Scott Adams: The Persuasion Playbook | E38
#38: The Persuasion Playbook with Scott Adams
Learn practical techniques to harness the power of persuasion with Scott Adams. Scott Adams is the creator of the successful American comic strip, Dilbert. In recent times, Scott has become somewhat of a controversial figure as he made headlines during the 2016 election for being “Trump’s translator,” a nickname bestowed on him for helping the American public make sense of Trump’s seemingly bizarre behavior during the campaign. In addition to being a cartoonist, Scott is also a trained hypnotist and master persuader. He believes that Trump is one of the best persuaders of our time. In #38, Hala and Scott discuss the persuasion tactics found in Scott’s book, “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter,” which dissects how Trump won the presidential election with his persuasive power. Tune in to hear how the biases we have can impact our decision-making, learn oral persuasion tactics like the “linguistic kill shot,” and uncover why visual persuasion is a powerful approach toward getting what you want. Get marketing services like logos, whiteboard videos, animation and web development on Fivver: track.fiverr.com/visit/?bta=51570&brand=fiverrcpa Learn new marketing skills like graphic design and video editing on Fivver Learn: track.fiverr.com/visit/?bta=51570…rand=fiverrlearn
#38: The Persuasion Playbook with Scott Adams
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[00:01:21] You're listening to Young And Profiting Podcast, a place where you can listen, learn and profit.
[00:01:27] I'm your host, Hala Taha, and today we're speaking with Scott Adams, the creator of the uber successful American comic strip Dilbert. In recent times, Scott has become somewhat of a controversial figure. As he made headlines during the 2016 election for being Trump's translator. I bring him on the show not to discuss politics, but to discuss the persuasion tactics.
[00:01:47] He outlines in his book “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter", which dissects, how Trump won the presidential election with his targeted and purposeful persuasion strategies, please be advised that this
[00:02:00] podcast is absolutely never meant to be political. And it's only meant to be educational.
[00:02:05] I was contemplating not even putting out this episode, but while I might not agree with all of Scott's beliefs or actions, I do feel that his knowledge on persuasion and the possibility of us using it positively and professionally in our lives makes this episode worth sharing with you all now for the sake of your edutainment and nothing else.
[00:02:23] I present Scott Adams.
[00:02:26] Hi Scott. Welcome to Young And Profiting Podcast.
[00:02:30] It's great to have you on the show and for the listeners who may not recognize his name, I guarantee, his work. Scott is a creator of Dilbert. One of the most recognizable comic strips in the world that has reached over 2000 newspaper in 57 countries, probably more and translated into 19 languages, but that's just one of the things that Scott has been up to the past 30 years.
[00:02:53] He's also written a few books, including one we're going to cover in detail today. It's called Win Bigly: Persuasion
[00:03:00] in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter. He's also invested in a restaurant business and he even dipped his toe into blockchain with his most recent project when hub. So we're very excited to speak to you about all these things, spoken to the show.
[00:03:15] Scott Adams: And I should say my restaurants are no longer, but I did invest in two of them before.
[00:03:21] Hala Taha: Yes. So let's start off with your career journey. It's a fun fact that you didn't always know you are going to be a cartoonist. You didn't go to art school or anything like that. To my knowledge, you originally worked in banking and you were cartooning in the morning and your free time.
[00:03:35] So tell us how you stumbled upon being one of the most famous cartoonists in the world.
[00:03:40] Scott Adams: My first job was at a big bank, as you mentioned, and then later at a big phone company. And in both of those careers, my career, he had a ceiling and I realized I needed to do something else. If I wanted to go to the next level and, I didn't know how to become a cartoonist, who
[00:04:00] And I thought, whoa, I sure want to be a cartoonist, but I have no idea how to do it. And this was before the internet. If you could imagine how primitive the world was back then, when you couldn't just Google something and find out, and as luck would have it.
[00:04:15] And it was total luck. I came home one day from work, turned on the TV and there was the end of a TV show about how to become a cartoonist, the very information I needed, but I missed almost all of the show. I figured out what it was about, but I'd miss most of the content. So as the closing credits were rolling by, I quickly ran and grabbed a pencil and paper and wrote down the name of the host, who was the producers, that sort of information, and sent them a letter and just a regular snail mail letter and said, I miss your show, but I'd like to be a cartoonist.
[00:04:50] Can you tell me how to do that? So about few weeks later, I get a personal letter from the host of the show. His name was Jack Cassidy and he was a professional, cartoonist, still is.
[00:05:00] And he gave me the following advice. He said, buy this book that tells you where to mail your samples, use this kind of paper and pens because they work really well for cartooning.
[00:05:11] And then he closed with this advice. He said, it's a really competitive industry and you'll get rejected a lot, but don't give up. So I thought, oh, I know exactly what I need to do is I got those materials. He recommended and I bought the book that told me where to send my samples. And I put together some of my finest comics and I sent them off to a number of publications, mostly magazines.
[00:05:34] And few weeks later, those magazines all rejected me one at a time the rejection notices came in and they weren't even. Personalized rejections. It was obviously photocopies of other people's rejections. And I mean that literally some of them were actually just photocopies of rejections. So I got all that and I thought at least I tried, I don't feel bad about it because I tried, I did my best.
[00:05:58] It didn't work out. So I put
[00:06:00] all of my art materials in a closet and just forgot about it for a year. So the year goes by one day, I walk out to my mailbox and there's a second letter from Jack Cassidy. The same cartoon is to had given me the advice a year before. And I thought that's weird because I hadn't even thanked him for it as advice we'd had no contact in that time.
[00:06:23] And so I opened up his letter and he said that he was cleaning his office and he came upon my original letter to him from a year before. And he said he just wanted to make sure. That I hadn't given up. And that was the only reason he wrote. There was no other purpose. He just said, he wrote to make sure I hadn't given up and I had given up.
[00:06:42] And so I thought maybe he sees something in the samples I sent him that other people have been seen. So I thought I'm going to try again and I'll raise my sights instead of trying to be merely a cartoonist who gets a cartoon in a magazine now, and then I'll try to become a syndicated
[00:07:00] cartoonist, which means that if I succeeded, my cartoon would be in newspapers every single day, all over the world, which was a much higher standard.
