I’ve grown increasingly cynical about the smorgasbord of books, podcasts, newsletters, and articles I consume.
Is any of it doing me any good?
Sure, “Readers are leaders,” but I’m starting to believe that’s more correlation than causation. I wonder if I’d be more creative—more me—if I left my brain to its own devices rather than stuff it with others’ thoughts and ideas.
Likewise, I wonder if you’re getting anything positive from reading these words.
Discovering a Divine Experiment
One “zag” I’ve considered is to go full nerd. If I’m going to be an egghead, why not go ostrich-sized? Go back to school for a PhD in psychology.
So I checked out the Psych department at the University of British Columbia here in Vancouver.
I’m not sure why—a divine force?—but something compelled me to read the paper “God Is Watching You” by UBC professor Ara Norenzaya.
In the study, Vancouverites were told to solve a set of word puzzles. A few minutes later, they were given ten one-dollar coins and asked how many they wanted to keep and how many they wanted to give to a complete stranger.
Some participants’ word puzzles contained religious terms like “divine” and “God.” Incredibly, they gave away 78% more money than the participants primed with neutral words ($4.60 versus $2.60, on average).
An enlightening thought flashed in my mind:
Could the books, articles, and podcasts I consume be subtly, if subliminally, affecting my behavior, too?
Or is this rationale another way for me to justify my unhealthy information overconsumption habit? Maybe learning about Norenzaya’s study was another waste of my time and attention.
The Heavenly Flip-Flop
That night, after finally getting Sandy into a milk coma and reading some of my latest brain candy, The Halo Effect, I started to nod off when—FLASH!
A burst of kaleidoscopic clouds materialized from the ceiling, and a talking golden flip-flop levitated down, radiating in divine light.
My jaw would have dropped if I hadn’t taped my mouth shut before bed (It forces me to breathe through my nose.)
“I know you’re not religious, highly skeptical, and rational. But don’t you believe in me?”
“No. I don’t.” I blinked in disbelief, wondering if my “mental diabetes” had gotten so extreme that I’d started to hallucinate.
The sandal chuckled. “Maybe you might want to try. You consider yourself open-minded and adventurous, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but not a lunati…”
POOF! The flip-flop vanished. And I fell back asleep.
A New Info-ligion?
When I told Kim about my crazy dream in the morning, she laughed. “Haha! Maybe the flip-flop is your god!”
I chuckled with her.
Then I stopped.
Wait. What if Kim’s right? What if I became a Flip-Flopist?
Could I implicitly guide my behavior by explicitly brainwashing myself with propaganda that preaches the values I choose to hold sacred?
Could I create my own info-ligion?
The Beginnings of Flip-Flopism
What would my, or Flip-Flopism’s, sacred values be?
Who or what would be Flip-Flopism’s almighty?
This relates to another piece of Norenzaya’s research, where he explored the idea of “watching gods.” When people are reminded of gods watching over them, they tend to act more in accordance with their religious values.
Maybe instead of giving some flip-flop divine power, I could regularly nominate a celestial board of directors! I’ll start with Richard Feynman, Ed Thorp, Arnold Schwarzenegger, my kids, Dr. Seuss, and the tortoise from “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Crazy as that sounds, imagining them overseeing my actions motivates me to act in accordance with Flip-Flipist values.
What about symbols?
Christians have the cross, Jews the Star of David, and Stoics have Memento Mori coins that Ryan Holiday has made millions from selling.
Easy: A flip-flop sandal!
As it happens, I have the perfect thing! I bought a flip-flop pendant way back in 2010 when I was working in Corporate Finance in Switzerland. Kim begged me to stop wearing it when we got serious. “It’s cheesy! Ugly! Why?” she said. But now I have a “Why” worth resurrecting my pendant for: It’s my info-ligion!
I aspire to be more than a passive Flip-Flopist believer or scholar. To be more than a preacher, too.
I intend to walk the Flip-Flopist walk.
That means building up CREDs, Norenzayan’s acronym for “credibility-enhancing displays”: difficult-to-fake actions that demonstrate and reinforce my commitment to Flip-Flopism.
I believe I already embody some Flip-Flopist values—flip-flopping between Cape Town and Vancouver, venturing down my own uncertain career path, sleeping on the floor, doing unconventional workouts like rock-throwing, and constantly taking on new challenges. But I must keep pushing to please the Board and the all-mighty Flip-Flop!
Get Your Own Flip-Flop?
Embracing Flip-Flopism has helped me overcome my skepticism toward the information I absorb and create. There is a non-negligible value to consuming it, even passively, so long as it reinforces certain values—Flip-Flopist or otherwise.
So I won’t forsake podcasts, books, and blogs. And I will continue to preach Flip-Flopist ideas to you and anyone who will listen. But my goal is not to convert you. It’s to inspire you to consider creating your own info-ligion.
At least consider this:
- What are your sacred values?
- Does the information you consume subliminally nudge you in the right direction? Or is it devilish sacrilege?
- Most importantly: Are you a passive absorber praying for miracles, or are you going to be CRED-able?
If you’re a fan of my Flip-Flopist approach to life, consider subscribing to my flippin’ fun newsletter, Consider This. You’ll get a new dose of independent-living inspiration every week or so:
About the author
I'm Chris. Canadian, husband, dad, writer, investor, athlete, and obsessed explorer of the secrets to living a never-boring, always improving, unfollowable life story.