Leverage the elephant


Our motivations for our behavior are deep and often selfish. Most of the time, we are not even aware of it.

  • Most parents take care of their children, believing that the children will take care of them when they are old.
  • Most teachers teach believing that they can leverage their students’ skills or influence at a later stage.
  • Most males take care of females believing they will get one or the other sort of ‘favor’ if not a potential mate.
  • Most females behave nicely with males believing that they will serve them in some way.

These behaviors are known as self-deception – the action or practice of allowing oneself to believe that a false or unvalidated feeling, idea, or situation is real.

Our brains are designed to act based on self-interest while at the same time hiding those motives not only from others but from our conscious mind!

Generally, we prefer behaviors that make us look good from the perspective of the unit we represent: individuals, families, communities, or nations!

Oh, and at our heart, we know what’s right. It is like seeing an elephant in the brain – whose presence is there, but it goes unacknowledged, and our conscious mind ignores it because it wants to look good!

Self-deception is a form of “assumption,” but it occurs within us, so we don’t recognize it as an assumption!

Self-awareness is the key. Know thyself.

But most people find it difficult to know themselves.

That’s where the business is!

It is okay to let them deceive.

But, you be aware and design your products and solutions in a way that helps others to believe and behave based on what they think to be right.

People buy products to show off individual status – and their idealized personality traits – to others.

People buy fancy cars, big houses, expensive perfumes, and fashion accessories from Gucci, and Armani.

Showy products signal wealth. It gives its owner an edge over the competition for social status and sex! It is a phenomenon called conspicuous consumption.

Imagine that you want to prove to your social circle that you are health conscious, so you will eat salad, drink juice, engage in a daily workout, and not only that, post all of those activities on Instagram!

It is not being healthy that matters but being recognized as health-conscious.

Most human actions are driven by their urge to survive and procreate.

Design your product, solution, or service that allows humans to win the battle to own more resources (education, lifestyle apps) or have better mates (dating, fashion, social networking apps) – and you are en route to making your business matter.


Credits: The insights of humans being self-deceptive are based on my learning from reading The 2018 Book — “The Elephant in the Brain” by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson. An excellent read for psychology students and anyone interested in the dynamics of human behavior.