[00:07:07] And so I sent off my samples to the, I think, five different syndication companies that make deals with cartoonist. And then if they make that deal, that's your big break. And then they sell it to the newspapers around the world. That's how you do it. And I think four of them rejected. And I thought that was all of them.
[00:07:27] I forgot there was another one still out there. And one day I got a call from a woman who said she was an editor at a company I'd never heard of some company called United Media. And I checked my records and I hadn't sent any comics to anybody by that name. So it was weird when she called me and said that she had seen my samples.
[00:07:47] I didn't know how and said that she wanted to offer me a contract to become a syndicated cartoonist, but because I'd never heard of this company, I thought this might be a scam or, it's not quite what it looks like. So
[00:08:00] I said, I'm flattered by your offer, but I've never heard of your outfit.
[00:08:03] Are there any comics that you've had. That have ever been successful and there's this long pause. And then she says, yeah, we handle Peanuts and Garfield and Robin Mann and Barmah, duke and Nancy. And when she got to about the 12th day on the list, I realized that my negotiating position had been compromised because apparently. I didn't know anything about this industry because United media was actually the biggest player in the entire industry.
[00:08:31] But I sent my samples to a subsidiary of theirs and didn't recognize the parent company name. So I said, yes. And that started a sequence of events where I'd worked with them. And if I worked well enough, they would sell it to newspapers after seeing lots of samples. And then they did that. So a year later it launched and that was 1989 and it didn't take off, but eventually I managed to tweak it enough that.
[00:09:00] Hala Taha: That's incredible. And so there's two like big lessons that I really see in there. The first one is that it was so much harder to learn how to do something new back then. Like you literally, like you said, you caught the end of a TV show and you had to write this guy, a snail mail letter to get information.
[00:09:17] And you were just lucky enough that he took the time to respond back to you. Nowadays, we have YouTube, we have Google, so there's really no excuse to learn something new. And I think people should understand that it's way easier to take on something new, learn a new skill nowadays, and people should take advantage of that.
[00:09:34] And then the second thing is really mentorship. I think it's a wonderful that guy Jack helped you out so much. Do you still keep in contact with him today?
[00:09:42] Scott Adams: Yeah, every now and then we exchange Christmas cards and such, and my 20th anniversary book I dedicated to him. So yeah, we're a little bit in touch.
[00:09:50] And the interesting thing is he's never asked for anything in return and I hear from others that he's just a great guy. And he legitimately just wanted to help. Now, I should tell
[00:10:00] you, interestingly, that even if you were to Google, how to do this, it wouldn't be quite as useful as having a real person who knows how to do it, tell you.
[00:10:09] And my startup it's called the WhenHub and the app is interfaced by WhenHub, actually tries to solve that problem. It tries to connect people with an actual human, for a video call to ask the kind of question that you can't Google easily. So for example, people have called me on the app and said how to become an author.
[00:10:28] And I've given them the kinds of advice that it would be very hard to Google.
[00:10:32] Hala Taha: Yeah, that's very true. It's a good point. I heard you say in the past that luck always plays a part in success. So do you think luck factored in your success with Dilbert and why do you believe that luck is a big part of being successful?
[00:10:47] Scott Adams: Yeah. Luck is, I would say a necessary component. It's not sufficient. You still have to work hard and have some talent and all that, but you have to have luck also because if luck goes the other
[00:11:00] way and you have bad luck, there's just nothing you can do to compensate for that. But that sounds a little hopeless and defeatist as in if luck doesn't find me, what can I do?
[00:11:09] But I'm saying nothing like that. Here's what I'm saying. Luck, can be found it doesn't find you. So for example, when I was born in a very small town in upstate New York, after I got my college degree, the first thing I did was get out of that town because the odds of luck finding me in a small town with no opportunity were very small.
[00:11:32] But once I went to San Francisco and tried to make a life in the Bay area, there was luck all around. If one thing didn't work out, I could go across the street to another company. If that didn't work out, I could go across the street again. So there were infinite opportunities to accidentally find luck.
[00:11:51] And if you don't change your circumstance and put yourself in those positions, it's never going to find you unless you're so lucky win the lottery, but that's not much of a life
[00:12:01] Hala Taha: Yeah. That's great advice. I love that advice change environments so that you can be open to different opportunities. And so that opportunity can easily find you.
[00:12:09] I love that.
[00:12:10] Scott Adams: And then on top of that, the other piece of advice that goes with. Is what I call talent stacking, where you build a number of talents that work well together. In my case, I'm not the world's greatest writer and I'm not even anywhere near the best artist, but I can do both of those things. And then I also had a background in business.
[00:12:31] So I had a content to write about. So if you had business skill with writing skill, with artistic skill, none of those three skills has to be world-class. It's just that they fit together really well. And so I always recommend, whatever you're doing, make sure that you add some complimentary skills because that's what makes a luck look for you.
[00:12:53] Hala Taha: That's great advice. Now, people have been interviewing you about Dilbert for decades. You wrote a book
[00:13:00] early in your career on the Dilbert principle, and we could go on and on about, stuff that you've done earlier in your career. But my podcast is aimed to help listeners grow financially and professionally.
[00:13:10] And so I'm gonna focus the bulk of this episode on persuasion, which I know you're an expert on these days. You've positioned yourself as an expert before we get into the nitty-gritty on that. I just want to know how difficult was it for you to go from cartoonist, to having a brand all about being a master persuader and things like that?
[00:13:30] Scott Adams: First of all, it's expensive because the topics I talk about are in the political realm. And it's very easy to say something that will cause somebody say, I will never buy your book or a calendar again, because of that one time you disagreed with me and it doesn't matter if you're right. I just disagree.
[00:13:47] So it was very expensive, but I knew it would be. And I'm also at a point in my life where I have enough wealth, that if things go wrong, I'm still fine.
[00:13:57] Hala Taha: I think you call that FU money, correct?
[00:13:59] Scott Adams:
[00:14:00] Yeah. I, wasn't going to use that on this podcast, but I guess that's exactly what I call it. And so I had the opportunity to do something that other people simply, couldn't do because it would be too dangerous to their brand too risky to the reputation too expensive.
