Frame Your Life
Now we're gonna get into the really dark art of rhetoric, but it's a dark art you can use to brighten up your own life. Let's talk about how, we're talking about framing here, obviously. Talking about how to frame your life. So I'm gonna play you, not an entire video, but a part of one. I do this website, arguelab.com, in which I answer questions, usually from high school students, they ask the best questions often out of the blue. So this is a response to one of the questions. By the way, my co-host here, Christina Fox, is fluent in Arabic and is a really brilliant woman and she's just this great interlocutor. I use her to help answer the questions, cause she's more relatable to high school students than I am. We'll get to the video.
Okay, so we've been getting a lot of questions from teenagers.
Which we love. And here is one of my favorites from Shauna. She says, "I live at home with my older sister "who's always yelling at me. "Yesterday I used up the last of the brea...
d "because there was nothing else to eat, "and she came home and flipped out saying "I was selfish and that everything was always about me. "So unfair. What do I do? "Help." There's like 10 exclamation points. (laughter) So you know she really means it.
That's a lot of exclamation points.
We need your help!
All right, well we are here to help, Shauna. You know, this gives me an opportunity to talk about one of the coolest things about the art of persuasion rhetoric, and that has to do with framing. You've probably heard that word, like framing the issues. Politicians are always talking about framing, what do they mean by that? Well, framing is like building this sort of box around an issue that defines the issue as your own. What are we talking about? We're talking about bread and your sister. Well, one of the greatest ways to annoy your sister and at the same time look like the grown up in the room, is to frame the issue. The way to do that is to say, is this really about bread? (laughs) Is this really about food? And then, this is the killer, you say, are you okay? Be really sympathetic, you know (laughter). Like, are you all right? Is there something going on? You know what that can do, first of all, it'll probably just drive her crazy--
And you better be ready to duck--
It would drive me crazy.
Be ready to duck. But at the same time this is a great way to sorta get used to this idea of framing. And one of the first principles of framing is to say, this issue isn't the way you've defined it, this issue is the way I've defined it. This is what the issue is really about. Or, if you don't know what the issue is really about, simply move it off her territory and ask. So say, all right, is this really about bread? Is a way of saying this is not about bread. And are you okay, is really a way of saying, you're in a really bad mood and you probably had a fight with your boyfriend or something, and so get it off your chest but just not on me. (laughs) So meanwhile, let me eat my sandwich in private and go away. (laughs) But framing an issue is very important because a lot of people will simply accept what the other person has brought up as the subject, and then argue that when it's really, it's almost like fighting someone from a trench when they're up above. You want the high ground, and one of the greatest ways to do that is to redefine the issue, reframe it by saying, this isn't about this, is it? This is about that. This may be about something else. And expressing deep, deep sisterly concern--
Deep, deep concern.
For your sibling is a great way to make her just wanna kill you. Which is always good goal in a sibling rivalry.
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
So that's it, that's framing. We'll be talking. All right, so. We go to the rest of that where I actually plug everything else that I'm doing on the website. So, we're talking about framing here, so you get sort of the basics of what framing is. And we're gonna talk specifically about how to do this. And here you have three steps. First is not to accept the frame. So often what happens is people will bring up an issue and that issue will probably be narrower than what you like, and one of the greatest ways to move the issue to the more advantageous issue for you is to say, this is actually something bigger, something bigger is at stake here. Now, Kenna, you had brought up a question earlier, from a woman, I think, who said, "I'm not taken seriously enough at work, "my work is not considered to be as important "as other people's work." Right? So, one of the great ways to deal with that is to reframe it to say, this isn't just about this piece of the company I'm doing, this is about something much bigger. And you look at every company that's done this, they all say, this isn't just about the widgets we're making, this is about how we're making the world a better place. We're dealing with ones and zeros in this tech company, which may be destroying neighborhoods all over Seattle (chuckling) by how much money these people make, no offense if you guys are making it, I honor you for it. But on the other hand, of course, everybody says what we're really doing is bringing people together so they have conversations, and spreading the love around the world. That's reframing, right? So first thing you do is you say, this is not about the way you've presented it. If you look at every political issue, pro-choice, pro-life, that's framing, totally different frames. This isn't about a woman's right to choose, this is about the life of the unborn. This is every political issue does that, every business issue has to do with that. This isn't about this little thing, this is about bigger things that we all love. All right, that's the broadening part. Then the third thing is you personalize