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Three Trust Principles

Three Trust Principles

I was listening to this podcast from Farnam Street (https://fs.blog/knowledge-podcast/best-of-2021/), mostly because I thought it is a shortcut to read all the good podcasts from 2021. Little did I know I’ll learn so much about trusting people and the right framework on when to trust people and when not to. These are three excerpts from the entire podcast which I believe changed the way how I look at trust.


Kat Cole on pragmatic optimism

Shane: You also believe in people. And I thought that this was interesting, when you called yourself a positive, no it was an optimistic, what was the term you used?

Kat: I’ve used a few terms, but either a pragmatic optimist, or an optimistic pragmatist, or a practical optimist, any of those things that don’t seem to belong together.

Shane: I thought that was really interesting because I also by default, believe in people and sometimes it comes with a cost and you called it a tax earlier. I’m wondering if you can expand on that a little bit.

Kat: Yeah. I really do believe humans are mostly magic and that we are all just unfinished magic, and we’re more likely to be the fullest extent of our magic if other people see us that way first. And I’ve certainly learned that when I see people for their potential and their possibilities, that they seem to live up to that more quickly than when they interact with others. And I have felt that benefit of being looked at as my potential and felt the need and the ability and desire to grow into that.

So the upside of believing in people is so high and, not but, and some will let us down. And the frequency that I’m let down is so low compared to the frequency that I’m proven right in people’s potential. And so it just feels like this tax, it’s like a single digit percentage tax that is a small price to pay for getting all the upside that comes from looking at people as the great things that they are and the possibilities that they have in front of them.


Jim Collins on relationships not transactions

Bill = Bill Azir, mentor of Jim Collins, I = Jim Collins

I asked Bill, “Have you ever had your trust abused?”

He said, “Oh yeah, of course. I’ve had my trust abused. It’s just part of life.” But then he gave me this, this is one of this great mentor moment.

He said, “Jim, this is one of now that you’re starting to have this experience and really experience it, you need to decide what is your opening bid when you are establishing a relationship with someone, when you’re interacting with the world, is your opening bid to assume trust, to assume that someone is trustworthy and to grant them the full benefits of that? That’s your opening bid. That trust can be lost, but the bid is trust. Or is your opening bid to not trust, but the trust can be earned? So many aspects of your life will be affected
by which fork on that you take. That’s a stance on life.”

I said, “Well, it seems to me, Bill, you’ve chosen the trust bid as the opening bid.”

He said, “Yes, I have.”

I said, “But Bill, brutal facts, not everyone is trustworthy. And the brutal fact is some people will abuse that trust. So have people abused your trust?”

He said, “Of course they have.” He went on and he described a situation of somebody who was quite close to him who had abused his trust. It had cost him enough that he said it hurt, not just emotionally, but financially as well. Then there’s this little kind of cul-de-sac on the whole thing that Bill has, which is the notion of you don’t leave yourself exposed to a catastrophe in such a way that if you trust your, let’s say your CFO and you never look at the books and then you discover one day that you had a problem and your company is bankrupt, you always pay attention to the cashflow. You always watch the numbers. You always keep an eye on things. It’s not like you become disconnected from reality, but he said, “But I never left myself open to catastrophe. Beyond that, yeah, that one hurt.”

I said, “Well, did it change your approach to trusting people?”

He said, “No, it’s just part of the cost of living.”

Then he went on and he described it as upside and downside. This is sort of gets into the, it just simply hardheaded. This was a hardheaded view. He said, “I’ve come to the conclusion when I think across the iterative relationships and interactions and aspects of life, that there is far more upside in an opening bid of trust. And there is far more downside in an opening bid of mistrust. It all goes to the question of people. If you really basically want to have your life, whether that be people in your company, whether that people in your life, whether they be your friends, whether they’re people you rock climb with, whatever it is, the very, very best people will respond to the bid of trust. The best people will be attracted to that and you want the best people to be attracted.”

The second is, he said, “Have you ever considered the possibility, Jim, that your opening bid affects how people behave? If you trust people, you’re more likely that they will act in a trustworthy way. It’s a double win. It’s the best people and they’ll behave in a trustworthy way. The flip side is if you have an opening bit of mistrust, the best people will not be attracted to that. If you have this opening sense of you have to earn my trust. Now you may have to earn my trust, how good you are at something, or earn my respect for your performance or that sort of thing. But if I basically like, I don’t trust you, you have to earn it, well, some of the best people are going to be like, ‘I don’t need to put up with that. I’ll go
do something else.’”


Shane Parish on trust battery

Shane: I think that’s a really interesting way to approach it. I definitely agree with that personally. My friend Toby has this concept that I think might help people. It’s very visual. It’s called the trust battery. You can do things that increase your trust or decrease your trust. But if you start that trust battery at say the 75th percentile, then you’re starting from a different place than if it’s the fifth, your 5%, your trust battery is full. It’s been my experience that the benefits of reciprocal trust and the speed and not living with your guard up all the time is more than worth letting yourself occasionally get screwed. Another friend of mine had this really good concept about when to forgive and when to sort of like …

He said, “As long as it’s not malicious, just always forgive”.


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