[00:14:16] But I have a high risk tolerance, which is also a learned skill to some extent, and I didn't know exactly where it would all go. I just started blogging about it. And that turned into doing live streaming on Periscope and tweeting about it. And next thing you know, I've got, I don't know, 325,000 Twitter followers and people wanting to be on TV and stuff.
[00:14:40] So what are the other things I recommend for people trying to figure out life is you should try lots of stuff. And if that stuff doesn't work right away, or at least doesn't show signs that it could work, then bail out and try something else. So I've probably failed nine and a 10 times I've tried things.
[00:15:00] Throughout my entire career. But the reason that you're talking to me is that one and a 10 things don't just work, but they work fabulously. They work so well that it compensates for all the things that don't work. So even this morning, I was talking about how to maybe build down the studio and expand what I'm doing with live streaming, et cetera.
[00:15:20] Now, I don't know if that'll work or it'll be just a big waste of money, but I do know that I can tiptoe into it. I can find out what does work and I can back out without much of a loss. So that's my recommendation is put your efforts into a whole bunch of little baskets and then see if the basket shows signs that it could sustain itself.
[00:15:39] If you keep working on it. In other words, does it show interest? That's really strong from the first moment. That's always a good indicator. Even if everything else is going wrong. I always use the example of cell phones. If you looked at the earliest cell phones, they were absolutely horrible that you couldn't make a phone call.
[00:15:57] The battery life was bad. There was big as a
[00:16:00] brick and the connection was terrible every single time. And yet people were desperate for the product so much so that it became one of the biggest products in the world. It's because even in its bad form, it was obvious that the good forum would be huge.
[00:16:16] Same with computers, same with cars, everything that went through that cycle. So you're the same as that, your career is just like that. If you try being the world's greatest expert on stamp collecting, or some obscure technology or whatever, and put it out there and see what people.
[00:16:32] Did they get excited? Did they try to hunt you down? Do they work with it? Even though you're not very good at it yet, if any of those things happen, it means the energy is there and you have something to work on. But if you have the greatest idea in the world and you put it out there and just, nobody cares walk away because you can't make people care.
[00:16:50] Hala Taha: Yeah. I think that's a really good point. It's experiment, lean into what works and make sure you fail fast. If you think that nothing is sticking great advice.
[00:17:00] So what makes you an expert on persuasion? What credentials do you have in that area?
[00:17:05] Scott Adams: First of all, I never called myself an expert, but much of the press has called me that my background is that I'm a trained hypnotist.
[00:17:12] So in my twenties, I went to school to become a hypnotist and the things I learned about how people think and how they're persuaded and the limits of rational thought were world changing. And the biggest change is that most people believe that human beings are rational creatures. Most of the time, the common view is that, oh, 90% of the time we're rational about things.
[00:17:38] Sure. Every now and then let's say 10% of the time we get a little crazy and we get emotional and baby, we lose sight of. But mostly we're rational creatures. And therefore you should build a message around that rationality, but people who study this stuff from hypnotist to any kind of mind control people to advertisers all
[00:18:00] know that none of that's true.
[00:18:01] We are a fundamentally, irrational species who is only rational, maybe 10% of the time, but it's the 10% where there's no emotion and there's nothing on the line. So for example, if you just balancing your checkbook, for example, that's just math. You could probably do that rationally. If you're trying to find the most direct path to work, you could probably figure that out rationally.
[00:18:24] But if you're trying to figure out who to marry, what job to have, whether to fall in love, what political group to follow, that's all a rational. We joined teams. We make decisions based on biases and bigotry and things. We've heard that aren't true. And then we rationalize them after the fact. So that was my first exposure to that way of thinking.
[00:18:46] But what followed was decades of practice and study on my own of all the forms of persuasion. And that includes visual persuasion. How do you make a PowerPoint presentation? How do you
[00:19:00] draw a comic that persuades to using words and combining messages and with various content? So as part of my job as a writer and cartoonist, I'm always absorbing everything I can in that topic.
[00:19:14] And getting back to my earlier point about a talent stack, part of what makes me a better writer is that I've added that specific talent to my stack. I would recommend that no matter what you're doing. No matter what your career is, even if it's a technology career, if you're a math teacher, it doesn't matter.
[00:19:31] You should also learn the basics of persuasion because it's useful for just everything.
[00:19:38] Hala Taha: Agreed. So your latest book is all about persuasion. It's called Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter. And basically it uncovers the persuasion strategies that Trump used throughout his campaign in 2016.
[00:19:50] How Hillary's campaign fell short in comparison and how you can apply these strategies to be persuasive yourself. During the 2016 elections, you actually predicted that Donald [00:20:00] Trump would win primarily because of his persuasive power. And according to you, what looked like accidents or blunders? It was actually calculated examples of Donald Trump being a master persuader and bending the nation too, as well.
[00:20:14] Now I don't want to get into politics, your views or mine, but I do want to uncover all you have to say about persuasion and Trump will inevitable. Be brought up as an example, but for educational purposes. So you mentioned previously that people mostly base their decisions on emotion, and you say that humans operate 90% on irrational and emotion and that decisions are made from our guts.
[00:20:39] So can you just unpack that a little bit and explain to us why?
[00:20:43] Scott Adams: I think the why of it is that we're irrational, but we have an image of ourselves as rational people. So it's very unusual for someone to vote for the other party in an election. For example, you could encounter in the fact that no matter who runs, it doesn't matter who the
[00:21:00] candidates are, that almost all Democrats will vote for the Democrat and almost all Republicans will vote for the Republican.
[00:21:06] Here's the weird part. You could change their policies, you could switch them and just say, okay, we'll give the Democrat, all the Republican policies and vice versa, and you would still get the same result. People would, not a hundred percent, but probably close to 80 or 90% of the people would still just vote their party because they're not actually using the facts now in politics, in particular, people don't really understand the topics as well as they think they do.
[00:21:34] So for me to have an opinion on let's say, trade policy, or what should the fed do, or what's the best way to banking an Iranian nuclear deal? I think we have to admit that even well-educated adults who follow the news, we don't know everything we need to know about those things, but we still have strong opinion.
[00:21:56] Which tend to be just the same opinion our team is
[00:22:00] pushing. So there's this big illusion that we use rationality when a hundred percent of the evidence. Scientific evidence, every study supports this as well as your observation and the best place to see it. If you haven't seen these already is every now and then somebody will go out on usually some YouTube video with a microphone on the street.
