Taking Other People’s Word For It

Break Dancers

More and more, I see evidence that people don’t form their own opinion. It’s easy to determine, if you know what to look for. People repeat something they’ve read in Mashable, or on CNN, or Twitter. Instead of forming an opinion or even giving something the benefit of your own review, I see people simply parroting the voice of a blog post, or the current tide of Facebook comments.

I was just reading reviews of Amazon’s new Kindle Fire (amazon affiliate link). In two blog posts, I read where people hadn’t even touched the product, but instead, were re-reporting the words of others. Huh? So, now it’s okay to voice your opinion without having even seen or touched the product? Well, okay. (I pre-ordered a Kindle Fire, by the way. As a heavy user of Amazon products, from their ebooks to their digital video service to their music, it’s a perfect tool for me.)

Use Your Own Head

Today, I’m starting a new nutrition program with Jacqueline Carly. We’re using Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Total Transformation (affiliate link), based on the same findings in his bestseller, The Paleo Solution. I’d read Wolf’s book on the recommendation of Julien Smith and others, but it wasn’t until seeing Robb speak in person at BlogWorld Expo in Los Angeles that I came to understand the ins and outs of why he felt so strongly about the nutrition plan. It took some thinking and some researching and some consideration to decide whether Paleo would be a good dietary plan for me.

But what’s funny is when people talk to me about why it’s a bad plan. They tend to cite the same arguments, which have appeared in reviews or blog posts from other dietary plans. They state the same defenses that are often commented about on forums. The words are almost the very same all the time.

We have to use our own heads. It’s not okay to take shortcuts and just accept other people’s views. When I looked into this 30 day total transformation program, I knew a lot about Wolf already, plus I had the support of my girlfriend, who’s about to complete her Master’s in nutrition. But I still looked it over for myself, too. I still did what I could to understand the program, its detractors, and more.

Find Your Own Path

Seeing all the “conventional” wisdom out there is often disheartening. It’s amazing how often people just throw their opinion in with others. With all the access we have to information, don’t we owe it to ourselves to learn a bit before we form an opinion? Maybe we can use some shortcuts from time to time. But as a default? We have to stop. That means not as much “me too” thinking. It means being willing to find our own path to information, that we have to stop answering questions with “I’ve heard that it’s crap.”

But don’t just take my word for it.

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  • Kenny Rose

    I never take your word for it. You got your views on most things business. Sometimes you make sense. Others well you contradict yourself. And I don’t agree. But at least you have an opinion. And your leading from the front. And in my world that is the meat and gravy. Now the potatoes and veg. That is another matter. :) 

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  • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

    Well i have heard…

    LOL just kidding. Yesterday doing my own research I was able to find an answer to something everyone tells me they heard about being vegetarian. By coincidence it had to do with nutrition. By doing research and asking those around me I found a way to answer that myth people keep repeating on why they think I to consume fish!

    I am so happy you are making changes you and @therealgabo have been an inspiration for me to get back on track exercising!

  • http://emmanuelpress.com/blog/ Chris Cree

    One big problem is that our education system is teaching people how to learn rather than how to think. Being able to regurgitate back facts and knowledge is the key to getting good grades in school instead of critical thinking.

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Conventional thinking is the pathway to disaster. It’s fine: if you want to live a conventional life. From the looks of folks living this life, it ain’t a good thing. You simply parrot what others say, stick with the status quo, and pretty much live other people’s lives, since you let other people do your thinking for you.

    Wallace Wattles said sustained consecutive thinking is the hardest work on earth, which is why do few do it. Another author noted how 1% of people actually think, 4% think they think, and 95% of people on the face of the earth would rather die, than think. I tend to agree with both statements. It’s literally exhausting at times to do your own thinking, but it’s the path to freedom. When you can form your own opinion on a topic, you can rest knowing that you collect your own facts, think them through, and make your own decisions. 

    Thanks for sharing Chris.

    RB

  • http://dewanemutunga.com Dewane Mutunga

    Social Proof is powerful and often times causes people to react unconsciously and before they’ve had ample time to thing about a given situation.

