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What my Mom taught me about questioning assumptions

my stuff

WTF is this? Do you really need it? Why?

My Mom taught me to be neat. To keep things clean and organized. And for the most part, I’m like her. But one place where those lessons don’t take effect is in my propensity to keep every single printed receipt of things I buy. Not only that, but notes, biz cards, un-opened mail, and everything else that is of paper form. I keep them. And they just add up to a pile of nothing. It’s almost like I collect them unconsciously.

I still have the receipt from the first Playstation. Crazy! I just can’t help myself to throw them away.

And no, it’s not what you think. I don’t keep receipts because I count every single penny. I’m not a stickler with money. It’s something else.

Because of this, every now and then when my mom comes over to check up on me, she wipes me clean! She always ends up asking me the same question over and over: Do you really need this? If I answer yes, she’ll then ask “why?”.

And it goes on, over and over again.

After all these years my Mom still doesn’t understand why I keep receipts of things I’ve bought. And neither can I. Reflecting on my quirky behavior, it has taught me an important lesson: The things you keep, are like the beliefs you keep.

The problem is these beliefs, end up becoming givens. Unconsciously, you adopt them (behavior) as givens and never decide to question why you adopted them in the first place. These givens, assumptions, end up becoming blinders.

They become habits.

They keep getting less obvious as time goes by. Habits, rather than conscious decision-making, can shape 45% of choices we make daily. That’s why we need to constantly rethink what we do, as well as why we do it. This is tough because our brain is lazy, and for the most part decides on certain things on its own.

If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know that to innovate, we must question assumptions. Like humans, companies adopt certain beliefs (mental model) of what drives success within the company or an industry. Innovators who challenge these beliefs, like my Mom, constantly ask: Do you really need this? Why?

It is by exposing these mental shortcuts that we can see anew. Literally!

So the lesson is: Question the givens. Ask why, why not and what if.

P.S. After reflecting on this behavior a little more, I’ve come to the conclusion that one reason I may keep receipts is because I have this quiet obsession with memories. I don’t want to brag, but I have photographic memory. And the action of keeping things I may not go back to in the future, like tagging, sends a signal to my brain that “I think this is important” to remember.

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