On Ugly Billboards and Consistency

This week’s book learning is from Yes! by Robert Cialdini.

A local traffic safety community approached a group of citizens with a request to put up a large (ugly) billboard on their beautiful lawn endorsing road safety. 17% agreed to the request.

Residents, in a similar neighborhood elsewhere, were then first approached with a different request – to place a small ‘Be a safe driver’ sign on their doors. Almost all residents agreed.

Two weeks later, this group were asked if they would put up the same large and ugly billboard on their lawn. 76% agreed.

What just happened?


Influence psychologists call this the ‘Foot-in-the-door’ principle – people want to act consistent to their perception of themselves. In this case, their perception of themselves was as being ‘concerned citizens.’

I found this a very interesting insight. How do you think we can use this in our lives? Looking forward to your thoughts in the comments.

Here’s to understanding (and using?) ‘foot-in-the-door’ this week! :)

Straight from the Heart

Every once in a while, I let loose on this blog. You would think having a daily blog would give one multiple opportunities to do that. Funnily enough, it actually doesn’t.

One of my (perhaps naive) hopes is that you actually take away something positive and meaningful from these daily musings and ideas. Over time, I’ve realized it’s best to focus on one point and make it well rather than clutter posts with thoughts and ideas. Structure and simplicity help greatly. I know that as an avid blog reader myself. The irony, of course, is that writing a simple concise post takes an immense amount of skill. At least in my case, this is work in progress. A learning a day..

One of the big benefits of this blog, in my case, is this window to the world. A soap box, of sorts, to share ideas and thoughts with you. Many times I just rant. It’s a frustration or thought that I get off my chest. That helps greatly, too. Thank you for listening and commenting from time to time. Hearing from you hardly ever fails to make my day.

I had a great day today. It was a mix of many little things that made it a great day. It was emotional in parts, involved a couple of great discussions, some nice catch ups, a nice guitar lesson and some time walking about around central London.

A deep and intense conversation was a particular highlight. I was speaking with a friend I’ve probably never spoken to for more than ten straight minutes. We met after seven years and ended up catching up for four or so hours. He’s just moved abroad to study and we spoke the same ‘language’ in many ways. If you ever have an opportunity to study or work abroad, I hope you consider taking it. If you don’t have one, I hope you consider making one. And if you’ve already studied or worked abroad so much that you’ve gotten used it, I hope you find time to think about how far you’ve come. It’s a humbling thought.

The world often fools us into thinking about the tangibles (money, status etc) when we make decisions. The tangibles do matter. But only so much. We need enough of them but they tend to suffocate us after that. We become limited. Constricted. Always in search of something certain and risk-free and no longer enthralled by the idea of taking leaps of faith.

Remember when we were kids.. when we had friends of our parents who would lift us of the ground and ask us if we’d like to be thrown up so they could catch us. Remember how we were always so happy at that thought? How ready we were to take that leap of faith..

It’s easy to point to all the things that make us lose a bit of that natural wonder, joy and faith whilst growing up. But, growing up is not serious business. It doesn’t have to be. We can still be child like. We just have to choose to be. We find what we look for.

I sometimes feel we trick ourselves to lead a limited life. We keep choosing the easy and certain paths simply to keep ourselves comfortable and point fingers at the world and circumstances. We surround ourselves by people who don’t necessarily help our cause, who fill us with ideas of mediocrity and who don’t necessarily add positive to our lives simply because they reinforce this belief that our comfort zone is what’s best for us. Luckily though, life gives us many chances. Every once in a while life throws in an inspiring person who changes the way we think and gives us new perspective. We just have to be open.

Over time, though, we realize that life is not like in the movies. There is no hero/heroine waiting to fall in love with us. Even if we find love, sustaining love is a whole different matter. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a clear idea of what we want to do. Most of us don’t have the education we would like to have. We are hardly ever as fit as we’d like to be or as knowledge-able. These things take that dreaded thing called work.

And the more we start working hard on ourselves, our life and our relationships, we realize that it’s not all that dreaded after all. We learn that there is no happiness without hard work. Nothing comes for free and thank god for that. It would be no fun if it was..

And, as we begin working hard, we begin to take responsibility for ourselves and our lives. And then we begin questioning why we do what we do. More often than not, we realize that we do what we do for good reason. But, somehow, that process of asking those question changes us in ways we can barely imagine. We are transformed already. And sometimes, we find no meaning in what we do. And we change it. Happiness. Satisfaction.

The more we do, the more we can do. The more learn, the more we can learn. The more we can learn and do, the more we want to learn and do. The more we learn and do, the better we become. The better we become, the more small wins we begin to notch up. Confidence. The more small wins we begin to notch up, the more big wins come our way. More confidence. More action. More failures. More questions. More realizations.  It hits us that what we do is not who we are. And that all these trophies we have accumulated are but fleeting. Tricks of time almost. Who we are.. well, that’s a deeper matter altogether. More humility. More understanding. More kindness. More love. More happiness.

There are no shortcuts. But, as long as the days may seem, the years pass by faster than we even imagine. Yesterday’s sorrows are forgotten, tomorrow’s worries are laughed at and today’s joy and love are carried forward. The journey is full of ups and downs. There’s no way around that too. All the while, it’s up to us to keep moving forward. Keep our heads up, smile, hug, love, laugh and do.

I met a friend while he was at work today. I passed by to say hello and asked him how we was doing. I knew that he was going through a particularly difficult time. But, he gave me his usual beaming smile and said life was good. I smiled back. He knew that I knew. ‘What’s the point of getting depressed about troubles, eh? They are what they are. It doesn’t help losing our happiness over them.’

Saying thus, he nodded and got back to work. Wise.

It’s a beautiful thing – this life. It’s full of all sorts of surprises, tricks and treats. And, being the complex beings that we are, we never see life for what it is. We often miss huge parts of the essence seeking answers instead of learning to ask the right questions. Life is not short. As a funny quote pointed out, it is by all accounts the longest thing we ever do. And it’s up to us to make it worth while. It often takes us a long time to realize that we can. Luckily, we can. Only if we believe, of course. There’s no shortcut there either.

It’s up to us to make it count.

I wrote and then re-read this listening to the music from yesterday’s video. If you ever consider re-reading the post sometime, do just play the music in the background when you do it.. Who knows, it might touch a chord somewhere deep within.. just like it did with me.

Feel Good Friday: The Years are Short

I thought I’d experiment with ‘Feel Good’ Friday today as it’s friday evening and I am feeling good. I’ll wait to hear from you in the comments as to whether you like the idea.

It’s that characteristic Friday evening feeling of relief, happiness and warmth in the heart.  And I thought I’d share a meaningful video that struck a chord the moment I saw it. The video is made by Gretchen Rubin, the author a bestselling book called ‘The Happiness Project.’ I haven’t read it yet but intend to get to it.

This video is absolutely brilliant. It got me thinking about many things in life and most of all, made me think of my family, my childhood and my friends from years past. I was close to tears when I first saw it.

And I hope you enjoy it.

Remember, the days are long.. but the years are short.