  • http://twitter.com/BenZiegler Ben Ziegler

    Chris, I appreciate, and in many ways agree with, your concern around using others’ words. 

    Last week I finished reading (honestly!) a book written by Pierre Bayard, titled “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read”. Bayard is French, a professor of French literature, at U. of Paris, and a psychoanalyst.  The upshot of his argument is that though society obliges to read, and thoroughly, that which we talk about… perhaps we’d be better off not taking that approach.  Rather, one point Bayard highlights, is that we might  better to focus on the context of the book, and how it fits into the larger set of books on which our culture depends at the moment, our “collective library”, the meta data… 

    Though Bayard’s discussion gets a bit complicated (as new ideas often are, at first) I intuitively felt he struck a nerve, especially in our info rich times, were reading is an involuntary act of non-reading… i.e., we’re not picking up and not opening all the other books available to us.

    After Bayard’s book, I’m inclined to think what/how I read a bit differently, readings relationship to writing…  

    Keep up the great work, and touching on what matters.

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  • http://www.mattgorski.com Matt Gorski

    Great info and reminder to all us to do our own homework and make up our own minds.  BTW – I did the Tim Ferris Slow Carb diet twice this year for 30 days each and I can say without a doubt in my mind, it works (for me)  
    I’m convinced now more than ever that all the info we need is out there, we have to sift through it and make our own decisions.  That’s why Harv Eker always says “Don’t believe a word I say!” 

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  • http://www.ryanhanley.com/about Ryan Hanley

    Chris,

    I’m ready Trust Agents right now and it’s funny because this post corresponds almost directly with the section I’m in (Programming) and how you need to set your own rules to the game.  I see the same crap all over the Internet.  

    “This is important because Mashable said it was important” 

    Yes, but is it important to your audience and why?  And if it is important why weren’t you efforting to bring this knowledge to your audience before Mashable?

    I have ~ 15 RSS Feeds of my favorite online / content marketers that I read on a daily basis.  To certain extent their ideas shape my own as I view each as mentor (this blog being one).  But I use concepts and theories to shape my own views and deliver that knowledge to my audience.

    If you own the knowledge you can use it whenever you want.  If you are just regurgitating then you are reliant on the source for new ideas…

    As always great stuff Chris.  

    Thanks!

  • http://www.cuponismo.com Geordie Wardman

    The good news here is that if you aren’t afraid to stick your neck out, and form an opinion, you’ll be amongst the few. It’s been a challenge for me personally, someone that usually avoids confrontation to have an opinion, and to voice it so openly to potentially a very large audience, online. I’m over it now, people will not always like what we say, but having an opinion or diving out of our comfort zone has its rewards. 

  • Anonymous

    I have a smart friend who writes for a big publication on tech/social media. He refuses to follow or engage with any of ‘us,’ the Social Media addicts.  He doesn’t even know who Mari Smith is because he stays in his tunnel.

    He says it’s the only way he can form his own opinion and not be sullied by all of our thoughts.

    Sometimes I KNOW I’m reading so much of what everyone else thinks that I can find my own opinion. Luckily, I’m opinionated enough that THAT can be a good thing.:)

    This is why disconnecting is a MUST.

  • http://twitter.com/JudyHelfand JudyHelfand

    Chris,
    This is a really good topic, one that Jason Falls talked about at Blog World LA. His sessions was “This Is All Such B.S.: How to tell and what to do when you’re being had in blogging, social media and beyond…”  Jason had a lot to say but the big take-away was: “Ask better questions and do your own work!”

    Just this past summer I enjoyed reading “The Help” and also seeing the movie, but I was shocked at the number of “reviewers” who had done neither.  It forced me to write a post about it on my personal blog. 

    Keep us posted on the 30 day transformation. Take copious notes.

    Judy

  • Dave Mastovich

    Heard a youth sports coach say something like: “(Player) doesn’t seem to be as engaged as much as he could be.” A client talked about “building organic growth” last week. The phrase “content is king” can be found thousands of times daily. People repeat what they think others want them to hear far too often. Catch phrases, over simplification, cliches…whatever. Just think for yourself more and actually state an opinion. Less Monday Morning QBing, more creative thinking and doing.  