it. Now, there's a great ad campaign going on right now by GE, which by the way has the slogan: We bring good things to life (chuckling). Like, we are not just this tech company that makes things that we don't understand how it works, we are bringing good things to life, to make your lives better. So there's an ad campaign built around that, shows this grateful looking couple staring at their baby through glass, I think, and the voiceover says, they're looking at the mother, and it says, "She doesn't care "that we make this really awesome equipment "that allows these newborn babies, prenatal babies," have you seen this? To breathe, or whatever. "All she cares about is that "they're coming home tomorrow." And this brings tears to my eyes just remembering this fake ad. What's going on here? Well this isn't about the really awesome computerized equipment that nurses and doctors can use, this is about a mother bringing her baby home. So, okay. It's not about this tech thing, it's about something broader, it's about saving babies, that's broadening it. And then they personalize it. Here is a mother bringing the baby home. Okay. It's a little tricky. We've gone into more advanced rhetoric at this point, but if you can master this, and you see how to apply it to your specific situations, this is the single most powerful tool you're gonna learn today. It's all about the frame. Now, the easiest way you can deal with it is just think, whenever someone brings up an issue to you, just thing, is this really about, dot, dot, dot? You can stop there. Don't worry about broadening it or personalizing it, necessarily. But as you practice this later on, think that those two other aspects, two other tools, or sub-tools exists and you will find yourself using it more, at least I have, and I can show you how I did. So, I'm gonna get really personal here. That's my wife, Dorothy, and me, up on Mount Moosilauke, in new Hampshire. It's 4,802 feet, which probably doesn't impress you people in the Pacific Northwest, but we start lower, okay? It is a classic running mountain where ski teams, Olympians, test their oxygenation levels and their lactate removals and this stuff by running up this mountain, because it's perfect in terms of slope and aspect, and the, you know, the height of the summit and all that good stuff, for testing yourself. It's almost as good as testing yourself in a laboratory. Why am I talking about this? I am talking about reframing here, so bear with me. So, some years ago, maybe four years ago, I was having trouble walking. I had a condition called Snapping Hip Syndrome, I won't go into the details, but it's really gross. I was told that probably I would never be able to walk normally again. And I was a passionate runner, especially a trail runner. So I was told that the condition was inoperable, I just had to get used to it, and I was hearing things like, you know, you're of an age, you've experienced a lot. I was shearing the typical doctor saying, you're an old guy, get over it. I didn't want to. So I thought, what could I do? Well my physician found a doctor who knew this experimental therapy that involved injecting patients, it had only been tried once before, at least by this guy in this country, it involved injecting more than 300 shots of dextrose, sugar water, into the muscles of the hip. I would have told this guy anything, it was deliberately causing pain. So here I am, I'm lying on a table, I'm getting 300 shots in order to be able to walk properly again. I was in a highly rhetorical moment (laughs). Everything to me is rhetoric, as I'm sure you can tell. So I thought, I have to reframe this. I mean, this is awful, right? I'm being tortured with this idea that maybe, just possibly, I'll be able to walk again. I thought, that's not good enough. I have to reframe it. So what did I do? I thought, this is not about pain, this is about what? I had to broaden it. And then I hd to go really personal, this is has to be about me doing something amazing. So I decided what I was gonna so is to turn this procedure into training, not physical training, but like, athletic training. And I thought, I'm gonna do something in part because this is so bad, and I'm starting so far down, I'm gonna impress myself by being the athlete I always wanted to be. I was always a mediocre but enthusiastic athlete, and I thought, wouldn't it be cool it I went from having to walk with a cane to running up a mountian? So I had a goal for myself. I was going to run my age up Mount Moosilauke. That means, it's like an apple and oranges thing, but people do this. Running up this mountain in fewer minutes than I was old in years (laughs), only a dozen people had ever done it, nobody over 50 had ever done it, and several physiologists said they thought it was probably impossible for someone over 50 to do this. Cool, right? So even though I had more minutes, they thought, that's not enough minutes to actually accomplish this. So, now why am I talking about this? Well, I had reframed this whole thing from a medical procedure to an athletic event. Something that was like crazy and stupid and would impress no one but me, but which was absolutely fine. Then I did other things. I chunked the mountain. We're gonna talk about chunking a little bit later. So this mountian was not just a mountain, it was four steps to a mountain. So it wasn't a matter of just getting to the top, it was doing four stages of this mountain really well, okay. Then I describe this, the frames of each phase of the mountain. The first phase I called relax. That was the state I had to be in because it was really nerve wracking to be at the bottom of this mountain. It rises like a horse that's rearing up, it's just awful. The rocks are slippery as the East, and then the second phase was