#40 Half-Brained

I was at the office at 2:45 this morning because I couldn't sleep. Downside: I really like sleep.
Upside: I had a few extra hours to back into the archive and dig up some stuff that might be worth repurposing.

Below is the first couple of pages from the March 2021 edition of what used to be a paid, direct mail newsletter.

From The Desk Of Nic Peterson
Seattle, Washington
Middle of March 2021

“The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.”
- Niles Bohr

It’s painful for me to watch entrepreneurs try and solve their problems while being stuck inside “the box.” The problem with “the box” is simple. You're searching for solutions to the unknown using only what you know. If the problem is intractable for you, the solution is not going to be found within the box of what you know. It often lies in a slight inversion or duality.

For purposes of this letter, think of duality as being “equal but opposite.”

I’ll often tell clients to back into a solution or invert a problem if the solution is not immediately clear. [If the solution is obvious we don’t need to invert, we need to implement]

When we identify a problem and the solution is not immediately obvious, we look harder at the problem. What we need to do is step back and think hard about what we are not looking at. We can ask ourselves, “What is the opposite of this thing, problem, or solution?”

Half of your brain is going to have a very hard time with this, which is a big reason most people are swimming upstream.

I’ll explain why shortly.

Back to the quote above; Bohr states that the opposite of a correct statement is an incorrect statement.  This seems to contradict the other half of the sentence which states that the opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth. Can the opposite of something that is right still be right?

And that my friend, is where I say:

It Depends.

In this case, it depends on which side of your brain you talk to.

As you know, the human brain is divided into two hemispheres, the left brain and the right brain. A perfect example of duality: equal but opposite. And if you let it, the right brain will invert the experience of the left brain and vice versa.

The left brain is the linear thinker in you. Vertical, rational, sequential thinking. This hemisphere is strongly bonded to duality. To the left brain, everything is either black or white, there is only right and wrong; a correct way to do things and an incorrect way to do things. 

Left-brain thinkers are dogmatic, they're the rule followers, operators, and “logical” people. 

The right brain uses horizontal thought and pattern recognition. It’s not looking for the details, it's working to understand the underlying principles. The patterns and principles underpinning the problem and potential solutions. 

Left-brainers are the most likely to niche-down hard and follow convention. I made a post about why that's not my style here.

Right-brain thinkers are the weirdos. They don't make any sense to everyone else. 

The left brain is solving one problem at a time. The right brain is not solving a single problem, but also all the problems connected to the issue. The right brain is holistic and dynamic. It understands complexity and thinks in complex systems.

Ever met someone that seems to figure things out difficult things but kind of seems like a wackadoo? (Hint: see every innovator and disruptor in history).

They seem like a total wackadoo because they are solving problems with the right side of their brain. The right side of the brain doesn't have standard language functions. The languages of our right brain are not literal, concrete, or absolute (because it depends).  The solution to complex problems will reveal itself on the right side of the brain, but the words to articulate the solution are likely missing. 

More on this later, because this is REALLY important. 

Here is another funny thing about the right side of the brain (and how you can tell if someone is utilizing theirs):  

It makes no judgment, has no morals, nor does it take a position - and it doesn’t care. 

Think about that. Half your brain, 50% of the size and complexity of your brain, doesn’t know right from wrong. 

So, it begs the question… Why does this half even exist? That’s a lot of space and energy to take up for no purpose.

I have my thoughts. Since I’m stuck in right-brain mode as I am writing this, I don't see a right or a wrong answer. I see two practical ways to look at this:

The first is that I'm glad that we have cognitive horsepower that cannot tell right from wrong. If what we knew the right way is the only right way, we would still be in the dark ages. Let's not forget about how wrong we were about the things we believed to be right, in the past. 

If the entire brain was left-brained nobody would challenge convention. We'd be suspended in time, sans innovation. If there is only one way to do a thing, we would never improve the way we do things.

And I'm glad we have the brainpower to see the gray area. A black-and-white world is a world where authority can never be questioned. 

Many children are taught that the beliefs of their authority figures are the only acceptable beliefs. Without a little right-brain action, we would never question those authorities or beliefs. 

The second is the realization that people want to believe that the right side of the brain is useless. It's much easier to believe all the right answers exist and that some authority figure has them.

No judgment if you believe there is only one way to do a thing. But it would be remiss of me not to point out the obvious:

If you are choosing to approach this letter or any other aspect of your life from only the “logical” side of your brain…

You’re Only Using Half Your Brain

I lean towards believing that the right side of our brain is more important than most want to believe. I have a list of reasons, but here is the main one:

To argue that the logical and linear is all that matters is to forfeit the use of half your brain. 

Which doesn’t seem logical at all.

"Most prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty"

Virginia Satir

The Letter

I've kicked around the idea of restarting the Letter. I love the idea of having a tangible thing to sit down and read. I don't think I'll do it, since I don't want to commit to writing one each month.

But I will continue to dig up past issues. I get value from reading them, they make great "reminders to self". If I think it might be useful, I'll share bits and pieces here with you or over on the tweet machine.

Another section from the March 2021 Letter covers how to break free from left-brain thinking in business, and how it's more profitable than most people can understand. It's posted right here.



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