My lizard brain
These mistakes are easy to see in hindsight. However, as I’ve learned in building Campfire Labs, even knowing how to create value and invest in growth doesn’t change the fact that it’s difficult and requires discipline.
Often times creating value is in direct conflict with maximizing short term profit. Most savvy business people know that investments (i.e. forgoing short term profits) generally leads to more profit and value later. Yet, so many leaders don’t make the logical decision to invest in the future. Reading books on psychology over the last few years has helped me understand why.
In these books I learned that there are essentially two parts of the brain: the lower brain and upper brain, also referred to as System 1 and System 2. In our evolution as humans the lower brain developed first. It’s what helped us determine what threatened our lives and so it’s where “fight or flight” decisions happen. It’s also where most of our emotions, like fear and love get processed. The upper brain developed later in our evolution. This is the area of the brain where logic and reason take place. (For a proper explanation of all this, I recommend reading Jonathan Haidt’s books and research, or Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow).
While we tend to think that most of our decisions are made with reason and logic, the truth is we often don’t. Instead, as Jonathan Haidt has argues in his research, the lower brain– what he refers to as the “elephant”— often makes decisions, and then our upper brain—“the rider” in his analogy—comes up with good reasons for that decision. In other words the elephant goes one direction and then the rider seeks to justify its actions.