[00:22:21] And they'll say, what do you think of this policy? And they'll describe a candidate and give them the policy of that candidate's opposition. For example, they'll say this is what Hillary Clinton says, but really it's what Trump said. Or they'll say, this is what Trump says, but really it's AOC. And you'll find that people will support the policies strong.
[00:22:43] If they hear it comes from the person they like, but the minute you say I followed you. The policy you just strongly agreed with, came from the person you hate the most. And they will say, ah, okay I guess I'll have to rethink this when they get caught. So you can see it in your own life. You can see a
[00:23:00] scientifically, there's no evidence that people use anything even approaching rationality when they make the big decisions on politics.
[00:23:07] Hala Taha: Yeah. So a big part of this is all the different biases that people have. There's several you talk about in your book, confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, consistency bias. Could you just walk us through some of these filters that people have that prevent them from looking at things rationally?
[00:23:24] Scott Adams: I think the team filter has got to be the biggest one.
[00:23:28] So people identify, they pick a lifestyle and they say I'm one of these people, if you showed people a bunch of pictures, of different types of people, they would tell you I'm probably going to agree with the person you show me this picture or this picture. So I think for politics, it doesn't get much beyond that.
[00:23:47] Now people also have other biases. They have racial bias, they have bias about, everything from whether somebody has a handicap to age to gender. We're a very biased civilization,
[00:24:00] but I don't think that can be removed from the human being. And the problem is that people are also pattern recognition machines.
[00:24:08] We look for patterns and we say, okay, that's the pattern. And now I know something, but the problem is we're really terrible at finding patterns. So if five people from El Bonia punched you in the mouth, when you're on the street, you would conclude, there's pattern. Everybody from a bony is a puncher.
[00:24:25] I better stay away from all , but maybe what you don't. Is that you happen to be there during, the convention of elbows and punchers or something. That's a ridiculous example, but there's generally some contexts that would explain your experience, but you don't know the context. So you just say five El Bonia's.
[00:24:42] Five of them punched me in the face. They're punchers, I guess that's it. And we're continually going through life, imagining that we see patterns, but a lot of it is just confirmation bias and not really a pattern. It's a fake pattern. So confirmation bias for those who haven't heard of that term
[00:25:00] means that we have a tendency to see what we expect to see.
[00:25:04] And we will define what we see and interpret it as compatible with what we already thought was true. So even if you show somebody evidence that refutes what they believe to be true, they will twist it into their mind until it doesn't exist or that it really does support them. That's the normal way.
[00:25:24] Hala Taha: Cool and something that really caught my attention was your thoughts around mass delusions. Can you tell us why you think mass delusions occur and maybe provide some examples of the biggest mass dilutions you think exist right now?
[00:25:37] Scott Adams: Yeah, mass solutions are common through our history and maybe so common that they're more common than the truth, but we wouldn't know because we're continually in them.
[00:25:47] I give you one of the best examples from history. There was a case I forget there's a few decades ago called the McMartin preschool case. And the people who manage this preschool
[00:26:00] were accused of being Satanists, who were taking the children to a secret room beneath the preschool and subjecting them to all kinds of violent and horrible satanic rituals.
[00:26:13] And the reason that the police believe this was true is that they talked to a number of students and a number of students said it was. What are you going to do if you've got, a dozen students or however many it was, but it was a lot who have some version of the same story. So they bring him to court.
[00:26:29] And it turns out that there was no underground thing at all. There was literally no piece of evidence to suggest any of it was true, but people couldn't figure out then why are all these kids saying it's true. It doesn't make sense. You couldn't get that many people to say the same thing, unless it was true.
[00:26:47] And then somebody who understands how this stuff works. Probably somebody who'd been either a police trainer or maybe somebody who had experienced with hypnosis, looked at the tapes of the police,
[00:27:00] interviewing the children. And once you look at them and you have my skillset, you can see what went wrong.
[00:27:05] They were actually suggesting to the kids that this was happening and the kids are so easily influenced that they would imagine it was true and feed it back to the police as if it were, and even at details. So if the police had done it they would have said, can you tell us anything, that's going on with the school?
[00:27:23] Anything seem out of place. And then if the kids had said, yeah, at a place, they've got to say tannic basement, that's out of the place. That probably would have been useful information. But if the police say we've had some reports that some things are going on with people being taken to basements, have you ever been taken to the basement?
[00:27:43] If you say that to a young kid, there's a pretty good chance. The kid is going to look you in the eye and say, yeah, I've been to that basement. And I know exactly what you mean, and it's just imagination. After a while, they'll actually talk themselves into it. And the child will actually form a false memory of
[00:28:00] something that didn't happen on their own.
[00:28:02] So that was a famous case of a mass hysteria. Of course, the Salem witch trials, where the Puritans thought that some people were witches and then everybody imagined they were seeing witchcraft everywhere. But of course, none of that was true. And today, for example, I hate to get into real political examples unless you want me to.
[00:28:22] But most of the examples today are something taken out of context. Something that people believe about the president. If you remember when the president was first elected, I think this is nonpolitical. The expectations were so horrible about what he would do, and then nothing like that happened that instead of people saying, okay, I guess we thought that would happen.
[00:28:45] And then the evidence. Doesn't support it. They're actually seeing it happen even though it's not. So people are imagining things that are the worst case scenario when the evidence doesn't support it and other people can't see it.
[00:29:00] So one of the ways that I advise people to tell what's the delusion and what isn't is, if people are seeing different things, while looking at the same evidence, the people who imagined some extra stuff, there are probably the ones imagining it.
[00:29:14] So for example, if you, if somebody says, Hey, there's an elephant in the room with us and you look around and there's no elephant, and you say, I don't see an elephant. And the other says, look right here, it's right in front of you, a giant elephant. You can usually count on the person who does see it is the one hallucinating, because we don't usually hallucinate subtractions from the environment.
[00:29:36] So it's unusual to say, Hey, there's no furniture in this room. And then the other person says, yes, It's more typical that you add something to the environment that's not there. And so you see that in politics all the time, it's people imagining they could read the mind of the president. And even though what he did or said, wasn't so bad, they think that they can tell by the word choice that his real inner
[00:30:00] thoughts, the things he didn't say are bad as well.
