Updated: Oct 7
The Cousins – two of the wealthiest, most powerful people ever to walk on this planet. Tsar Nicholas (pictured on the right) had the largest army on the planet; Russia was moving fast to enter the modern era. Kaiser Wilhelm (pictured on the left) commanded the most powerful army and the most industrious country in the world (Germany). In 1914 they held the future of the world in their hands.
What Could Go Wrong?
Just a few years after these photographs were taken, the Russian empire crumbled: the Tsar’s entire family murdered. Wilhelm lost his empire and lived out his sad life as a recluse in Holland. More importantly, the lives of millions upon millions of people were shattered by the First World War, a tragedy that changed the face of the world forever. The misshapen residue of that war led to another, even more horrendous war.
What Went Wrong?
Thinking traps caught them. In addition to the Confirmation Bias, each man failed to understand that they were caught in the stunning power of the Law of Belief. They were so firmly entrapped that no one could warn them, no one could save them.
The Law of Belief:
The psychological principle that whatever you believe with
strong conviction becomes your reality. People act in accordance with how
they see reality.
The Tsar and the Kaiser are shown wearing medals they did not earn, playing the role of generals despite understanding little military strategy or tactics, as grand rulers with an abysmal grasp of world politics. They were given reverential respect their entire lives without having accomplished anything worthy of note on their own merit. Yes, their rationality was unbalanced; their convictions completely misplaced.
Their decision making was overwhelmed by the negative potential of the Law of Belief: they truly believed they deserved to be in charge of their respective worlds; they believed they had the judgment and the moral right to determine the fate of their countries. They were deluded into believing that their decisions would work out well – simply because they had made them. They acted on their beliefs, and made terrible decisions that drove the world into an abyss of horror that no one foresaw.
The Modern Application
We have all worked with a manager or a customer who without question knew exactly what decision should be made to solve a problem. They didn’t even have to tell you how much more experience they had than you; their confidence drenched the room. It infected most people around them.
Yet you understood the full picture; you saw the problem from many sides versus their one-sided view. They told you they understood the risks; you spent the time to figure it out, to do the careful analysis, calculate all the angles. But their beliefs trumped your logic. They built the Edsel, refused to build the minivan, moved the Raiders to LA, and said Amazon could never succeed. The power of the Law of Belief created a blind spot so big you could drive Tesla through it.
The Law Has Two Sides
Fortunately, the Law of Belief works in positive ways as powerfully as it does in the negative. Using the Law of Belief, leaders create the strong conviction that their organizations can accomplish anything, can overcome the odds against them, can do whatever it takes to succeed.
It is more than vision. It is the power that drives vision, that gets people moving together, collaborating, working through differences of opinion with respect rather than regret. The positive power of the Law seems to take on an energy of its own, creates unexpected synergies, and breaks barriers. It is the core of legends as well as everyday life.
How To Use the Law
Extraordinary leaders are always concerned that they may have fallen subject to the negative potential of the Law, so they surround themselves with people of strong character, knowledgeable people who will tell them the whole truth, not just the convenient parts they may want to believe.
Dave Kelley, founder of the incredibly innovative firm, IDEO, insists that people disagree with him, show him alternatives, push and encourage him and each other.
Even Alfred P. Sloan, a contemporary of the Tsar and Kaiser, who put together General Motors would refuse to make decisions until conflicting ideas had been discussed.
He understood the value of seeing things from the eyes of other people and built that into his leadership practices.
When you find people who can see the world from multiple viewpoints and can discuss them directly yet with civility, reward them and let them know what a valuable service they provide. What an awful shame the Tsar and the Kaiser had no sense of the Law nor the foresight to have people around them to provide alternatives.