People Are Stupid But Harmless

It is very embarrassing to share, but this incident changed my understanding of how the world works.  

When I was in high school, I was a member of the Disco Club.  I learned all the moves.  I wore elephant bell jeans: the cuffs slapped each other everywhere I walked, providing everyone a distant warning of my approach.  I wore silky polyester shirts with at least two buttons open.  

Then, suddenly, the disco era ended.  

In an instant, my wardrobe switched to cotton.  Mainly Izod.  My music allegiance immediately transferred from the BeeGees to the B-52s. From disco to punk.  My entire value system quickly shifted.  The world’s crazy suddenly stopped, and we bought button-down collar shirts.

Now I know that about myself, and it is a part of myself I don’t like.  But the most disturbing part is that it wasn’t only me.  EVERYONE I knew did the same thing.  Everyone in my world instantly changed what they believed to be true.  They followed fashion, not principles.

But ever since that incident, I have been less alarmed by weird movements.  Alarming political trends, demagogues, disturbing fashions, and outbreaks of mass hysteria don’t stress me.   I’ve been alive long enough to know that the world will eventually flip back.

Do you suffer from insomnia because of a politician or some moral trend? Don’t worry, stupid will soon be replaced by another type of stupid. Relax. People are fickle in their stupidity.

Nuclear War and Misunderstandings

During the last three days, many people commemorated the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Legend says that after Hiroshima was bombed, the U.S. demanded surrender and the Japanese leadership responded that “we’ll think about it.” Cultural experts interpreted the message to mean “we refuse.” That was a valid interpretation, based on Japanese culture, and because the Japanese government assured the media they would vigorously continue fighting.

Another valid interpretation could have been “we Japanese don’t make decisions without extensive group consultation and eventual agreement, so we need some time to process this.”

The U.S. chose the first interpretation, and bombed Nagasaki three days later, before bad weather could prevent another strike (and before the Japanese military could respond.) A bunch of more people died.

The atomic bombings certainly saved Japanese lives, with some estimates reaching as high as 10 million. An elderly Japanese man once thanked me for the bombings. He thought they saved the lives of millions of Japanese, and tens of millions of Asians on the continent who would have died of starvation as the military government refused to surrender. (As the event occurred over 20 years before my birth, I deserve neither gratitude nor censure.) But could those lives have been saved by one bombing instead of two? Was the bombing of Nagasaki necessary?

What if Truman had understood the situation better? What if Roosevelt had originally tried to understand the situation? What if the Japanese army and navy would have tried to understand each other better?

All of us want to be understood, but don’t first understand others. Sometimes we try, but we don’t know how.

The consequences are sometimes global. Sometimes it only affects your career or friendships.

A few years ago, I designed a course for an international business school that helped managers to better understand others. Over the past few months, I turned the course into an easy-to-read book, available on Amazon, beginning today. I believe it will enrich your life. Click on the cover below to see it:

Don’t be racist. Be selfish.

I’m preparing to launch my new book, the summary of 35 years of research. I’ve made it super-accessible for everyone, including those with learning disabilities. It explains how to build a prosperous and fulfilling life through making friends wth people of different backgrounds.

We often hear the word “diversity,” usually from people who don’t understand what it really means, or how to implement it properly. We need a better approach.

If “getting along” is easy, why do we still have riots, wars, and division?

Tolerance isn’t about doing the “right thing.” It’s about self-interest. Building a network of people from diverse backgrounds makes you more money. The book teaches how to build the network, in an easy-to-understand format. It combines academic research with what I’ve learned from hundreds of people around the world.

DON’T do the right thing only because it is the right thing. DO the right thing because it will make you more MONEY.

Every young person who wants to professionally advance should read this because it teaches HOW to build the diverse network.

The book simplifies the research in the field and combines it with what I’ve learned from a diverse friend group that includes an Iranian entrepreneur, an African American teacher in the Mississippi delta, a Japanese-Korean grandfather, and a Polish-Russian academic.  My career has been more interesting and rewarding through engaging with people of different backgrounds.  The message is readable for everyone.

Free Idea-Development Course Sample

As you may know, I work as an executive coach, and I focus on personal change initiatives. 

I am currently developing a coaching tool for potential startup founders. If you know someone with a really rough startup idea who would like to talk to a startup trainer, I can do a FREE one-hour idea-development session over Zoom for one person (chosen randomly).  