[00:30:03] And so that's the situation we have now that people imagine they could read minds of complete strangers and they see terrible evil in there.
[00:30:11] Hala Taha: Yeah. And when Bigly, you describe humans as moist robots who are easily programmed by master persuaders like Trump, and even by other persuaders, like you in your own words, why do you claim that humans are akin to moist robots?
[00:30:27] What does that mean?
[00:30:29] Scott Adams: When I call humans moist robots, I'm talking about the fact that cause and effect is in play everywhere. So the rules of physics do not stop at the outside of your skill. Outside of your skull. If you hold a ball in your hand and then let go of it, it will always fall to the ground. If you're on earth, because gravity is the same everywhere.
[00:30:51] And if you push something in the real world, it will move. If it's not fast, Because the rules of physics apply everywhere, but those same rules apply
[00:31:00] to every little electronic and chemical reaction within your brain. So whatever your brain is going to do, it's because of cause and effect. It's not because of something magic, freewill, freewill is literally an illusion that we tack on after we've made decisions.
[00:31:16] And then we say, oh, I guess I use my common sense to make that decision. But probably not probably what happened is it was just caused an effect. You had a certain amount of inputs. Those inputs operated on a brain that had a certain chemistry and architecture. And what happened is the only thing that could have happened with all of those variables in place.
[00:31:36] So given that we're programmable and you can see that in a million ways. We see that for example, we program children to believe in the religion, to the parents typically, and to believe in patriotism for whatever country they're born in typically. And those are not things that kids are born with. Those are things that are programmed.
[00:31:56] Likewise society continues to program
[00:32:00] people. And then when they become adults, they join a team, usually a Democrat or Republican, and then once on a team, the rest of the team programs them further and they accept that while thinking it was their free choice to make these decision.
[00:32:14] Hala Taha: How does fear relate to persuasion and how was fear used in our last election to persuade voters one way or another?
[00:32:24] Scott Adams: So the most powerful persuasion is fear because if you're afraid of something, that's the thing you have to act on first. It's the thing you can't put off until later we evolved, or we were designed depending on your point of view, to have brains that respond first to danger. And if we didn't, we'd all be dead.
[00:32:43] Cause, if a wild animal enters the room, you can't really, work on your crossword puzzle while that's happening. So in the election, we saw that Trump was claiming that we had danger from people coming in, who are not legal citizens, and they might come in and cause some crimes. [00:33:00] So he used that kind of fear.
[00:33:02] He used the fear that the economy would have a problem if somebody else got elected. And then Hillary Clinton's team also using high-end persuaders as their advisors came up with the idea. President Trump would be dark. They use the word dark, which is a real professional persuasion word. And also the thing that tells you that they were using professionals to advise them when you hear dark, that's a good hypnosis word because you read into it, whatever you thought is that worst case scenario.
[00:33:34] So instead of making specific claims, which you might say that specific claim doesn't sound exactly like something I believe is going to happen. Instead, the Hillary's started saying it's a dark image, it's a dark future. It's a dark idea. And people start saying, Hey, I have some ideas of my own, what might go wrong?
[00:33:52] And they do sound kind of dark. So it was a way to capture all of those vague worries into one. And weaponize
[00:34:00] it for the election. So both sides used fear at its maximum. And that continuing today, president Trump still uses fear as part of his persuasion. Hey, we'd better build a wall because crimes and drugs are coming, and the opposition is using fear the other way, which is, Hey, if we protect our borders, it's a slippery slope.
[00:34:22] And the next thing he's going to be rounding up citizens of the United States and putting them in concentration camps for whatever reason. You're hysteria, man.
[00:34:31] Hala Taha: Why is being descriptive and illustrating a visual really important when it comes to fear and persuasion in general.
[00:34:40] Scott Adams: Our brains are a visual tools, meaning that whatever is visual dominates our thinking.
[00:34:47] So if you see one thing, but you hear about another thing, the thing is going to influence you more, depending on what it is. Of course, it has to be a powerful visual image, but if it is that's going to influence you more
[00:35:00] than a concept. So for example, recently there was a story of a very unfortunate event where a father and a young child died trying to come into the United States and the photograph of them tangled together.
[00:35:15] And dad in the water is at least a hundred times more powerful. Then somebody saying on the other side we need strong border security and we should have done this or that, or it's really the prior administrations fault or whatever they say. Those are words. Those are concepts. Those are ideas.
[00:35:32] Those are sometimes facts sometimes not, but in any case, they can't compete with a picture. The picture just takes over our brain and dominates our thinking. So you'll see that the president, even when he talks about things, likes to use verbal pictures. So he doesn't say we'd like better border security.
[00:35:51] He says, we want a wall because the wall you imagined in your head and you imagined whatever wall, you want to imagine. So he's not too over
[00:36:00] descriptive, which is also good technique. You'll see that wherever there's a visual competing against the concept, probably 90% of the time, the visual beats.
[00:36:09] Hala Taha: Yeah. And another example for my listeners is Trump went on SNL and he had a skit in the oval office. And after that, it became easier for people to imagine him as president. I think another one would be his red hat that he always wore make America great again. Yeah. And speaking of that, how do you think that helped with his campaign?
[00:36:29] Scott Adams: I think the make America great again, slogan is one of the most successful branding slogans of all time. So I think that it's purpose to get him elected in the first place served its purpose perfectly. The red hats, as you mentioned, makes this huge visual when he has the rallies. So the rallies are as much about exciting.
[00:36:51] The people who attend as it is creating photographs that people can look out later and see how many people were there. If
[00:37:00] you see that a lot of people are joining a movement, it makes you want to join. So you see president Trump often complains that the fake news as he calls them is not turning their cameras to show how big the crowds are.
[00:37:12] So if he can't get the actual picture, he puts the picture in your mind with his words, which is good technique. Seal, say the crowd hears, gigantic lit all these people. So many people, tens of thousands. The fake news is not showing you, but at least you get a visual in your head just from this description.
[00:37:29] So that's terribly powerful. And the example you used where he did the Saturday night live skit as an actual president before he was president was brilliant, because the candidates would get to approve anything that they were in. And he approved one that allowed people to imagine him as president during a time.
