Melbourne drivers have a habit of travelling in two lanes at once, across the white line. It’s infuriating. I know where I am going, and I need to be in the left lane to get there. So when I get behind a driver who sits across both left and right lines, they appear to be a monster, an idiot, and a deeply selfish, self-centred unreasonable person.
Or are they simply demonstrating the highest level of human intelligence, one that gives us a deep insight into why writing a book makes us so uncomfortable? In a fascinating TED talk, entrepreneur and scientist Alex Wissner-Gross provides us with a new equation for intelligence. ‘Intelligence should be viewed as a physical process that tries to maximise future freedom of action and avoid constraints in its own future.’
In other words, it is entirely human – and intelligent – to keep your options open for as long as possible. Which makes sense out of driving down the middle of two lanes (even if it puts other drivers into the road-rage zone). After all, we have all had the experience of committing ourselves to a lane, discovering this was the wrong decision, and being blocked from changing our minds by weirdos.
It even explains why Donald Trump was elected. Even though his election was a decidedly unintelligent move, he won because he promised to keep all options open – even those that are impossible. More honest politicians had to admit, for example, that it’s not possible to kick-start the manufacturing sector in America. But Trump promised he would do this. He appealed to our very human tendency to want to keep options open, even when the evidence shows this is impossible. Wissner-Gross assumed that human intelligence would rule out options that are fantasy. Unfortunately, not always.
Writing a book is like choosing the left lane on the freeway
When we write a book and publish it, we commit ourselves – big time! We put a stake in the sand. The sheer enormity of the commitment sends bolts of fear through our body. And Wissner-Gross explains why. We fear that we are closing off options and going against everything we believe to be intelligent. Publishing a book is both dumb and inhuman because it is: a physical process that tries to limit future freedom of action and increase constraints in its own future. Right?
Create an intelligent book that maximises your future freedom
It’s all about the people you serve
See your book as a service to others, not (solely) as an opportunity to promote yourself and your practice. Think about it: with all that you have learned, who are you to withhold that wisdom from those who might benefit from it?
Your book is one of many
Your book is a step in the evolution of your thought leadership. While it commits you to a position today, you continue to think, examine, read and revisit your ideas. Base your position on the research, data and experience available to you today. Then you free yourself to change your views in the future if the evidence changes. As the famous economist John Maynard Keynes once said ‘When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?’
Be clear about the freedoms you will gain
Firstly, be clear about (and write down) all the ways in which your book increases your future freedom. For example:
- More credibility and recognition in the market.
- The chance to choose to work with people you like on work you love (as they say at Thought Leader Business School).
- Media attention.
- Higher fees.
It can seem stupid, almost ridiculous, to write a book because you commit yourself to your thinking today. That is human. That is even intelligent. But the truth is you will ‘maximise future freedom of action and avoid constraints in its own future’ if you publish a book that serves others, reflects your best thinking at the time, and gives you the authority to choose your clients (and your fees).
PS: Want more? You might like: Grateful for the bad stuff