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Innovation Begins with Perspective Shifts

An introduction to the thought leaders I met in Holland—worth your valuable time

“There exists, for everyone, a sentence - a series of words - that has the power to destroy you. Another sentence exists, another series of words, that could heal you. If you’re lucky you will get the second, but you can be certain of getting the first.”

― Philip K. Dick, VALIS

I learned about the election aboard my first flight to Holland last week. Four hours in, the pilot mentioned that he had the results. That he would share the results later in the flight so as not to wake sleeping passengers. Of course, everyone immediately stood up, woke up their neighbor, pleaded for the numbers, and childish, innocent chaos ensued. Perhaps we can call it positive deviance. The kind of glitches in life where if someone walked onto the plane at that moment, they would have misinterpreted everyone's behavior and thought a violent riot was starting.

Nothing like being in Holland for perspective on the election. Its sad to watch people prepare for the future not with initiative, not with a sense of responsibility, not by being a change agent, but by clinging to the idea that a character working restlessly in a house in DC will be responsible for the mistakes they will inevitably make over the next 4 years. For me, political leaders are not accountable for the stupid things I did and will do, or the potholes that I did and will stumble in. If its on my watch, I'm responsible and will find a way.

Science is very clear on this. People who endorse the belief that they can circumvent obstacles that get in the way of their goals are more successful. Not because of magical abilities or thoughts. More simply, people with "pathways thinking" access their mental energy more readily and devote greater effort to pursue the goals that they care about. They possess the blue collar work ethic of Great Depression era grandparents. They don't sit idly by listening to talk show hosts condemn society. They get off their ass and take action, the smallest unit of action necessary, to change a smidgen of the world.

Flossing one tooth. Doing one push up. The smallest unit to taking care of your body.

Reading one page of a book by a credible author who believes something you have completely ruled out. An atheist reading about people who claim knowledge of the afterlife. A feminist reading about the aesthetic beauty of pornography. The smallest unit to perspective taking.

Forget intentions, move to action. Find the smallest unit for every goal, every psychological strength, and every habit that you wish to acquire. These units will be the touchpoints that give direction in life's labryinth where uncertainty and absurdity are guarantees. These units are how we can change our brain, slowly and steadily.

As small minded thoughts pervade the web and media, when it seems as if the sentiment of the world is pessimistic and divisive, I am reminded that behind the scenes there are thought leaders hard at work. Without even knowing it, they are chiseling away at deep rooted life philosophies and will eventually change several of us ever so slightly.

I spend my time searching for these thought leaders. I rarely see them in the act of blaming, maiming, or shaming. They tend to be balanced with one foot rooted in the present where they relish what life offers and one foot in the future where they work to carve out wellsprings of meaning. I write this with deep appreciation for the thought leaders I met in Holland at TEDxUltrecht. Let me introduce you to a few:

Brendan Dawes: @brendandawes and

Massoud and Mahmud Hassani:

Stephen Anderson: @stephenanderson and

Arjan Haring: @arjanharing and

Reint Jan Renes: @ReintJanRenes

In the spirit of curious exploration, I'll let you discover on your own why I've added them to my collection of interesting human specimens.

***And here's my TEDx Talk on "Becoming a Mad Scientist with Your Life"*****

Dr. Todd B. Kashdan is a public speaker, psychologist and professor of psychology at George Mason University. He authored Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life and Designing Positive Psychology. His new book, Mindfulness, Acceptance, and Positive Psychology is available for pre-orders. If you're interested in speaking engagements or workshops, see the contact information at