[00:37:48] When people literally couldn't imagine it and that visual allowed them to do it. Whereas Hillary Clinton also had a chance to go on SNL and she approved a skit that put her in a
[00:38:00] bar drinking too much. Now that visual probably hurt her and Trump's visual probably helped him. And that's one of the reasons. I've pointed out that he's better at it than most people including her.
[00:38:13] Hala Taha: Yeah. That's so interesting. So let's move on to some of your tactical persuasion strategies, specifically focusing on some of the oral persuasion strategies that you talk about. Why is it better to be simple and straightforward, when you're trying to persuade someone.
[00:38:29] Scott Adams: There's a general estimate, a good rule of thumb that if you were to give somebody, let's say a PowerPoint presentation, you don't need the PowerPoint, but just the presentation that people will remember about 10% of it.
[00:38:42] And if you're smart, you will design your presentation. So the part that I remember is the part you care about the most. So if you keep things simple, you at least create a better chance that the important stuff will be remembered. So when president Trump says, build the wall, that's simple and
[00:39:00] he repeats it until all you can think about is that wall.
[00:39:02] You picture it in your mind, you still might be opposed to it, but you know exactly what he wants. And part of good persuasion and good communication in general is that you want people to know exactly what you want, not approximately what you want. And he is the best we've ever seen, maybe the best we'll ever seen you see in the future at being clear and being simple and being repetitive with his messages nobody's ever done.
[00:39:30] Hala Taha: Yeah, I agree. That's probably why he won. And it's just funny that people didn't realize that he was most likely being strategic. I think you met him in person. Did he admit that he was being strategic about all these things? Or did you not talk to him about that?
[00:39:44] Scott Adams: He's admitted at long before the election, because he wrote a book, there was a ghost writer, it was Trump's book called The Art Of The Deal.
[00:39:52] And The Art Of The Deal, lays out his techniques that are pretty much what he used to get elected. So for example, he talks
[00:40:00] specifically about using hyperbole now, for those who may not speak English as a first language hyperbole in this context refers to exaggerations, that are exaggerated enough that the fact checkers would say, that's not true, but they're in the right direction.
[00:40:17] So for example, when Trump says a hundred thousand people came to my rally and the fact checkers, check it and find out it was only, let's say 20,000. But 20,000 is more than anybody else could get to a rally. And it's still pretty darn impressive. You still leave the conversation thinking, wow. A lot of people went to that rally and that's what he's trying to tell you.
[00:40:39] So the specifics don't matter. And he talks about that in his book. So when the president has been accused of failing the fact checking, I think it's up to 10,000 times. The title of my book Win Bigly 's the subtitle was persuasion in a world where facts don't matter. And what I said back in 2015, and this is
[00:41:00] you don't see this coming.
[00:41:01] You think the facts matter, and that's why you're blind to this. He knows the facts don't matter, but it does matter if you're directionally true, because if you're not at least directionally true, people will spot that pretty quickly. So for example, if he says illegal immigration is the biggest problem in the world.
[00:41:20] But the truth might turn out. It's just a big problem. And nowhere near the biggest problem in the world, while you're still convinced that it needs to be addressed. And that's really the thing he's trying to get through. So I say that he's been signaling his method all along. And one of the other things he does, he talks about branding and then you saw him brand, his opponents, you saw low-energy jab and lion, Ted Cruz and crooked Hillary, et cetera.
[00:41:49] And he talks about how he does it. And then he does it right in front of you. And he does it better than it's ever been done, to the point where simply branding Jeb Bush,
[00:42:00] low energy caused such a stark contrast in your mind between jabs energy and Trump's that it really made a difference and took Bush completely out of the race from being the presumptive winner.
[00:42:13] To me, almost a broken leg, as soon as he left the starting gate. Now that is impressive persuasion and he repeated it. It wasn't an accident.
[00:42:22] Hala Taha: Yeah. And you call this a linguistic kill shot, correct?
[00:42:26] Scott Adams: Yeah. I like to brand things too. So this is literally the same technique by giving it a name. I could have that associated with my thoughts on it, and it allows my brand to expand a little bit.
[00:42:38] So I use the same techniques the president does at a lower scale. And by calling it a linguistic kill shot, which got picked up by a lot of the media, it gets repeated a lot. I attached myself to a national story and that's also something that a trained persuader would learn to do.
[00:42:55] Hala Taha: So how can we use something like that in real life?
[00:42:58] Say we're arguing
[00:43:00] with a coworker or whatever it is. Like, how could we use that to our advantage? Can you just take it down a level to real life?
[00:43:08] Scott Adams: Yeah. Some of Trump's techniques are hard to reproduce in real life because, he has a super power that you don't, which is, as he likes to say, he can take the heat.
[00:43:19] And boy, could he take the heat so he can take criticism of the kind that would make other people just, dig a hole and bury themselves. So if you can do that, then you can use all of his techniques. But if you're not comfortable with that, you have to pair it back to some easy stuff. So for example, you could certainly use fear and let's just use an example at your workplace.
[00:43:41] If one person says plan A is good and the other person says, plan B is good. And let's say, you're for plan B. Instead of saying here are all my facts and here's my research. You could say, plan a, we don't know if it's the best one or not, but plan B, we could all die. Plan B could put us out of business plan B could actually kill
[00:44:00] Now that might not be exactly true. He might be exaggerating how dangerous it is, but when people question it, they're going to say, that's not true. It's not going to actually kill anybody. That's an exaggeration, but in my wound somebody, And it might drop our profits by 30%. So the person who used the hyperbole, drew the other person into agreeing that there could be some really bad things and made them think about them, made them, visualize them in their own mind.
[00:44:31] So you can use hyperbole at work as long as you can take the heat for also failing the fact-checking. Another thing that Trump does really well is he makes you think past the sale. It's one of the most powerful sales tools, the way a car salesman would do it or a salesperson, the salesperson would say, do you like the red car or the blue one?
[00:44:53] Because they're making you think past the question of whether you want to buy one and they're making you think of the details
[00:45:00] the president uses this technique. And by the way, it's well demonstrated that this. When he talks about, for example, either North Korea or Iran, he doesn't just say, give up your nuclear weapons.