The tool is similar to a process I used as an entrepreneurship professor.  Previously, I established the entrepreneurship program at an an AASB-accredited university, and guided hundreds of students.  But this training is 1-on-1.


  • be somewhat dedicated to the idea (choose something you’re interested in doing for real)
  • be willing to do the homework
  • my experience is non-tech, but the process should work for any business idea

You can message me on Brock@BrockStout.org.

What I Do

This short video explains what I do as a personal change trainer.

Brock Stout

Reject the Spectrum

I don’t believe our country is “more divided than ever before.”  Remember the Cold War, when some of us collaborated with Stalin?  You’ve heard of the Civil War?  We aren’t shooting each other by the thousands yet. 

The problem is the political spectrum that professors still encourage us to use.  The spectrum might have been valid to describe the rift between Sir Edmund Burke and King George III.  It might have helped people understand the conflict between France’s Ancien Régime and Robespierre.  But it doesn’t fit the modern world.  It might have even become irrelevant by the time Bismarck invented modern social welfare. 

Some far superior models have been developed, mainly based on four-quadrant maps.  I like the triangle model.  I can’t remember the source, so I plagiarized it.

I see three ideological camps.

  1. Conservatives: this group sees the Great Conflict as a clash between barbarism and civilization.  When a foreign government sets up death camps, we should intervene (sometimes with military force).  Killing healthy babies after they are born is barbaric, so should be de-funded.  Pornography objectifies women and provides revenue for human trafficking, so should be regulated.
  2. Progressives: the Great Conflict is a clash between educated elites and ignorant masses.  People are stupid and lazy: they’re racist, they cheat on their taxes, they pollute the environment, and they eat Twinkies for breakfast.  Carefully-chosen elites, trained at the right schools, are necessary to check the ignorance of stupid people.  (You, dear reader, are not stupid like everyone else, even though you ate ice cream for lunch and threw the container on the ground).  The masses will never willingly choose to enact anti-pollution measures or civil rights legislation.
  3. Libertarians: the Great Conflict is between the oppressive state and the individual.  The state prevents us from smoking weed, takes our money to spend on military and social programs, and indoctrinates our children.  The definition of marriage (only between man and woman or between anyone with mutual attraction) is irrelevant, because the state should have never been in the business of regulating marriage. 

In the U.S., progressives have traditionally identified as Democrats, and Republicans have been a coalition of libertarians and conservatives. The coalition is showing fissures, as they don’t agree on some things (should children have open access to pornography?)

I believe the traditional bi-polar spectrum has some weaknesses:

  1. Because of social identity theory, we choose beliefs based on our social identity.  Here is one example. Traditionally, Republicans fought for immigration, and Democrats (due to union support) fought against it. Then, during the Obama era, immigrants became pawns in an ideological argument.  Now Democrats and Republicans have completely flip-flopped on the issue, and we all changed our beliefs because our tribes changed platforms.  We think we’re rational. We usually argue what “works,” based on historical experience or science.  But we actually pick and choose evidence to fit our belief systems.  You can probably perceive my biases in this post.
  • The number of issues is far greater.
  • The population is much more complex and diverse than it was in the past.  We’re no longer divided between serfs and nobility.  
  • I also believe conflict is good.  I’m a strong believer in ideological diversity. I think it’s as critical to a healthy society as biological diversity is to an ecosphere.  
  • We mis-label.  Hitler regarded Stalin as a mentor, and Mussolini was a career socialist until he built a coalition with Italian Fascists. But then they went to war in a classic power struggle competing for land, and followers of Stalin successfully convinced us that National Socialism should be placed on the right of the spectrum.  For propaganda, they differentiated from each other through nicknames.  Nazis called Soviets “Bolsheviks,” and Soviets called Nazis “Fascists.”  This allows us to call those on the right “Nazis,” and those on the left, “Communists.”  Both of those movements resulted in genocides from which the world has not healed, and are not related to our debates over funding for school lunch.   
  • Divide and Conquer:  certain people in power want us to be divided.  It is part of a strategy.  

Unfortunately, we’re probably stuck with bi-polar politics.  In order to amass enough power to accomplish anything, you need support from at least half of everyone. So we naturally gravitate to two-party systems. Three parties are never sustainable.  The Republican Party was a third party created to push for civil rights of enslaved African Americans.  By the time it gathered enough support, the Whig party had disappeared and we returned to a two-party system. 

In the meantime, I exercise my right to freely choose to not eat a Twinkie.  

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