focus, because by then, in the second part of this mountain, you're gonna get distracted because it is just, you know, continues to be awful, only more awful. Third phase was flow, which is where my muscles are starting to fall apart. The lactate, lactic acid is building up, and your limbs don't work properly, especially if you're an old guy. And then finally, at the very top, is, not very top, but there's a, there's like a cull with sharp rocks, and I'm wearing minimalist shoes with no padding, and those rocks literally cut your shoes and your feet. So, you're dancing and mincing steps, so this is where you have to run fast, cause you're not running up hill much. I call that dance. So the mountain became: relax, flow, focus, dance. What am I doing here? I'm reframing this entire thing. It's not a matter of let's do something that's really hard and painful in order to recover from something really painful. That just sounds awful. Instead, it was relax, flow, fucus, dance, and it became kind of like my motto (laughs). Like, for everything I do now. It's kinda cool. Right? Instead of like, do little mincing, painful steps, I'm actually dancing, and I'm a terrible dancer, so that totally worked for me. At the critical moment of this run, there's a part where you are using enough energy, by the way, to take a liter of water from freezing to the boiling point, that's how much energy you're expending. And when you get older, over 50, your body is unable to disperse it very well. So there's a point where, a part of the mountain where you're up on, above treeline, and the sun suddenly hits you and you just fall apart, it's awful. You could like feel your blood boil. I decided to call that bright corner (laughter). So these are euphemisms, but euphemisms can be very important if you can get yourself or other people to believe them as part of reframing. Relax, flow, focus, dance, there's bright corner, and it's like, oh, I hit bright corner! I'm getting there! You know, and then I ended up at the top. I did this on one day, my birthday, when I turned 58, and under the worst possible conditions. It was really too warm, it was very humid, I hadn't slept at all the night before, as you can imagine. But I had gotten to the point where I was training six to eight hours a day, and it was extremely painful training. My work fell apart. My wife was so supportive. Why was doing this? It was an experiment in self persuasion. The idea was, the question was, can you manipulate yourself when you know the tools of manipulation? Do these tools work if you know them? And, you know, some of the tools didn't, frankly, I tried all kinds of things on myself and it was like, I'm not taking this. But what I found was, this allowed me not just to have the motivation, but the actual belief, you actually can talk yourself into things. And the most important way to do that is with a frame. So you start with something small and awful, like physical therapy and 300 dextro shots, and you convert it into something kinda heroic and wonderful, that's the broadening part. The heroic part is imagining yourself as a hero of your own story. And that's an often great way to persuade yourself in a frame. You're the hero of a story. If you're persuading other people in a frame, create a hero. If you're trying to talk somebody into something, like who's the hero in the young mother and the baby? It's the mother. The mother's been through a lot, she's been through a kind of journey. She ends up bringing the baby home. Very short story. But that's a reframe kinda story. I was the hero of the story. To make the story really short so we get on to the other cool things here, I reached the top four years younger than I started. I did it four minutes faster. I didn't think I was gonna do it. And the really amazing thing is, I reframed even that, unconsciously. I realized it wasn't about running my age at all, because really, who cares (laughs). One of the reasons, by the way, no one had ever done it, is that I think only three people over 50 had ever tried. So it's not like, nobody's giving you a medal for this. What I found though was that I had reframed that in my head, it was really about becoming happy again. I was a miserable guy. And I had never been so happy in my life, and I still feel that, this is four years later. I mean, I am gonna write a book about self persuasion, that's gonna be the middle of it. Why did I tell you this long story about myself? Two reasons. One, manipulation can work even on you. Is that unethical? I dunno, kind of an interesting question, really. Secondly, reframing is the most powerful of all. The easiest way to talk yourself into something is to change the frame. Broaden it and personalize it. Don't accept the frame you're in. Does it make sense? This isn't easy, and I'm not pretending this is a simply thing that's gonna change your life, I'm not one of these self help guys. Much as it may sound like it right now. So, now, if you're talking about how to reframe your own position within the office, think about how you're gonna do that. Don't accept the frame. This isn't about the actual work I do day to day, it's harder than you think, but we're not gonna go there. Secondly, it's really about something that's a lot broader than that. It's what this company really means and how important the work I do is to that. Thirdly, here are some examples, here are some stories I'm gonna tell, and I'm the hero. Okay? All right, we're gonna talk a little bit more about framing, I'm hoping for questions because, again, this is probably the hardest thing we're gonna talk about today. But, again, it's the most powerful. It totally works on yourself, and it works on other people as well. And masters of the universe are using this all the time, they start with the frame.
