Today I step into dangerous territory.

Over the summer I completed a fabulous online course called The Art of Reading. One of the modules encouraged us to think critically about what we read and gave ideas on how to do that.

One item that stood out to me was the idea of the narrative fallacy.

Before you think I am about to go all theoretical on you, there is something important at stake here.

The fallacy suggests that we are all wired for story – so far so good.

However, the challenge comes in creating our own narratives to justify things that have already happened, or predicting what will happen in the future.

The course author, Shane Parrish, suggested that using story, rather than facts and logical reasoning, to create our view of the world and to make decisions is not only dangerous, but more common than we realise.

Shane's article The Narrative Fallacy suggests that although narrative makes us feel better, but is often a sham.

For example, Steve Jobs was told that because his adoptive father was a detailed-oriented engineer and craftsman, Steve Jobs also paid extra attention to the fine details of Apple designs. He denies this is the case, claiming his own personality and motivations as being more important drivers.

He was also asked whether his quest for perfection came from an idea that he needed to prove himself, given he had been adopted out. He claimed this was patently false, and that his adoptive parents made him feel special regardless of what he achieved.

Nassim Taleb (author of The Black Swan) had a similar story, and fact checked his hunch that his professor had no justification in attributing his ability to see luck and to separate cause and effect to his Lebanese heritage.

Click the link below for suggestions to help you think critically and assess whether a narrative can be trusted to accurately draw cause and effect links or whether it is just a great story.

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I am, as always here to help you with your communication in any way I can.