  • Kradr2

    To give you a twist on what you are talking about, go to the Edward De Vere site on FACE BOOK ~ Ref the movie ANONYMOUS

    Try to get a word in edge wise, even Shakespeare wouldn’t get a word in with the accademics who have it all figured out, as if!

    They all think the same way!

  • http://www.dogwalkblog.com/ Rufus Dogg

    How do I get any Klout if I can’t glom onto everything you say? Crap.

  • http://twitter.com/AMAXRA AMAXRA

    Thanks for this one, Chris. I worry that as social media/blogging proliferates media and therefore provides more source options for news, it also makes people more comfortable with jacking others’ opinions (in the interest of time/due to laziness I suppose?) Back when we got our news from one of five places, everyone would know if you were just restating a NY Times article. Now, however, it’s harder to detect.

  • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com LaRae Quy

    Hi Chris,

    Parroting is easier than putting our own gray cells to work. I think social media has just it easier for people to rely on the opinion of others instead of developing their own. This speaks to the reason that social media is so persuasive – we rely on “opinion leaders” to tell us what to think and why to think it . . . it used to be in the form of evening news and newspapers, or going even further back, in taverns and public houses. Opinion leaders are powerfully persuasive people who catch our attention and influence our way of thinking – and behaving.

  • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

    Chris, if you think I should use my own head I will start right away :D

    I am seeing this a lot in the online world. People say, “Oooh, that person looks pretty shiny!” Then they realize that other shiny people don’t think highly of said shiny person, so then that very same person starts writing posts about how really that person is dull and unshiny. It’s really weird to me that people don’t notice these obvious shifts in their opinions, but maybe it’s just a truth that is too ugly to bear.

    Hmm.

    The whole world is becoming like Heathers. I’m going to go look for Christian Slater. 

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    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      I get that quite a lot. Welcome to the universe. : ) I have haters who then take a lot of what I espouse and execute it themselves. So, how much do they hate me, if they’re taking my advice to improve their business? 

      • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

        well, that’s the problem with being super vocal about your opinions one way or the other. If the logic (or lack thereof) strikes you upon the head 10 minutes after you pin your note to the wall, it’s easier just to sneak by it than to say, “Oh, wait, I was wrong and jumped to too many conclusions too fast.”

        If I set out an opinion into the online world, I am careful to leave room for my mind to evolve, as i hope will continue to happen. If other peeps could do the same, what a bright world it would be. *le sigh*

  • http://twitter.com/inyoung2e Annie In-young Bang

    This is so true!!

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    Yes. I agree with you. Good message oriented information is posted.

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    Same answer as you said. True that it is the excellent thing to be the different in thought instead of agree all time with other. But be different in the sense that not with the purpose for creating the controversy but with the definite meaning.

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  • http://www.businessbuilderbookclub.com Joy Johnson

    There’s a good chance our country is in the mess its in because people are too lazy to actually research – get their own facts, make up their own minds.  People’s lack of independent thinking is partially laziness and partially lack of time.  It takes time to use something, listen to debates, to independently gather information.  It’s funny how quickly we “trust” when it saves us time and energy.  We don’t really “TRUST,”  we just sort of ‘trust” because its expeditious to do so.  Here’s the problem.  Perception becomes reality.  Once you vote or buy on the little “t” it quickly becomes a massively huge “T” because it gets added to everyone else’s little “t”s and we end up with a really big mess.

  • http://www.therealtorstoolbox.blogspot.com Sean Carpenter

    The really ironic thing about this post would be to know how many of the 142 people (at timwe of this comment) who chose to Tweet your article out to their Twitterstreams or “Like” the post even read the post first.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Exactly so, Sean! 

  • http://www.stevevox.com Steve Vox

    Chris, allot of people are closed minded and don’t open up well to other possibilities.  Other are going to be negative no matter what.  