So, Jay, maybe we can take a few minutes to go a little bit deeper on that, and maybe take some statements and reframe them. For example, things like, If you need to. Wait, let me see. Sorry, I'm looking at the wrong spot. I think we have some examples to go through.
Oh, do let's.
I need you to make a bed, was one.
Oh boy, yeah. That's right, I need you to make your bed. I remember that. I get asked that all the time, parents are always saying, how do I get my kid to make the bed? How do you reframe it, can you think about this? How do you reframe bed making? You're going to first not accept that frame, even though you're the one who's saying, I need you to make your bed. Now, what's really great is my kids, both of them, were really down, boy and a girl, girl is older, she would have a totally different approach, but they would each instinctively reframe the issue. But they would say, this isn't about whether my bed is made, is it, dad? (chuckling) Right? Then they would say, how they broaden it, this is really about your weird compulsion toward this neatness thing. Now, how would I reframe it? I would say, okay, look, it's not really about making your bed, it's about learning really good habits first thing in the morning, and if you've ever seen the video that was so popular, it was by an admiral or something like that, you seen that? He says, you wanna be perfect, or something, make your bed every morning. And you know there's a point, and you could say this to a kid in reframing the issue. Broaden the issue, this isn't just about the bed, this is about you growing up a disciplined person knowing how to accomplish something first thing in the morning. And this is, you know, if you don't do this you will probably end up in prison some day. (laughter) But on the other hand, you can be president if you make your bed first thing in the morning. And that's personalizing as well, you're becoming the hero of a story. That's how you get a kid to make the bed. Now if the kid's really smart, the kid's gonna say, you know what, this really isn't about discipline, you just want me to make the bed, so it's really about power, isn't it, dad? It's about you, you're this power freak. So that's a great argument, it's super fun when you're trying to shift the frame. If you ever do arm wrestling, the most important thing about arm wrestling is where, is how the grip goes in the very beginning. The person who knows how to grip better can have half the strength of the other person and still win. That's framing. Right? And so often a lot of times you've sene real master arguers, especially in politics. They're gonna be shifting around in the very beginning to try to reset the frame.
How about when people reject the frame that you've set, when they're like, no, that's not it at all.
Yeah, you know, I love it when that happens. That again is people kinda shifting around, getting their, the ancients call this statis, which means stance, and what they meant was wrestler stance. And you know, how you approach each other, a lot of time when you see wrestlers together, they're spending a lot of time just maneuvering around, not even touching each other. They're setting a frame essentially. And what that means is you're dealing with a really powerful arguer, aren't you? So the big thing to do, again, is to look at, get peripheral vision. You're not just setting the frame for the person, are there people listening to you, and can you get them to sympathize with the frame? And one way to do that is to have a better character, have a better hero of your story to say, okay, you say this is not about bringing this little kid home? The mother's ability to be, your frame really doesn't sound that interesting to me, and then see if your audience responds to that.
Yeah, that's fun though. If you find yourself in an argument where you're both trying to rest the frame, ideally people aren't gonna be angry, it's not gonna be personal because the personal part of it doesn't come until you broaden the frame into something much larger. Good question.
