The Default Human

Phew! Karthi.....that was too much to take in all this week!

Just tell me what should I do with all this understanding. I want actionable tips around how to apply human nature on me and on people around me.

If you are nodding on that line, I totally empathise. It is human to be restless and impatient to jump to the outcome faster. Just wait a little longer...

Instead of writing just one post with actionable tips, why did I elaborate multiple aspects as a series? There is a reason.

Awareness enhances acceptance.
Acceptance accelerates action.
Action changes everything.

It is not will or motivation or hard work or even smart work that makes you a better human being. It is your awareness.

Science gives you better awareness. The evidence makes it rational. The theories and models are backed by a number of studies and correlated results. Hence when you know about the core of a subject, you tend to apply the learnings better. The reasoning gives you clarity and clarity gives you confidence to act. Especially subjects like psychology, social sciences and behavioural sciences are super hard to grapple with in a scientific manner as they are not black and white. grey is not easy on our brain as well. It causes a lot of ambiguity.

The whole series was aimed at discussing advanced aspects of human nature which are hardly discussed in schools or colleges. Knowing human nature can help you with discernment. It can also help you empathise with the other person. You will know when you are stuck in a power struggle. Your conscientiousness will act as your compass.

Today's struggles are not in the form of fighting sabre tooth tigers and wars between nations. It is about surviving in a workplace, surviving a relationship, surviving our own self sabotage, surviving burnout etc

Before going to tips and tricks, it is important to understand the truths of the dynamic nature of human beings first. When you know the nature of the beast, you will know how to work with it better. That is the first golden rule of system designers, design for the system and not against the system.

Know how the system works, so that you know how not to work against it.

  1. A human system is an energy efficient, pleasure seeking and pain avoiding machine. It is hard for humans to understand long term compounding. Usually they focus on short-term (immediate emotions and reactions).
  2. The neurotransmitters are chemical messengers of the body. They give signal to the brain if the body feels pain or pleasure. They are excitatory, inhibitory and modulatory in nature. Dopamine, Serotonin, and Oxytocin indicates the pleasure aspects and the lack explains pain, sadness and dullness.
  3. Survival (self-preservation) and survival of genes (procreation) are the basis of all human decisions and actions.
  4. Human beings are irrational by default for energy efficiency purposes. It takes a lot of work to be rational hence very few are good at thinking, decision making and philosophy.
  5. A typical human being is governed by cognitive biases, past experiences, limited exposures and experiences. We carry 30000 ancestors with us at all times. Our genes keep score. Our body keeps score. It remembers everything and it is invisible and off our awareness. What surfaces in our conscious mind is limited information. What triggers our emotion is a lot more than what is there is processed by our conscious mind.
  6. Human beings are social animals. We constantly seek connections with others that help us survive and thrive as a unit. In the process of connecting, we also compare our absolute self relatively. Comparison is our brain's shortcut for setting the bar.
  7. Human beings use language, make tools and collaborate + coordinate with strangers. This helps them build efficiency, effectiveness and efficacy which is hard for other animals. Despite not being the fastest or strongest, our adaptability helps us rule the planet.
  8. Distributed cognition >> Individual cognition. Group intelligence helps us survive better than being alone. The herd mentality in us makes us conform to norms. At the expense of individuality we conform. Herd mentality exists for a reason. Don't fight the basic instincts.
  9. Different human beings have different needs and wants at different times in different context. Their actions, motivation, agency and urgency in the moment is driven by their current needs and wants.
  10. Delayed gratification makes us restless. We want instant results. This is why sticking to the process is hard. We quickly jump to outcomes. When we don't see the necessary outcomes, we give up.
  11. We are visual beings. What is visible and tangible helps us understand better. What is invisible, intangible and abstract makes us nervous. This is why ambiguity is not our cup of tea. We seek clarity and that too quickly.
  12. Human beings are largely driven by emotion rather than logic. Understanding our emotional undercurrents helps us with make better everyday decisions.
  13. Human beings are an amalgamation of good and evil. Understanding this will help you deal with the person/situation/system effectively.
  14. You cannot read minds. No one can. Knowing this will help you express better if you want the other person to understand what you are going through. Expecting the other person to understand what is running in your mind is idiocy.
  15. People play roles. When they play a certain role they wear a certain mask(aka persona). Seeing who they really are, above and beyond the mask/role will help you assess the person better. A little skepticism helps.
  16. Personality/character/temperament/value system of a person is moulded by their past environment/exposure/experiences. If they act in a certain way, there is a strong reason behind it. They may know it or not. Give it a benefit of doubt. Human behaviours are repeatable patterns. They don't change so easily. Changing them takes a lot of time.
  17. Envy/resentment/greed is a survival tendency. Hence covetousness is inevitable. Ponder about what they want from you. Usually their actions show what they want better than their words.
  18. Defensiveness/guarding is a survival mechanism. When people feel attacked (physically, emotionally, ideology) they start defending. Defensiveness breeds conflicts.
  19. Fears and insecurities drive a lot of action. Human beings act stupid, harmful and against their self-interest due to insecurities. Human self sabotage is a common phenomenon.
  20. As a species, we tend to be overly confident. This leads to a sense of superiority or grandiosity. Such overconfidence often drives us towards unrealistic expectations and can be a root cause of many failures.
  21. Human beings feel complete with a responsibility (larger than themselves) that gives meaning and purpose. Lack of meaning/purpose makes a person feel empty and unhappy.
  22. Human beings are fickle. By default there is no loyalty. Loyalty is hard earned. If the answer to what is in it for me is NONE then the other person will not engage with you.
  23. Humans regard reputation highly. How they look in front of others matters a lot. However, others don't care how we look. They are worried about their own reputation 🙈
  24. To fulfil their need for recognition, validation and approval from other people (usually higher in dominance hierarchy), people play status and attention games.
  25. Human beings are control freaks. They are power/control hungry. This leads to people taking different roles at different situations - victim (controlled) or persecutor (controller) or a rescuer (get the rescuer away from the persecutor).
  26. Anger and aggression is a basic human instinct. Beating this instinct is hard.
  27. Human beings are afraid of death. Mortality as a truth is hard to grasp.
  28. People play different games to show them in good light despite their intention being bad: If it weren't for you, I am only trying to help you, why don't you, yes but... are common manipulative games they play.
  29. Human beings suck at secrets. You don't know how one person is related to another. You also don't know if the other person understood you fully. In short, you don't know what you don't know.
  30. Your enemy and my enemy are the same. Let's be friends to destroy our enemy is a common strategy. Negativity compounds as much as positivity does.
  31. It is fascinating to note that we hate scarcity (poverty) but we chase scarcity (luxury) with all our might.
  32. The human ageing curve is real. With age our system deteriorates and we will perish one day. Just that we don't know the expiry date upfront. It takes a lot to keep the system in top notch condition and elongate the ageing curve.
  33. We are excited by novelty. We are curious to learn about new things. Our curiosity becomes drudgery when we need to put in more effort to learn new things.

A human is very elegant, complex and dynamic being. Probably that is why we call it BEING and not just be. In every context, multiple forces act at the same time from different directions. It is hard to pinpoint a single reason for a behaviour or a decision. It is always a complex equation. It is human to reduce everything to a simplistic narrative and miss the nuances that truly define the situation.

Tomorrow, let's discuss what does it take to un-default this human being.

🥂 to the default!

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