Letter Zero.64
Dear <<First Name>>, 

Baby animals like to visit my basement studio.  Rabbits, mice, prairie dogs, snakes, and birds... they can’t resist jumping down my window well to say hi. Today as I rescued a baby robin for the second time in two days, I recalled an animal survival story...

First, watch this video and see if you can figure out why the baby bird’s mental model is flawed. It wasn’t obvious to me right away but maybe you’ll get it.

Every day of the young bird’s life up until this moment has reinforced an obvious belief. Whenever a worm appeared, all it needed to do was open its mouth and the worm would fly in. The fact that its mother was the one dropping the treat into its beak never registered into its mental model. 

The bird’s survival depends on its ability to abandon a core belief. It is confronting a new reality, a realization that outside of the nest, worms behave strangely, in fact the exact opposite of the worms it thought it understood. Surprise!

I wrote about the fatal error of turkeys in User Zero. Every day a turkey’s worldview is reinforced because the food is delivered by a seemingly benevolent farmer. It grows plump and lazy until eventually the blade appears out of nowhere. Surprise!

The tragedy of the turkey story is that Thanksgiving birds don’t have a chance. The flying worm parable is a story of hope because the bird still has time to abandon a deadly belief. 

We don’t have to wait until the blade is on our neck to change our worldview. We just need to pay attention to the moments when the world seems upside down. You don’t have to look very far to get that feeling. Has the world gone crazy? In these disorienting moments, try to discern which of your mental models is failing you. Then abandon it. Survival depends on it.

Yes, it has been a long time since I wrote one of these, forgive me. I can’t promise to get back to my weekly routine, but I haven’t given up on this project. Stay creative.

Your friend,
Copyright © 2022 Adrian Hanft, All rights reserved.

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