Keep doing that.
How about a couple more?
We've got one, it's not safe to go out alone. That's another one.
Yeah. Yeah, that's, so, you know, it's interesting, I get these questions from high school students, I do these Skype ins with high school classes that adopt the book. You just get that, I do it from my cabin where I write, over Skype, and I get this question all the time where high school students are trying to get some kind of independence from their parents. And of course, you know, the parents are saying it's unsafe to go out alone. So one of the things you wanna do is to change the definition of the frame, you're gonna redefine the issue. So you can say, what do you mean by? This is another thing, not just saying, this is not about my safety, is it? Well of course it's about your safety. Of course you could also say, you're being a little selfish, aren't you? You're being the kinda parent, helicopter parent, who just wants me around all the time and can't accept the idea that some day I'm leaving home, that's what this is about. Great reframe there. But another way you can do it is to say, what do you mean by safe? Can you give me statistics? You know, one of the things you do, if you're a really smart kid is look up statistics, you can say, this is actually one of the safest eras in human history, (chuckles) and it's far safer than when you were a kid, mom and dad. Which is true, by the way. We hear all this awful news and it kinda distracts us from the fact that statistically, kids are a lot safer. Okay, so there's that, it's not safe to go alone. Actually, that's not true, the real frame should be how, you know what, my getting used to navigation and being out from home is gonna make me a lot safer in the future. So this really about, this is not about tonight, this is about my future. (laughter) Okay, what'd I do here? Broaden the issue and I personalized it. And what about the parent? We don't have to go there. The parent can simply say, you know, you're right. This is not about safety. This is about my love for you, and my wisdom, which you don't have yet. (laughter)
I was gonna say that you also pivoted to the future in that last bit.
I did, didn't it.
Yeah, you did (laughs).
Yup, the big, capital F future. (laughter)
All right, how about one more?
I know that a teenager might often say this as well, I'm not a morning person.
You know, it's not just teenagers who say that. One of the things I've been experimenting with, for a while one of my clients was Beach Body, you know about those guys? They do these workouts, P90X, Insanity. So, one of the biggest problems is, the research is really clear, if you workout in the morning you're gonna be more successful, right? Most successfully fit people work out in the morning. But statistic also show that a majority of people don't consider themselves to be morning people. So how do you reframe that? So, okay. You're not a morning person. One of the things you do is you look at the frame. Is this really about morning people, or you redefine it. And we're gonna talk a little but more about redefining in a few more sessions here. But when you redefine it, what you're really saying is, is this about this term? Does this term mean what you say it means? So let's talk about, what does it mean to be a morning person? Are you talking about biology? Actually, you are. (laughs) But you can say, okay, does biology dictate everything you do? If biology, my genetic inheritance determined everything I did, I wouldn't be sober right now. I am born from a long line of heroic drinkers, but I don't do that, I don't have to because my genetics are also counterbalanced by the fact that I'm human and I have a brain and some occasional sense of self discipline. All right, so morning person can be redefined as, what'd you mean by morning? And what do you mean by person? So is person just this set of genes telling me what to do? And what about morning? By morning, do I mean, is 11 o'clock morning? Yeah, technically. Or is morning like four o'clock in the morning? One of the things I did to reframe this, and I'll stop in a minute, I could talk about exercise in the morning forever, because it's a really interesting rhetorical problem involving masses of people and the health of our nation. But, in the mean time, just really quickly, in the mornings, one of the things you can do is to redefine an early hour not as some time you have to get up, but time you have for yourself. So I'm actually doing an experiment with a group of people right now who are having trouble working out in the morning to see if we can carve out the time just for themselves. Getting them to get up an hour earlier, and not exercise. So you're taking two hard things to do and reducing it to one thing, and that's time you spend on yourself. So what's going on here? You're reframing. This is not about getting up to do something awful you hate to do. This is about carving out an hour for yourself you didn't have before. I call it personally, because of my name, Jay Light Savings. (laughter) So it's my time. And if you can do that, what am I doing here? I am not accepting the frame, I'm broadening the issue, and I'm personalizing it.