Thursday, September 15, 2016

“When Reality Turned Inside Out”

“When Reality Turned Inside Out”
by Scott Adams, creator of "Dilbert"

“Do you remember way- way- way- back in July, when the public thought Trump was the candidate they couldn’t trust with the nuclear arsenal? That was before we realized he could moderate his personality on command, as he is doing now. We’re about to enter our fifth consecutive week of Trump doing more outreach than outrage. It turns out that Trump’s base personality is “winning.” Everything else he does is designed to get that result. He needed to be loud and outrageous in the primaries, so he was. He needs to be presidential in this phase of the election cycle, so he is. 

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has revealed herself to be frail, medicated, and probably duplicitous about her health. We also hear reports that she’s a drinker with a bad temper. Suddenly, Clinton looks like the unstable personality in this race. Who do you want controlling the nuclear arsenal now?

You probably thought Trump was the bigot in this contest, until Clinton called half of Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorables.” That’s the point at which observers started to see a pattern. Trump has been consistently supportive of American citizens of all types– with the exception of the press and his political opponents. The main targets of Trump’s rhetoric are the nations that compete against us. In stark contrast, Clinton turned her hate on American citizens. That’s the real kind of hate. Trump is more about keeping America safe and competing effectively in the world. That is literally the job of president.

Trump was once the candidate that the LGBTQ community found easy to hate. Then it turned out that Trump is the loudest voice for protecting America against the anti-gay ideology that Clinton would increase in this country via immigration. At the GOP convention, Republicans stood and applauded Trump’s full-throated support of the LGBTQ community. While Clinton was talking about a better society, Trump was transforming the Republican Party into one. (Yes, I know there is more to do.)

You might remember a few months ago when Clinton had lots of policy details and Trump had few. Clinton still holds the lead in the number of bullet-points-per-policy, but while she rests, Trump has been rolling out policy details on one topic after another. Perception-wise, the optics of “who has policy details” has flipped. (Reality isn’t important in this context.)

Do you remember over a year ago, when Trump first entered the race? Social media relentlessly insulted his physical appearance. They mocked his orange hair and his orange skin. They called him a clown. They called him a Cheeto. It was brutal.

But over time, Trump’s haircut improved. He softened the color to something more blonde than orange And his fake tan and TV makeup improved too. Today, if you ask a voter to name the candidate for president who “looks bad,” the answer would probably be Clinton, primarily because of her recent health issues. In our minds, Clinton went from being a stylish and energetic personality to a hospice patient dressed like a North Korean dictator at a rave.

Not long ago, you would have said Clinton was the strongest candidate for protecting citizens who need the help of social programs. Then Trump unveiled his plan for childcare and senior care. You can debate the details, and the cost, but nearly everyone recognized the idea as a critical need for working class people.

In other words, the world is turning inside-out, right in front of our eyes. I summarized this surprising reversal in the most popular tweet I have ever created.


That’s how a Master Persuader does it. A year ago, I told you that Trump was bringing a flamethrower to a stick fight. His talent for persuasion is so strong that he has effectively flipped the script and rewired the brains of the people watching this show.

But I’ll bet you still think Trump is “thin-skinned,” primarily because Clinton’s team has done a great job of branding him that way. The label sticks because Trump has a pattern of going on offense whenever he is attacked. But let me give you another framework to see this same set of facts. Specifically, I’m going to tell you how Master Persuaders convert embarrassment into energy. It’s a learned skill.

I often talk about the benefits I got from taking the Dale Carnegie course. One of the skills you learn in that class is how to convert your anxiousness about public speaking into excitement and positive energy. I personally observed the Dale Carnegie course turning a few dozen introverts into people who were enthusiastic about speaking in front of a crowd. It was astonishing.

Part of the Dale Carnegie process involved each student doing something embarrassing in front of the class just to get used to the feeling, and to know you could survive it. It is one of the best skills you can learn because our egos tend to hold us back. We fear embarrassment so we don’t risk it. That limits our potential.

Now think back to 2011, at the Correspondent’s Dinner, in which President Obama mocked Donald Trump in front of the world– while Trump sat in the audience, stone-faced. The popular reporting was that Trump was humiliated by the event. But Master Persuaders don’t process humiliation the same way as others. They convert it to energy, the same way Dale Carnegie students learn to convert anxiousness to excitement. It’s a learned skill. And it is literally the opposite of having a thin skin. It only looks the same because of confirmation bias.

How do I know Trump has mastered the skill of converting humiliation into energy? The signs are all there. For example… Trump has entered one high-risk business after another, guaranteeing that he would experience a large number of setbacks, failures, and humiliations. People don’t run toward humiliation unless they know they can convert that negative energy to fuel. When you see someone succeed across multiple unrelated fields, that’s often a sign of a Master Persuader who feeds on both success and failure. You are watching Trump do exactly that, right in front of your eyes. He has converted every “gaffe” into news coverage. He eats bad news and converts it into fuel.

Many of you have watched me do the same thing. You’ve watched as I jumped fields from corporate America to cartooning. Then I became an author of business-related books. I opened two restaurants that didn’t work out. I tried lots of stuff that failed miserably. Now I’m talking about the presidential election. What do all of those things have in common?

I risked public humiliation in each case. And in each case, lots of people told me “Keep your day job.” On a typical day, dozens of strangers insult my body, my personality, my brain, my integrity, and lots more. Like Trump, I consume it as fuel. And it is a learned skill.

You might have noticed that both Trump and I are quick to attack anyone who attacks us. Observers tell me I shouldn’t do that, because it makes me appear thin-skinned. Observers tell Trump the same thing. But observers are missing one important thing: We use the critics to refuel.

If you were an alien from another planet, and you observed a lion killing a gazelle, you might think that lion was angry at its prey. You might think the lion was insulted that the gazelle was using its watering hole. What did the gazelle do to deserve that treatment? Is the lion being thin-skinned? Trust me when I tell you that sometimes the lion is just eating.”

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