By Ubukombe Hallellua Pacifique CONTRIBUTOR (Opinions expressed by YOH contributors are their own.)

Inspired from Annie Duke’s conversation with Shane Parrish on Podcast and Paul Graham’s article ‘Keep Your Identity Small’

Almost every introductory psychology text tells us that we learn from experience by doing something repeatedly and obtaining immediate quality feedback from it.

But what Annie Duke noticed during her career as a professional poker player, is that people hardly learn from their experiences. Players would lose money time after time making the same mistakes.

 ✔️Frequent practice

 ✔️Instant feedback

✖️Lesson learnt

So what gets in the way of that feedback being transformed to a learning?

Our identity.

We consider the mental models that we subscribe to and our decision making process as part of our identity.

And when someone disagrees, it’s an attack on our identity.

Whatever be our decision making process, we like to think of it as smart and largely true.

When they fail, we attribute it to bad luck.

And if someone critiques, we react as if threatened. We become defensive, angry, and dismiss the other person as not worth listening to.

Any objective feedback received from the process is very happily discredited if it doesn’t conform to our ‘identity’.

“I think what religion and politics have in common is that they become part of people’s identity, and people can never have a fruitful argument about something that’s part of their identity.” – Paul Graham

So what can we do about it?

Our beliefs being attached to our identity is a very natural thing and thus not so easy to just ‘fix’.

However, a conscious effort might help.

Making an agreement with yourself that all your beliefs are under construction, and not fully formed gives your identity the freedom to not feel threatened when those beliefs are proven wrong.

Let as few things into your identity as possible.

Transform your identity to someone who is comfortable with uncertainty, can listen to opposing views with an open mind, and can disagree without being disagreeable.

And for topics deeply entrenched into our identity – like politics; it’s best to avoid any ‘rational’ discussion.

Disclaimer: This is not a summary. There’s a lot of important stuff that’s not here.

Please listen/read in full whenever you find time.



UBUKOMBE HALLELLUA PACIFIQUE is a Voracious Reader, Entrepreneur/Investor, Business Scientist, Writer, Renaissance Speaker & Student of Life. He can be contacted at the following email:

Ubukombe hail from Kigali, Rwanda

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