[00:45:12] That's what the bad persuaders of the past used to say. He says, if you give up your nuclear weapons, you can have this amazing future. And actually, I believe he had a video at one point showing North Korea, his lights, all coming on and prosperity and lots of visual persuasion. So he makes you think about what the country is going to be like, after you give up your nukes, same with the Iran.
[00:45:36] He says it Iran. It could be this amazing country. Your economy could boom, if you give up these nukes, so he makes you live in the. That you imagine where you've thought past the decision. Do we keep our nuclear weapons? Do we develop nuclear weapons or not into a future where you imagine yourself there and you've got peace and prosperity because you made that decision in the past.
[00:45:59] That is very
[00:46:00] strong persuasion technique. The president uses it all the time and you rarely see it from other. And there's no reason for it, except that they're less strained.
[00:46:09] Hala Taha: Another persuasion strategy that I think we could apply ourselves that you talk about in your book is to propose an outrageous solution.
[00:46:16] And then over time, dial it back to position yourself as someone who's compromising. Can you explain how to do that and why it works?
[00:46:25] Scott Adams: Yes. That's the big offer. So anybody who negotiates is familiar with this technique, you walk into the office and say, I will not sell you these products for less than $1 million.
[00:46:36] And the other person is Ooh, I was only planning to offer a hundred thousand, but now that million dollars is in my mind, I'm already biased towards something in between maybe 500,000, but it could be that the person who said a million and was just hoping to get the deal bigger than 400,000 and the person who offer was thinking of
[00:47:00] offering a hundred thousand. Here's a million.
[00:47:02] And they don't offer a hundred thousand after that they think, oh, darn it. I'm going to have to go somewhere closer to the middle. How about 500,000? And then the person who offered a million, but really would have been happy with 400,000 says I'll take it, because I did. Okay. So you see the president do this with, for example, anything with immigration.
[00:47:22] So at first he wants a wall. That's a big giant wall and it's really expensive and it's going to be every inch of the border. But then as people talk about how impractical and expensive that might be, it turns into it doesn't have to be a wall so much, it could be a barrier, or it could be similar to the barriers that we've used before.
[00:47:40] And I'm not talking about every place, just the places that are important and we don't have to do it all right away. We could spread this out over time and that sort of thing. So asking for a lot and settling for a little less is standard sales technique. We see the president using it more aggressively than other people have.
[00:48:00] And to go to fact, I think, oh, and by the way, you see the people who are pushing the green, new deal, AOC being the primary person uses exactly the same techniques. She's basically Trump on the other side. So if you don't look at the policies, but you just look at the technique, the people who are bad at negotiating and people were bad at persuasion. Used to say things such as we should greatly reduce our use of fossil fuels.
[00:48:29] The climate change has come in and it's pretty important. Those are concepts. Those are not persuasive. AOC comes in and says, we're going to get rid of airplanes. We're going to be that you wanted to be able to put fuel in an airplane, unless somebody figures out how to do it without using fossil fuels, we're going to change everything.
[00:48:47] And what do people say, AOC? You're crazy. You're crazy. You can't change everything. You can't do something that big that's way too big. And then AOC argues as if you really can. But
[00:49:00] what does she really want? I imagine because she shows great skill at negotiating. One assumes that she doesn't believe she would get all of those things. That rather she wants people to work a lot harder to address climate change.
[00:49:15] And simply by putting that marker out there, there's so extreme of getting rid of fossil fuels entirely and doing it quickly. And people saying, my God, my hair is on fire. I can't even imagine doing that, but I could imagine to half of that. And it could be the half of it was the most, anybody could have gotten might not be enough.
[00:49:34] And she would say, But it moves you in the right direction. And maybe you can work on the rest after that. So she uses the same techniques to great effect.
[00:49:42] Hala Taha: Yeah. She's somebody who many of our listeners have asked us to get her on the show. So I'll do my best. So something similar to this idea is presenting our solutions in the context of worse alternatives.
[00:49:56] It's again, moving towards compromising, moving the
[00:50:00] needle closer to what we want by using an extreme. Can you talk about that a little bit?
[00:50:04] Scott Adams: Yeah. That's the concept of contrast. I said earlier that we're pattern recognizing machines we are, but we're also contrast machines. So if a real estate broker takes you to a house that's too expensive, you say I don't want to buy that house.
[00:50:20] And then you're done. But a real estate broker takes you to a house that you say you could afford. Let's say you say my budget is this much. The real estate agent will take you to the best house that fits your budget. And the first thing you're going to find is it's not nearly as good as you wanted it to be. And then they're going to say just for contrast, just so you know what the options are.
[00:50:39] I know this is beyond your budget or at least the budget you want to spend, but let me show you what one looks like that's a little bit more expensive. And then when you see it, you say to yourself, oh man, I did not want to spend this much on a house. But now that I can compare it to the one I thought I could afford more easily, there's just no contest anymore.
[00:50:58] I have to have this better
[00:51:00] house. So contrast will make your non-critical faculties kick in pretty hard. And you'll say, ah, I want to avoid that bad one. This good. When suddenly looks much better. The best example of this is when a candidate for president picks a vice-president, because you want to pick a vice president who is serious enough, that people can imagine that if the president left office, for whatever bad reason that the vice president could at least do a credible job of stepping in, but you don't want that vice-president to be that people say, Hey, why don't you reverse the ticket that Vice-President's better than the president. So when president Trump picked Mike Pence, it was a brilliant contrast play because compared to Trump, Pence looks like the part where you took all the interesting parts away. It looks like the boring shadow that's left.
[00:51:52] After you take everything that's provocative and exciting and different away from Trump. This little, dried up
[00:52:00] desiccated shell of a candidate is Pence. Now I say that while also having a great respect for Pence, because if he were not being directly compared to Trump, You would say to yourself there's a guy that looks like a really solid politician.
[00:52:15] Oh yeah. You disagree with them on LGBTQ stuff. And I do too, but you'd say to yourself, there's a qualified serious guy, but the moment you see him stand next to Trump, he just disappears. And that's a perfect vice-president and pick he's good enough, but he'll never make your contrast look bad.
[00:52:34] Hala Taha: Interesting. Last question on persuasion, you were talking about talent stacking before. I think it also relates to persuasion and stacking your persuasion skills. So can you talk about some of the talent stack that Trump's persuasion skills were composed of and why it's important to layer on skills and not just be a one tactic person?
