“Too often, we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought” — John F. Kennedy.

JFK made the above comment during a 1962 commencement speech to the graduating class at Yale. The point he was trying to make is that fitting in and having friends is easier to do when everyone shares the same opinions. When someone agrees with your point of view, it feels good. One tends to like people who agree with them more than people who disagree. Disagreement isn’t bad, but it’s difficult to make someone feel good and disagree with them at the same…


It’s totally appropriate to challenge someone’s thinking. It’s not appropriate to call people names or get violent because of a disagreement. Religion, politics and race have a special tendency to spark confrontation. We can’t just ignore these topics or people we disagree with, though. So, how do we go about having difficult conversations? Here are a few tips;

  1. Summon your inner Sun Tzu (Art of War author) and decide if the battle is worth having. Some folks are so attached to their beliefs that they get angry when talking about them. Those people generally aren’t worth sparring with. …

We all know that we want the good stuff. We want stuff to be higher quality. We don’t choose products or restaurants because they’re terrible, right? Explaining exactly what quality means is not an easy task. When given two items to compare side by side, we can generally feel or sense which one is higher quality. But what is it that makes something have quality?

Quality is a squishy concept to define, often subject to an individual’s opinion. What is or is not considered “quality” will vary between industries, but the following dimensions are used for most physical products. …


It’s said that 10% of life is what happens, 90% is how we react to it. Yet there is very little time dedicated to teaching students how to react differently.

Our default reactions stem from whatever neural pathways are the strongest in our mind. The things we do most are the easiest things to repeat, forming superhighway neural pathways. Like electricity, ideas want to take the path of least resistance. A large highway is much smoother to drive down than a forest service road. Repetition makes our neural pathways painless to navigate, then makes them default routes, forming mental superhighways.


Most of us have a certain set of beliefs that we have adopted over time, unconsciously, from our parents, teachers, friends, co workers, roommates, or others we spend time around. We do this without really identifying why. We end up operating with a set of default thoughts about the world, influenced by those around us. We carry every bag of groceries in a single trip because we saw someone else do it once. We wash out hair first, then the rest of body when we shower. Not because we have a good reason, but because a parent taught us that…


We’ve all been in a situation where we’re faced with an ultimatum. Do we step up, or step down? Meaning, do we increase our efforts to make something happen, or do we quit before everything fails? This could be on a project, in a relationship, on a marketing campaign, a job search, a road trip gone awry, etc. There is an old story of a miner in Colorado giving up when he was just three feet away from striking literal gold. That’s the (metaphorical) risk we face. Do we walk away and risk missing the desired outcome? …


ACME, unfortunately, has been going through a rough quarter. Overall sales for their signature Bamboo bookshelves are up, but returns have gone up by more than 40% this quarter. ACME has a strong belief in providing great customer service and they issue full refunds for bad products. Reducing the number of returns, then, is a priority to keep a steady cash position. To understand why returns have been going up so much, they need to find the root cause of the issue. Knowing that customers have been returning the Bamboo bookshelves, they begin by asking;

Why are shelves being returned?


A popular trope in the business (read: tech startup) world over the last decade has been some variation of fail fast or fail forward or move fast and break things. These phrases can be empowering in certain settings and devastating in others. One contingency argues that starting with failure is a recipe for disaster. Another says that failure is the best way to learn. What matters more than what phrases a business uses, though, is what actions are taken. Setting out to fail, as a strategy, is going to bring failure. …


We all know that we want the good stuff. We want stuff to be higher quality. We don’t choose products or restaurants because they’re terrible, right? Explaining exactly what quality means is not an easy task. When given two items to compare side by side, we can generally feel or sense which one is higher quality. But what is it that makes something have quality?

Quality is a squishy concept to define, often subject to an individual’s opinion. What is or is not considered “quality” will vary between industries, but the following dimensions are used for most physical products. …


Being able to apply congruency in our own thought process is a super power. Spotting patterns in disparate domains that apply the same thought processes, for example, and consistently drawing the same conclusion, is a sign of deep understanding. Nassim Taleb tells a story of the wealthy banker that has a bell hop take their bags to their hotel room, only to be seen in the gym an hour later lifting weights. The point Taleb is making is that if the banker is concerned with fitness, they should be moving their own bags.

Being congruent in your own thoughts means…

Quinn Hanson

Author of “The Pocket Guide To Making Stuff Better.” Business Engineer. More on Twitter @Quinn_Hanson22

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