017: Developing Uncommon Sense

In This Episode: Can you really develop Uncommon Sense? From none to some, and from some to more? Yes: it can grow, get stronger, and help you in your life — or even save your life. Here’s how.


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Show Notes

  • The links to the previous episodes I discuss are in context in the transcript below.

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Transcript

In last week’s episode, I said that part of my message of this entire series is, you can develop Uncommon Sense. That’s right: it can grow, get stronger, and help you in your life. And as we saw last week, it can even save your life. This week, I promised to tell you how. Well… let’s get to it!

I’m Randy Cassingham, welcome to Uncommon Sense.

This is episode 17. Over the past 16 episodes, we’ve heard about some amazing people — and some ordinary people — who have exhibited Uncommon Sense. Let me very briefly recap them: if you missed any of the episodes, the Show Page has links to each of them:

  1. A lowly book reader who insisted her boss’s rejection of a manuscript was actually a hidden diamond of a book, and she was so emboldened about being right, she went on to be a star editor in the publishing business for over 60 years, helping to polish many more diamonds. The Best of Humanity
  2. Three short stories of people in the medical profession stepping outside their strict protocols to do the right thing, including one I witnessed first hand that had a profound impact on my life — not just as a volunteer medic, but as a writer and a human being. Reverberating for Decades
  3. My inside story of the people behind the robotic spacecraft we send to explore other planets …and beyond, recorded after I went to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory just to be there for the end of the Cassini mission at Saturn. Cassini: The Bigger Picture
  4. A man who admitted he was just a lazy schoolteacher, but ended up being recruited by the biggest of the blue-chip companies, where he became a star inventor because the CEO believed in him — and gave him free reign to just do what he wanted, because that CEO knew Uncommon Sense when he saw it. Full Circle
  5. A fun feel-good story about a woman who was interrupted on one of the most important days of her life, and yet created an unforgettable moment not only for a stranger, and not only for herself, but for all of us who saw the viral story online. The Last Stroke of Midnight
  6. Two people separated by 70 years who realized they could help others step up to change the world in profound, life-enhancing (and live-saving) ways. The X Factor
  7. A woman who was completely fooled by self-deception and, on the brink of death, realized she was doing the wrong thing and started over — and the guy with Uncommon Sense who acted immediately, and thus helped give her that chance at a new life. A Second Opinion
  8. A guy whose life was saved by a stranger, decided to pay that forward, and succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams: he saved millions of lives. The Man with the Golden Arm
  9. A cautionary tale showing the first specific glimpse of how you can develop your own Uncommon Sense, even though I was pretty subtle about it. The Headlines Lied
  10. An inspiring story with another way to develop your own Uncommon Sense, and this one was a little less subtle. “I Just Don’t Have Time”
  11. A young woman had enough Uncommon Sense to understand she was in a unique position to directly help turn the tide of a World War — and she did, even though she risked her life again and again to do it. We Need Better Heroes
  12. Another subtle lesson on how to develop Uncommon Sense, disguised as a feel-good story. Dreaming Big
  13. How to reframe the apparent bad luck of having what’s considered a brain disorder, but using it to leverage it into an absolute superpower, not a malady. How ADD Made TRUE Possible
  14. The story of another man who bucked the conventions of his profession to force the experts into helping him …save millions of lives. Expect the Unexpected
  15. The social worker who had a big goal in life …and then didn’t need what he worked so hard to achieve. A big letdown? Not at all: he simply reframed his goal, and managed to make an impact so huge it made headlines around the world. Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize And, finally, last week,
  16. A woman who owes her life to simply paying attention to an absolutely weird, completely unexpected, signal …from her dog?! Barking Up the Right Tree

The best part of it all: I’m told they’re interesting to listen to, they’re eye- and mind-opening, and they’re short: most of them only needed 10-15 minutes to make their points.

