The Red Honda Theory

joe —  Fri 5-Feb-10

I am a voracious reader when it comes to non-fiction, especially books on leadership, sociology and cognitive theory. However, little of what I gain from reading a book comes from the written material. The main reason I read is because of what happens after I finish.

In 1992 I was shopping for a new car and stopped by the local Honda dealership. After telling the salesman that”sporty” was the image I was seeking he told me to check out the new Prelude. I had seen the Prelude before – just a little nicer Accord in my opinion. This year was different as the Prelude had just received a sporty new overhaul. I loved it. I had to have it. Wow, I don’t think anyone knew about this well keptsecret as I have never seen this car on the road before. I would be the first of my friends to own one.

Red Honda.pngAfter making the purchase and driving off of the lot for the trip home I must have seen five more 1992 Honda Preludes, two of them red.

Why The Face? Was there a special on Preludes that weekend or was I such an influential buyer that my purchase was the magic tipping point that allowed others to buy as well?

Ummm, no.

The only reason I noticed five red Hondas this day rather than any other is because I was now aware of them.

This is one of the reasons that news stories all seem to cluster together. Once we hear of a devastating earthquake in Indonesia we now notice how many temblors occur in northern California on a regular basis. Each event causes a heightened sensitivity to the components of that event.

These new sensitivities can be good, evil or somewhere in between. I’ll bet if you hear of a small plane crash in Dickinson.pngDickinson, North Dakota on CNN that there was likely a major crash within the few days preceding the event. Nothing wrong with the reporting, except that it seems to be promoting some other message that stirs your emotions. Small planes crash regularly but we don’t hear of them. The media is using the event to create a meta-event, one that likely has no credibility from a statistical perspective.

But knowing of this availability bias that we humans posses allows us to use it for our own benefit as well. I do this with my reading. If I want to understand the world from a different perspective, I choose a book that seeds my awareness and then watch what happens in the ensuing weeks.

The key is that the book is only the seed – and hopefully a purposeful one. Those first few weeks afterward are where I learn the most. It was amazing how many times I discovered the many overly complex choices I make on a daily basis after reading The Paradox of Choice or how many incentive systems are used every day after reading Punished By Rewards.

It was in those fleeting, heightened moments of awareness that I cemented much of what I know today.

Today’s Question
Do you purposefully create opportunities to learn unscripted lessons?