Questioning Assumptions for Better Conclusions

Questioning Assumptions for Better Conclusions
Dustin Lien
August 27, 2018

“Dangit. I can’t find my wallet…again.” I told my wife, apprehensively (I’ve been known to misplace things). “When’s the last time you remember having it?” she asked. And that’s where it all spiraled out of control.

It was a Friday morning and I was about to leave for the office, but needed my wallet. I work out of a WeWork co-working space in Hollywood, and I have a keycard that gets me into the doors. And yep, you guessed it, my keycard was in my wallet.

I started retracing my steps in my head to figure out where it could’ve been, and rule out where it probably wasn’t. When all else fails, I turn to logic for clues.

The night before, I had gone to a comedy show with my wife, and I remembered telling her that we couldn’t go out anywhere afterward because I had forgotten my wallet, so it had to have been at home somewhere.

I looked in my backpack, under the couches, on counters, the coffee table, everywhere it could have possibly been if it was in the apartment, and it was nowhere to be found. At one point I even dug through the dirty laundry just in case somehow it magically jumped into the hamper. Wasn’t there either.

It dawned on me that maybe I did actually have it at the comedy show, and maybe I just left it at my seat when I left, and then just assumed I forgot it at home when I didn’t have it afterward. So, I called the place and they said they didn’t have any wallet, but I expected as much.

Ok, so if it wasn’t at home, it wasn’t at the comedy club, maybe it was stolen! A woman had come to our apartment the day before to look at a couch we were selling. Is it possible she swiped my wallet from the counter when I wasn’t looking?

I quickly pulled up my bank accounts fully expecting them to be wiped clean, and low and behold, not a penny was missing…

Maybe someone stole it out of my backpack while I was walking home the day before, and just took the cash and threw my wallet on the ground? It’s a stretch, but this is Hollywood, and things get weird sometimes. It would explain why it was missing, but why no money was spent from my bank accounts.

Oh, duh! I probably left it at WeWork on a shared desk, and someone probably turned it into reception…

I called WeWork and asked if I left my wallet there, and was wondering if they had it. No luck.

The annoying thing at this point, was I already had retraced my steps, and the most logical conclusion seemed to be that someone stole it, grabbed the cash, and ditched the wallet somewhere.

It wasn’t at home, it wasn’t any of the other places I had gone that day, so that was that.

A few days later, I was about ready to admit defeat and start the grueling process of replacing my cards and going to the DMV to get a new license (ugh), and my wife said something I was thinking in the back of my head but had written off, “What if when you called the comedy club, they hadn’t cleaned the theatre yet, so they couldn’t have found your wallet even if it was there?”

It was worth a call to find out. I called the comedy club again, and it turns out, they did have my wallet now. Hooray!

My lesson learned, and point I want to make, is this:

Even sound logic can lead to incorrect conclusions when the logic is based on false facts.

We do that all the time, don’t we? Make assumptions when we think we have all the facts, but in reality we’re missing a crucial detail.

Not only do we use false facts in day-to-day situations, but we also use them to structure a lot of our overall beliefs and values.

What’s hard to accept is that there’s no way to fully combat this because we don’t know we’re doing it until we have an undeniable new experience or piece of information that directly contradicts the false facts.

Hindsight.

Though we might not be able to always correctly identify incorrect conclusions based on false facts ahead of time, there’s still a way to catch it once in a while with a simple test.

If your conclusion feels weak, question your assumptions.

Consider what’s a hard fact or at minimum a reasonable evidence-based inference, and what seems fuzzy or questionable. Then, ask yourself, what if that questionable fact is false. If the opposite is true, how would that alter the conclusion?

This can be a powerful tool for reshaping limiting beliefs, and cause a chain reaction of new positive behaviors that previously seemed illogical.

If you have ambitions that seem silly or unachievable, consider asking yourself why you believe that.

For example, I grew up fairly poor for most of my childhood, and though my parents did a phenomenal job instilling confidence and self belief in me, I still remember just assuming that I would never make more than $60k/year and would work for other people my entire life.

They never told me that, I just believed it because that’s all I really knew from what I could see around me (friends, family), and I was fine with that. And hey, $60k/year is plenty to live off of in Texas.

But something happened to me when I was about 22 or 23 years old, and I started having an itch to start my own business, but I there was extreme dissonance with the idea of entrepreneurship/making more money,and everything I had known growing up, so it was hard for me to believe I could actually start a successful business.

Eventually I did, and it’s going well, but it took a lot of internal work to question those assumptions and false facts that were holding me back, and come to a new conclusion that it in fact was possible for me.

Our identities and beliefs are tightly knitted into our subconscious minds based mostly on things we’ve been told, and things we’ve experienced. Often times, especially for ambitious people, what we want to accomplish and what we believe about ourselves and the world around us don’t match up.

If you find yourself limited based on what you believe to be true, I implore you—question your assumptions.

I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised about what you’re actually capable of, and what’s actually possible for you.