So: is it true? Can you really develop Uncommon Sense? From none to some, and from some to more? You bet: I sure don’t believe that some people are simply born with it, and some just aren’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure that everyone is born without it: that it’s almost entirely nurture, not nature. Sure, it’s easier for some people — but I think that’s due to nurture too: I’ll talk about that in a few minutes. And by the way, that nurturing of Uncommon Sense in people didn’t necessarily come from their parents!

Oh, and also? Common or Uncommon Sense doesn’t even require a lot of intelligence! I’ve known plenty of people who were highly intelligent who didn’t have a lick of sense — haven’t you? And plenty of people with pretty humble intelligence who did have Uncommon Sense. If you think about it, you probably can name people like that too. So the excuse of “I’m not smart enough to learn Uncommon Sense” just doesn’t wash.

But let’s draw out some of the lessons from those episodes: to make clear several ways to think about how you can develop your own Uncommon Sense — or, even better, to help your children or grandchildren develop it.

And that was lesson one! Did you catch it? It was this: to think about it. Seriously. People with Uncommon Sense think about things. I even said so explicitly in the previous episode: “people with Uncommon Sense are open-minded. They pay attention to strange things that happen around them, and they think about them.”

Thinking about things doesn’t mean you have to go through life pausing every few seconds to spend a minute or two pondering every detail in life. It does mean not going through life like a zombie, oblivious to everything around you. And boy, don’t we all see that all the time (if we’re looking)!

Thinking starts with paying attention, which means slowing down just a little. One of the reasons that even common sense is so uncommon is, we’re always in a rush, worried about what we have to do next! We “have to” look at our phones while we’re walking — or, worse, while we’re driving! — to try to catch up with what’s usually trivia that doesn’t matter to our jobs, or our lives. At all.

What happens when you pull your head out of your …phone? Or any other dark place? You notice your surroundings more. You pick up on hazards, like the car or person in front of you. You know how often people walk into street lights and poles? Or right in front of cars? That’s not Uncommon Sense — or even common sense! So yeah, the first step toward Uncommon Sense is to (yes!) start exercising plain old common sense. It takes conscious intention. Keep your head up and your eyes scanning! Because you can’t have Uncommon Sense without first having the common variety!

What was the subtle lesson from Episode 9 that I mentioned? That you have to look beyond the headlines. What is a news headline’s job? Seriously: what’s it there for? How many of you are saying, “To get you to read the story”? That used to be a headline’s job! At least, in the old days it was to let you know really briefly what the story is about so, if it was something you might want to know about, then you’d read the story. That’s what newspapers were. For you young-uns, a newspaper is a printed archive of a day’s additions to a news web site.

But that’s not the case anymore: that’s not why headlines are there, and that’s not what dictates its wording — not anymore. Now it’s to get you to click on it to go to the publisher’s site so they can show you ads, because that’s how they gain reputation and make money. I’m not saying the story is a lie — necessarily. But news sites are competing for your attention when there are perhaps scores of other sites doing the exact same thing, just in one window on your computer screen. On a tablet, there might only be 15 or 20, and your phone maybe 5 or 10 …until you scroll down a little and get 5 or 10, or 15 or 20, more. And more, and more, and more.

“17 ways celebrities embarrassed themselves last week — and you won’t believe #10!”

Sound familiar?

Yep, we’re all overloaded most of the time. So why are you looking at Facebook? Because Facebook works hard to literally addict you to endlessly scrolling through it, looking for a shot of dopamine to give you a little satisfaction so that …you keep doing it. And if you get interrupted by something more important? Well, just about everything is more important! But the addiction means, when you’re the least bit bored, you want to pop back into Facebook and see what’s new.

But, you might argue: “That’s the only way to keep up with my friends or family!” And maybe that’s even true. You know what I do when I scroll through Facebook? — and yes, every couple of days, I do! I’m evaluating every item with the thought (hey, there’s that conscious intention again!) — the thought, do I care what this person is posting? Do I ever care? When the answer is no, I either “snooze” them for 30 days — did you know Facebook has that function? — or I unfollow them. Did you know you could do that? You don’t have to worry about “unfriending” someone, that they might be offended. Unfollow means their posts don’t ever show up in your feed, but when they look for you — or you look for them — you’re still “friends”. You can still see what each other posts.