  • http://simplyevolve.com DanielDubya

    I’d say this isn’t too much different than how people come to adopt what they hear in traditional media as their own opinion. They take for granted that what they see/hear is true because it’s presented as coming from a figure of authority and integrity (we hope). 

    The main difference is that today, it’s just easier for anyone to echo/parrot/paraphrase someone else’s words and thoughts. And Google provides an incentive to do that. 

    In fact, it’s funny you mention Blog World because there was a speaker last spring at Blog World East who had done that exactly with QR codes. He had basically lifted information he had read from other blogs and websites, put them in his own blog post, and ended up scoring a CNN interview on QR codes because his blog was towards the top of the search engine results page. It’s not clear whether or not he had actually used QR codes at that point, but considering he is an SEO, it’s likely that he had not. 

    We can game expertise in the media, though I think it’s harder to do so in real life situations.

  • Anonymous

    YES! It’s like those e-rumors folks forward w/o even using common sense screening – quickly jumping on the bandwagon of false information – ARG! What is right for one person/business is not necessarily right for you or your business.  Establish your own Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval – put newscasts, media hype, products AND ideas through a list of questions and barometer checks – then make a decision based on what’s best for you.  I believe it’s called thinking for oneself?! Thanks for the reminder Chris! @AndeLyons @BringBackDesire (where I curate every book and product – tough job, but someone’s gotta do it! ;)

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  • Anonymous

    I agree using your own head is much important than just relying on what people think or say. Well said chris!  Thanks for posting this info.

  • http://www.womendietpills.org Stephanie Kasper

    Thanks, Chris for this post, I realize that I should not just take other people’s word or comment, hence, I must use my own will to think.

  • Anonymous

    Way to go Paleo, Chris!  I’ve been listening to Robb’s podcast since it launched.  That man is a wise guy about fitness and nutrition.  As a female bodybuilder myself, I find Paleo is the ideal way of life for optimum results.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      I’m on day 6 of it, so it’s going well for me. I’m missing very little. Looking at the whole scheme of things, I end up feeling happier about it all. : ) 

      • Anonymous

        Glad to hear that the transition has not been too tough – paleo foods are just too yummy to crave the other stuff.  Good luck!

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    That’s so awesome! Congratulations! : ) 

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Very interesting. Seems you had that on your head, too. 

    Great meeting you too, Arthur. : ) 

  • http://www.thesaleslion.com Marcus Sheridan

    This is exactly what I appreciate so much about you Chris, you really challenge people to think for themselves, and don’t write with an iron fist.

    I’ve gotten to the point that I pretty much unsubscribe from blogs when I feel the person doesn’t garner their own opinions, but is constantly in the ‘echo and please all’ mode.

    Take care bud,

    Marcus

  • http://soundadvicesales.com Phyllis Nichols

     This is exactly why I’ve been on a rant about affiliate marketing. So many people promote/sell things that they have never used so I’ve started asking people why they are an affiliate of a specific program/course etc. as part of my own due diligence.  Using my head as you say.

    What is surprising – so far, I’ve gotten defensive and hostile answers – like I’m so out of line for asking if they’ve really taken the course, read the book, used the service.  

    This from big “name” guru types. 
    Glad to see you actually research and use what you promote. 

  • http://twitter.com/emillyvictoria Emilly Raminhos

    Great post Chris!

    I couldn’t agree more, and often rant about this problem myself. It’s also funny you mentioned the Paleo diet, because I’ve recently been following it (and had nothing but fantastic results), and everyone who criticizes it has nothing more to offer than what Dr. Oz spews out.

    We spend thousands of dollars on post-secondary education, but somehow we fail to learn how to educate ourselves. Thank you for thinking for yourself, and encouraging others to do the same :)

  • Jane Virtual Agent

    I agree.. your comments should be your own opinion and not rephrased from someone else… :) Btw, how is your kindle fire? I was choosing whether to get kindle fire or nook colored, but then Nook tablet came out, then Blackberry playbook went on sale. LOL. =)

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  • Owenwest

    why you doing that):

  • Owenwest

    I think every one has has gives you a ok comment 
    how can you do that it is amazing ho should you  you that.must be someone ho is good at
    tricks.

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