[00:52:58] Scott Adams: Actually has
[00:53:00] the most powerful set of talents you'll ever see. Even if you allow the, not one of those talents, not a single one. Is top shelf world-class. So for example, there are people who are probably better at branding. There are people who are probably better at giving a speech. There were probably people who were better at business.
[00:53:20] People were better at politics. People who know more about all the details of the policy, and you can go right down the line, but who do you know? And I'll tell you the answer. There's nobody who can do branding plus command a giant rally crowd to keep them totally entertained the entire time, who can run the government like a reality show and make that work. Who can hire and fire as quickly as the guy who's famous for firing people quickly, who can see a business situation faster who has more experienced negotiating.
[00:53:53] And again, it would be perfectly fair to say I could find you a better negotiator, or I could find you somebody
[00:54:00] who gives a better speech, but good luck finding somebody who has all of that. And can do all of those things well, above average, that's what makes it magic and makes it powerful. And it also made his success invisible to people who couldn't see the talent stack.
[00:54:17] Because if you make the mistake of looking at it the old way, you say he's not the best at any of these things. And these are the things you need to be present. Therefore, how could he be president? I looked at those things and said, oh my goodness, we've never seen a stack like this. This is the most powerful combination of skills, emphasis combination you'll ever say.
[00:54:41] And here's how it played out. You saw there was this big controversy about the census and whether you should include on the census, a question about citizenship, the problem was that it might discourage people from answering if they were not legal citizens. And we do want all of them to answer in the end, the solution was
[00:55:00] to simply use the databases that the government already had.
[00:55:03] Because apparently if you compare them, you can figure out who's a citizen. And to just use the information they had now, that was a solution that a business person would see, because it's very typical to talk about. Who's got, what database, how do we compare these databases? It's that's everyday business.
[00:55:20] And every corporation and ordinary person in the cubicle would have solved that on the second day. But you needed probably business people. I don't know who it was, but somebody who had experience with business probably said, Hey, we probably have this information. I'll bet we could get it. And it turns out you could get it better this way.
[00:55:39] It's not even the worst choice. It's a better choice for accuracy. And when the president heard it, as we know, the president said, oh yeah, it makes total sense because he has a business background. And as soon as he heard it, he was like, oh yeah, I forget the other idea. Let's forget putting it on the census.
[00:55:55] That's just a waste of time. We already have everything we need. Having business experience on
[00:56:00] top of politics, on top of persuasion, on top of branding, on top of reality show, on top of speech giving and all that, you just can't find a better combination.
[00:56:10] Hala Taha: Interesting. I said it was my last question on persuasion, but there's one question that I think is really relevant to my listeners and it's being on the other side of the coin.
[00:56:19] So how can we protect ourselves from bending towards someone's well, or getting persuaded ourselves? Like how can we be free-thinkers and be as unbiased as possible when thinking?
[00:56:33] Scott Adams: It's very hard because even people who are experts at this can be persuaded. I feel myself being persuaded all the time.
[00:56:40] And in theory, I should have every tool to protect from it, but I feel like I have a little protection. So the things that you can do is learn as much about persuasion as possible. So my book Win Bigly is a good introduction to that. And it references other sources that if you want him to follow up. So first of all, knowing how irrational people are
[00:57:00] helps, the second thing you should do is look for how often you agree with your team.
[00:57:06] And whether or not you ever disagree seriously, because if you never disagree with your team, you've got a problem. You're probably not a serious player, but if sometimes you disagree with the team that gives you some hope that you might be breaking out of your bubble. I have a new book coming out called Loserthink.
[00:57:23] That'll be out in November, 2019, and that teaches you more about how to break out of your bubble. But the questions would be, am I just agree with my team, if this were some other person in this situation, would I have the same feeling? If it were a Democrat who said it, what I feel the same as if a Republican said exactly the same thing, that's a good test.
[00:57:44] And then the next thing you do is expose yourself to as many different opinions as possible in the political realm. Especially if you don't see both Fox news and CNN, I'm just using them as proxies for, two sides. If you don't
[00:58:00] see both sides and you only see the little tunnel, that one side presents, you couldn't possibly understand the full situation.
[00:58:07] And the other thing is to understand that so often the news is fake. And I mean that literally in fact, today, almost all the headlines on today's news are literally fake in which a long quote is taken out of context to only show the first part, which reverses its meaning. And you'll see that over and over again.
[00:58:28] So make sure you expand your knowledge based on, different silos of information. So those are the main things. Wait for loser. Think my book to give you some more.
[00:58:39] Hala Taha: That's very helpful information. So when does Loserthink come out? Exactly. And it's available for pre-order now, right?
[00:58:45] Scott Adams: November 5th, it's published audio book at about the same time, but you can, pre-order on Amazon, for example.
[00:58:52] Hala Taha: Awesome. Think we're just about out of time. So tell our listeners where they can find out more about you and everything that you?
[00:58:59] Scott Adams: Do
[00:59:00] place to find me is on Twitter @ScottAdamsSays or dilbert.com to follow Dilbert itself. My Twitter will get you to everything else.
[00:59:11] Hala Taha: Awesome. Thank you so much. I think this was a really educational conversation and I really appreciate your time.
[00:59:18] Scott Adams: Thanks so much. I love the questions and it was a pleasure to be here.
[00:59:22] Hala Taha: Thanks for listening toYoung And Profiting Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to write us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to the show. Follow us on Instagram youngandprofitingand check us out at youngandprofiting.com.
[00:59:35] You can chat live with us every single day on the YAP Society on Slack. Check out our show notes and profiting.com for the registration link, you can find me on Instagram @yapwithhala or LinkedIn, just search for my name Hala Taha. Big thanks to the app YAP for another successful episode this week, I'd like to give a special thank you to Hasham and Danny.
[00:59:55] Hasham has been handling our booking for about six months now and he's lined up an incredible.
[01:00:00] For the remainder of the year, including Robert Greene and Dan Locke, he also just started getting his feet wet as a research production assistant. I also want to give a special shout out to Danny who is our super talented audio engineer.
[01:00:13] She spends hours each week getting our audio to a professional level and the show would not sound nearly as good without her skills. Thanks, Danny and Hasham you guys rock. This is Hala signing off.
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