some TEDx talks that have been super helpful to me sorting out and “feeling” like understanding that the world is made of reasons, vs the default association with believing I am actually experiencing “reality”.  That was a dense sentence, and if it was not clear on it’s own, please refer to material developed by David Mills in the Law of Implication series can help build understanding of what those terms refer to.


While having the understanding of those terms, I was faced with how strange it still felt to do what I knew was correct.  One of the pieces of information that I’ve understood as well is that familiarity helps things feel more normal and natural, so I have really sought out more and more references to help build context for how our default way of experiencing the world is often so misleading.


To draw attention to a few elements of this talk that jumped out at me that relate directly to LoI (Law of Implication):

  • How the brain has to fabricate and assemble “reality” based solely on how long it takes to process certain visual elements.  No getting around this.  What you experience in your consciousness screen IS NOT what your eyes actually register, AND multiple elements are combined (Alchemy) in the mind to give us an experience of the world of reasons.  Interesting note: if we take motion out of the alchemical mixture of vision, we literally “go blind”.  Our brain will not assemble a vision of what is happening in the world of reason. Closely related is saccadic masking where the brain accounts for the eye motion it needs to actually assemble vision.
  • The time it takes the brain to process, and then reassemble color, shape and motion is different.  This means we are simply not ever experiencing “now” in the world, it is only ever “now” in our mind (consciousness screen).  The world being made of reasons also matches this function of our brains and how we experience the world.
  • The effectiveness of the brain to create or fabricate a story.  Being able to re-assemble different visual elements into a cohesive representation of what is happening in the world of reasons is a major function of the brain.  Adding in sound and even solely based on the speed of sound and light, it would line up differently on a time-line, but the brain puts it all together and makes the world seem real.  This gave me pause to consider how meaning gets attached to memories, and how that meaning can change if we find out later that something about our memory was incorrect.  “Oh, now that I realize you had a car accident, I’m not mad at you for being late…”  The brain does this all the time with meaning and framework and details.
  • “Time flies when you’re having fun”-> “When you’re having fun, time flies”.  That study for some reason really helped me “see” how the brain associates things, especially within a given context or framework.   If time flew, then we must have had fun…  There are a lot of proxies like this in how we experience things.


See what you think about this video and I’d love to hear more from you below in the comments.  I’ve started posted things on my website now, as opposed to natively in Facebook.  I’ve given them enough free value to keep people on their website over the last 5 years.  Changing and upgrading strategy…