And by the way, when someone says to me, “Did you see my post?” I’ll say, “I don’t spend much time on Facebook anymore” — and that’s true.

The way to “have time” for things that are actually important to you is …to stop paying attention to things that aren’t important to you. That was the subtle lesson of episode 10.

Now: did you notice we’re on a tangent here? I was talking about headlines and news stories! The lesson of episode 9 was to dig a little deeper: what is the story behind the headline? Did the headline lie to you? When you pay attention to the association — or the lack of one — you start to develop a knack for knowing the kind of headline that’s trying to trick you into clicking. And what is that knack? It’s a little slice of Uncommon Sense. There isn’t a lot of common sense in this realm, is there? Some people still completely believe the fake news stories fed to them by Russians who worked very hard to sway our Presidential election. I’m not being political with that: it happened to people on both sides of the political spectrum. It’s objectively true.

Anyway, moving on…. Episodes 13 and 14 were about just that sort of stepping back and looking for a different way of doing things. In 13, I brought in my high performance coach, who happens to be my wife, to talk about how ADD isn’t a “disorder” when it comes to my life, and maybe not anyone’s. I long ago realized that what my brain did differently was a help to me, not a hindrance — ADD (or ADHD if you prefer) actually enabled me to create something entirely new that no one had done before: to make a living on the Internet by being entertaining …with the underlying mission being to show my readers how thinking, rather than reacting, is a primary path to Uncommon Sense.

And episode 14 was a mind-blowing example of someone else doing the same thing: not using ADD, but looking at things in a new way to make something amazing happen.

And what about thinking, rather than reacting? That’s pretty much the theme of This is True, my text newsletter that’s been publishing weekly since 1994. Do you know what happens when children read This is True? The impact is often profound: their developing minds absorb something really useful: the basis for Uncommon Sense. And, by the way, example after example of the ramifications of not acting with Uncommon Sense. I’ll be talking more about that in future episodes. And by the way? That’s just the sort of nurturing I was talking about a few minutes ago: it doesn’t have to come from the parents.

The truism in the world today is, “common sense isn’t common.” I’ve heard that hundreds of times, and you’ve probably said it yourself. But why is it true? Because we as a society, and especially we as parents, don’t nurture it. I talked in episode 2 about how something I witnessed as a very young man “reverberated for decades.” The event probably only lasted 5 minutes, and the doctor who provided the lesson didn’t even know he was doing it: he was simply taking care of his patient — a man I had brought to him. But I was paying attention. And what did that event become?

Pure nurture.

Here’s how I closed that episode:

And that’s another important aspect of Uncommon Sense: you never know who is watching, and learning, from the example you set. Think of that the next time you’re doing something with your kids, grandkids, or even random children in your neighborhood. Your actions — positive or negative — could reverberate for decades.

Pure nurture.

It’s probably too late for you to be nurtured this way by your parents, but it’s absolutely not too late for you to nurture it in your children, grandchildren, or just the kids around you that probably irritate you because you’re just reacting to them.

The bottom line here is the same as what I said at the top: you should come away from this with a fundamental understanding that, yes, Uncommon Sense can be developed. Not only can it be supported and helped to grow, I think it’s one of our responsibilities as human beings to be that nurturing mentor — to help others get it, no matter how much we have. Really: can you imagine how much better the world would be if everyone simply had common sense, let alone Uncommon Sense? I can, and that’s why I’ve dedicated my life to getting people to think about it more, in part by — simply — thinking more.

Think about that!

This is just a start: there are a lot more episodes to come. Please subscribe to Uncommon Sense in your favorite podcast app or, if that’s too techie for you, you can subscribe to email notifications of my blog posts, which includes new episodes of Uncommon Sense, which you can listen to right on each episode’s Show Page.

This episode’s Show Page is at thisistrue.com/podcast17. You can see the links to the previous episodes I mentioned, and comment on this episode, there.

I’m Randy Cassingham … and I’ll talk at you later.

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