They Used to Burn People at the Stake for Saying The World Wasn’t Flat

They Used to Burn People at the Stake for Saying The World Wasn’t Flat

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I am a contrarian thinker.

As a way of getting attention when I was growing up, I used to deliberately take the opposing view just to be argumentative. If it wasn’t for my mischievous grin, I would have got into far more trouble that I actually did. You can imagine just how many people found it annoying!

What’s great about spending a lifetime of taking the opposing view is the insight it has brought me. I discovered that there are often incredible ideas and opportunities out there, and huge inconsistencies in what is considered to be right and wrong – or correct and incorrect. Children question everything – wanting to understand – and you only have to spend time with a young child to be driven crazy with their persistent questioning ‘why?’

As adults we grow more jaded, questioning less and accepting more, although we may still wonder about whether or not what is accepted as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ actually is the truth. I think everyone suspects this to some extent, but the signals we receive from the world around us, and from our own brain, make it difficult to give it deep thought. Unintentionally, through decades of being obnoxiously argumentative, I have managed to do it.

In the same way that white blood cells in the human body attack a donor organ meant to save us, we are wired to be wary of new ideas and situations. Our brain evolved like this to keep us from threats like sabre tooth tigers! In the past, new and novel things were often life threatening.

I’ve always played devil’s advocate, keen to ask, ‘But what if…?’ And arising from this lifetime of contrarian thought, I invoke the title of this blog post:

“They used to burn people at the stake for saying the world wasn’t flat.”

Not much has changed in society since then. A great deal of what is negative in the world is based on what is correct and incorrect. Which is a shame, since given our history, I don’t think that ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in this sense even exists. After all, if we look back just 100 years, how much of what was viewed as ‘correct’ is now considered to be right? It was believed to be impossible to run a mile in under 4 minutes. Fixed thinking reassures us of our ‘rightness’, but it keeps us stagnant.

What beliefs do you hold to be ‘right’  that could be tomorrow’s ‘wrong’?

What ‘wrongs’ are inside you that could be tomorrow’s ‘rights’?

And yet, the world is changing faster and faster. Look at the speed and impact of technologies on the world, like the internet and mobile phones. Remember what life was like without them? It wasn’t that far back! Think of all the industries that have come and gone as a result of these two technologies alone. In 20 years’ time, imagine all the undreamed-of technologies we’ll be talking about in the same way!

In a world that is speeding up exponentially, just consider every current institution, industry and way of doing things and let’s think of them as ‘flat earth’. Assume, as a default, that everything is probably ‘wrong’ and take it from there.  From experience, I know that this approach reveals far more than if you just accept what you see in front of you as the only truth.

The status quo is not really an option in this Darwinian race, despite what our brain tells us. If you are not thinking about reinventing things to improve them  ten or a hundredfold,  you can be sure that someone else will be. You may not be able to see the answer, but you can assume that it will be there somewhere, and that someone will find it, given enough resources. And with the internet, every individual has access to more and more resources. Think of crowdfunding, the open source movement and even freelance networks. If a share price could reflect what an individual today was technically capable of, it would be rising at a very fast rate. In the past, ideas might have been kept hidden forever, but great ideas can no longer be held back by large companies or governments, and individual brilliance is shining brighter every day, and getting more powerful.

My advice is to get comfortable with not having the answers, but start acting as if they are there somewhere. Holding onto ideas you think are ‘right’, for fear of the sabre tooth tiger, is actually a quick way to become extinct. The irony is that the part of the brain designed to keep us safe and alive is precisely what can deaden us. Come alive! Question everything!

So my provocation for you is: stop thinking about what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – or what’s possible or impossible – and start thinking about how you can significantly improve the world around you! Ignore that primeval fear of the sabre tooth tiger, and start listening to – and acting on – what is deep inside you. Even if it doesn’t fit in with what the world around you. Your capability of making those unimaginable ideas a practical reality is increasing every day!

Change is going to happen anyway, so you might as well join the party. Today’s ‘crazy’ is tomorrow’s ‘normal’, and the transformation happens much faster than you think.  CLICK TO TWEET

To thrive in this speeding world, start listening to the fantastical ideas inside you (or around you), and start asking ‘why not?’ – and even ‘how?’ The solution or practical application might just be something that you cannot see – yet.

How can you improve the world around you by 10 or even 100 times?

Who is today’s ‘crazy’, who will be tomorrow’s ‘normal’?

How can you use this insight to help you live the life you want to live?

If the above topic, or indeed any of my blogs are of interest to you, then contact me and let’s talk! Drop me an email at

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  1. Therion Ware says

    “They Used to Burn People at the Stake for Saying The World Wasn’t Flat”.

    Did they? Got a citation?

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