The Fourth Dogma of Reason-Ability

OK, so you’ve got components to work on, one week at a time, you’ve applied your discernment and now you need to take action, to do something about it. This is where a lot of people fall down: The plan of action they create involves doing something that is just not reasonable.

The Fourth Dogma: A Reasonable Plan

How will I know if my plan is reasonable? Apply the brother-in-law test…

Being able to clearly state what you’re doing and why you’re doing it will make you very convincing when you talk to people. If you can’t explain what you’re doing without your brother-in-law thinking you’re a jerk, then you haven’t got a good enough plan. Because the stereotypical brother-in-law thinks you can’t do anything. Turning it on its head: If your brother in law doesn’t laugh when you tell him what you’re planning to do, then you’re probably onto something.

So, how do we explain what we’re doing in a convincing way?

We tell stories. Tell them stories about all the different aspects of what you’re doing. Use my stories. Use your stories. Use the stories of the research studies. Use examples rather than precepts. Use diagrams, use metaphors, use the algorithms I’m giving you. If you do all these, people will get it.

And above all, use the following format to explain everything you’re doing:

A. The Connection: ‘Well you know how…’

B. The Results: ‘Well, it turns out that…’

C. The Reason: ‘The thinking, the evidence, the logic behind it is…’

D. The Reasonable Plan of Action: ‘So, what I’m going to do is…’

What you’re doing about it, that’s not only well-thought out, but also appears likely to get results. People have to be able to instantly extrapolate your reasonable plan of action into the future results you will get.

This is the ‘Reasoned x Reasonable’ approach and it’s the foundation of any Reason-Ability plan of action. It has to make sense logically and also be transparent how what you’re doing about it is going to work. This is critical. People have to be able to instantly extrapolate your reasonable plan of action into the future results you will get. They have to be able to see for themselves, how likely it is to work.

Sir Isaac Newton famously said examples are more important than precepts when getting ideas across, so I’m going to give you a few examples that are both indicative and contra-indicative: (i.e. I sometimes use the ‘opposite’ of what I’m suggesting to illustrate a point more clearly.)

Example One: Your brother-in-law asks you about your plan to exercise more.

B-I-L: So, what’s this all about then?

You: Well, you know how high blood pressure is the leading cause of early death in the West?

B-I-L: Um, well I can imagine it’s certainly a leading contributor.

You: Well, it turns out that exercising aerobically for just 30 minutes extra per week can reduce your blood pressure by 50%!

B-I-L: What, for everyone? Really?

You: Yes, it looks that way! According to a recent study in Germany, researchers found that as little as 30 minutes of low-level, aerobic exercise per week reduced blood pressure by 50% for over 90% of subjects studied, in a period of just 3 months.

B-I-L: Well, that does sound interesting. I’ll have to check it out. So is that what those new running shoes are all about then?

You: Running shoes? Oh no. These are walking shoes. All I’m going to do is walk the dog at the weekends. Sally usually does it on her own, but I’m going to do Saturday and Sundays from now on with her.

B-I-L: Nice one. That’ll work.

Example Two: Your friend is intrigued about your new bass guitar.

Friend: So, whose bass is that then?

You: Well, you know how I’ve always wanted to learn the bass?

Friend: Yeah… I remember you bought one at college and had it kicking around the dorm for a few months. What ever happened to that?

You: No idea, that was a while ago. Probably lost it in a card game… Yep, so I’ve wanted to learn the bass for years and never really got around to it. You know, every time I got close to it, I sort of did it for a few weeks and then it just fizzled out.

Friend: Yeah… well, there’s tons of things I’ve started and not really finished too.

You: Tell me about it… Anyway, it turns out that the reason a lot of people don’t learn instruments properly is that they don’t have systems in place to force them to do the practice for long enough to get good enough to really start to enjoy it, to play with other musicians etc.

Friend: yeah, well, ok. Maybe. So, what?

You: Well, something interesting just happened. The kid who plays bass in the church band is off to college at the end of the year and so I said I’d stick my hand up and have a crack!

Friend: Er, ok. That sounds interesting. You getting lessons and everything?

You: Well, this is the thing. Because he’s not going for another 6 months, I’ve got time to get good enough. He’s offered to let me sit in on one track each week, and teach me how to play it as we go. This way, it won’t stress me out too much and I’ll have learnt the whole song book by the time he goes to college.

Friend: That sounds awesome. Looking forward to seeing how it turns out. Can I start calling you Sting yet?

Example Three: Your brother-in-law- wants to know all about your decision to quit your job and go traveling.

B-I-L: So, what the hell man? You’ve quit your job?

You: Well, you know how Sally and I’ve always wanted to go traveling? And kept just putting it off?

B-I-L: Um, yeah, kind of. We all want to do that don’t we?

You: Well, yeah I guess. Although I’ve always wanted to do it seriously, like before the kids get too old and everything. You know, traveling with teenagers is not my idea of fun.

B-I-L: Yeah, I reckon. So, what’s the plan?

You: Well, you know how a lot of people these days make money writing travel blogs etc.?

B-I-L: Well, I don’t know they make any money, but I guess they must make enough to actually travel. And eat I suppose.

You: Well, some of them make a good quid. And I can write pretty well. And I think there’s probably a market for traveling with a family. I don’t think many bloggers have covered that area in any depth.

B-I-L: Yeah, ok. Well, maybe not. So, what’s the plan?

You: Well, I’ve bought a domain name and I’ve written to a bunch of newspapers to see if they want me to write any guest articles etc. and I’ve got some money saved up. So, I’m going to rent out the house, sell the car and a bunch of stuff I don’t need and then get cracking. We’ll probably go at the end of March.

B-I-L: So, where are you going to go?

You: Haven’t quite decided yet, I fancy South America to start with.

B-I-L: And what about the kids?

You: Well, they’re not that keen and wife’s a bit apprehensive but I reckon it’ll work out great. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?

B-I-L: Well, I applaud your bravery but it’s a little bit nuts if you don’t mind me saying so. How much are you going to need to live on etc. until you get some income from the writing? Have you thought about possibly getting a TEFL certificate and teaching English as you go, just to give you some more options?

You: Hmmm, that’s not a bad idea, but I was really hoping to be able to just travel and enjoy the experience.

Friend: Um, ok then. Good luck with that.

Of course I’m exaggerating somewhat with this one. But clearly the difference is obvious between Example Three which is pretty flaky and the other two.

The connection is still good, and the reason is still strong, but the plan of action just doesn’t look reasonable.

If people detect certainty, they won’t say anything to dissuade you from your path. Why would they? Their subconscious knows deep down that it’d be futile anyway, and instead of wasting their energy, they’ll align with your certainty instead. They’ll immediately start coming up with all sorts of reasons why your course of action is a wonderful idea.

Combining a shaky plan with the uncertainty in delivery, makes it easy for people to doubt whether you are going to go through with it and also whether or not it’s going to be a disaster.

So, one of the principal ambitions of this programme is that you’re going to be able to give people a very clear reason for doing what you’re doing and to back it up with a very reasonable plan.

You’re not going to get anyone doubting you. You’ll be amazed.

So, that’s it for the four dogmas of reason-ability:

1. Break your goal up into components: marginal gains

2. Focus on one component per week: the 13×4

3. Know why you’re doing it: discernment

4. Make whatever you do reasonable: a reasonable plan

Does that sound reasonable?