Home Forums Circularity RANDY OLSON:  SESSION 3:  “Therefore” – Overall thoughts

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      Randy Olson

      Another great session topping off a fun first week. This Chat Log feature is great — it doubles the whole experience.

      Sorry about all the technical problems with Webex. Matt feels certain once we smooth out a few of the minor glitches it will be better than GoToMeeting was. One recommendation he has is that if you’re having problems, see if you can use the PHONE APP which he found to be better than using your laptop.

      Lots o’ great comments and questions. Here’s a few replies.



      Here’s the entire video for which I showed the first two minutes. Try to watch it several times over the next couple weeks. You want to get the basic circular template emblazoned into your mind.

      Also, think about a journey you took — maybe your entire undergraduate career — then think about what was Stage 6 for you — your “darkest hour.” It’s always a fun exercise for your memory.

      THE CHRISTMAS TREE – just as I thought, this is really resonating for a lot of people. Keep in mind I’m going to have Dave Gold join us in one of the last two sessions. Try to craft some Christmas Tree questions for him. If you haven’t read his article (where he presents it), here it is again:


      ALBERTHA – great thought on “I Have a Dream” being the overall Christmas tree for MLK, Jr. Yes. I think that’s really true. Please ask the same question of Dave Gold when he joins us. And btw, one of the key powers for inspiring rhetoric is that it be “aspirational” for which that theme truly was.

      EVELYN – you mentioned you’re stuck on 4 different potential Christmas Trees — yes. Good! That’s exactly the realization you want to have. You need to realize that, then you need to pick one. Here’s the kinda vacuous/dumb yet valid book I mentioned last time titled, “The One Thing.”


      It’s hugely popular even though it says so little. Yet (and this is totally circular), whole point of “the one thing” is that you only need one thing — figure it out and you’re set. That’s about the extent of the content of the book, which is sufficient.

      Here’s the famous clip that inspired their book. This clip is great, you should all watch it and take it to heart:

      EUAN – don’t be too literal minded on “agreement” – you might be there to talk about major farming issues with the farmers, but if you can open the conversation by talking about the differences between TIG welding and MIG welding (seriously) you will open up channels of communication that will improve the odds of getting somewhere better than if you open by saying, “You people are doing farming all wrong here.” (btw, that welding bit comes from my years on the Great Barrier Reef, will have to share a few tales sometime soon).

      MOLLY – the ABT is your greatest tool for an interview. I’ve heard so many stories from people who have put it to work. The worst thing for an interview is to bore or confuse. Keep in mind the incredible power of that one word — “but.” Ask yourself how you’re going to make use of it, as quickly as possible. Imagine if you start the job interview by saying, “Here’s the thing — I really want this job, BUT …” You’ve got their attention immediately, in a powerful way.

      ELLIE – as you know by now, my endless advice is about SIMPLICITY. Complexity is so easy, simplicity is very hard. Which means start out simple. You can see I keep knocking people back on their ABT’s with the simple question of, “What’s your problem?” Before we dive into protagonists and antagonists and darkest hours and inciting incidents and culminations and all the other terminology, just take some time to get clear on the simple question of, “What’s your problem?”

      JULIE – The right specifics? This is what physical exercise, verbal communication, and people are for. Take long walks where you can think and rethink the SIMPLE core of your narrative. Then tell it to friends. You can shape things so fast verbally, long before you write anything and start complicating it. Try out the different possible specifics, in search of finally hitting that moment where your friend lights up and says, “oooo, THAT is interesting.” Narrative is about communication. It involves more than one person. Keep that in mind as you’re crafting your material.

      ALBERTHA – getting inner city residents to care about golf courses is certainty a staggering challenge, but you should always cling to the hypothesis that ANYTHING can be made interesting to ANYONE if you’re good enough. The problem is, as I CONSTANTLY say to myself, “You’re just not yet good enough … yet.” I’m constantly telling myself that. Don’t ever collapse into the belief that, “Well this is just a boring topic that can’t be made of interest to anyone.” I liken it to the Hippocratic Oath (“First do no harm”). My feeling is, “We must believe that nothing is inherently boring.”

      KATE – How dare you force me to use my own tool, the ABT, to explain the rationale behind my own course. Hmmm … Let’s see. “I was having a great time with my pandemic holiday AND my tennis game was getting better, BUT talking to Marissa Metz a month ago about her research on opioid addiction made me realize how flabby the narrative part of my brain was getting, THEREFORE … I realized it was time to get back to work, with this great course.”

      CARA – Yes, let me say a few more words on the IF/THEN element that we think might be a major breakthrough for the ABT Framework. Here’s the basic template now:

      _____ AND _____ BUT _____ THEREFORE _____

      becomes …

      The ordinary world AND why it’s important, BUT how it’s overturned THEREFORE what is being done in response

      And now we can develop this even deeper by expressing the “why it’s important” element using the IF/THEN piece of logic. Which means something like this:

      Opioid drugs have been used by humans for thousands of years AND if we can gain a through understanding of how they work then we can both help people deal with pain and prevent people from getting addicted to them, BUT so far we’re not able to untangle these two functions making them dangerous drugs, THEREFORE in our lab we’re focused on studying the physiology of the major neurons involved … (once again, thanks to Marissa for this great example).

      The key thing is that funders are always harboring this one main question in their mind, “Why should I care about the work you’re asking funds for?” This gives you a simple temple to address that question — “IF you fund me, making possible my work, THEN we will be able to do this, this, and this.

      FROM PARK HOWELL: (Park, who will eventually join us in one of my presentations) made this great contribution to the chat: I think of the And, But & Therefore as narrative bouys that help you navigate a foggy story. When you’re just learning the ABT, use these three words. They may feel stilted once you get the hang of them, but your audience has no idea of the story structure you’re using while you’re making it exceptionally easy for them to digest your story. Use those bouys to safely land your message in the foggy harbor of communication

      EUAN: You asked about simple versus specific — seems like they oppose each other. Yep. They do. Communication consists of equal parts SCIENCE and ART. The ABT is a bit of “science” meaning it’s an objective tool that can help, at least somewhat. But at some point you need to have the “art” element — meaning the INTUITION where you’re able to just feel what’s right. That part comes from one thing only — EXPERIENCE. You can’t communicate once a year and expect to be good. “A communicator communicates,” all the time. That’s what gives you the intuition part which is what guides in you using only the bare minimum of specifics, but also the right specifics that add strength rather than baggage.

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