A rising tide doesn’t lift all boats

March 28, 2016 by Joshua
in Models

I write about beliefs and mental models. We humans have a weird pattern that we will often believe something that’s catchy just because it sticks in our heads. “No pain, no gain,” for example, rhymes, so sticks in our heads. We often choose not to do painful things, as if the statement were true. Commercial jingles often work this way.

Another examples is “a rising tide lifts all boats.” It’s a nice belief and often accurate for many boats and tides, but not all. And there’s no reason to believe that what holds for boats holds for economies, any more than the behavior of dominoes held for Southeast Asian countries.

For that matter, it doesn’t hold for all boats. A big enough tide could submerge a boat firmly enough anchored to the sea floor, for example.

I find it helpful to remember these mistaken beliefs and the pattern that if a phrase sticks in your head enough, sometimes you’ll act like you believe it, even if it has no other basis.

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