It’s a word that has been stuck in my head recently. A word I’ve been exploring and dissecting. Playing around with.
It’s this weird intangible, like intuition, belief, or faith. Trust is a feeling. A connection to our intuition. A strange intangible the we can’t quite grasp or define or measure but we know it’s there all the same.
Initially this word came to me in the form of relationships. To trust someone. To have trust in someone.
When we trust someone, we allow ourselves to surrender. Be vulnerable. We put our hands in someone else’s. They are there to lead you down the path.
It’s a delicate experience. When we put our trust in someone, they can get us lead us down the wrong path. Lead us astray. Get ourselves seriously hurt, physically, mentally, or even worse, in death. They can fuck you (literally and figuratively).
Trust is this inherent concept across all human relationships. It’s a foundational pillar. All communities and societies are built on common trust.
Yuval Noah Harari talks about it in Sapiens. The reason why humans proliferated was first our ability to communicate with each other. Then from there, we started to tell stories. Those stories then became beliefs. Those beliefs then became the societal structures that we see in various forms today.
Long story short, human beings proliferated because of our ability to communicate and share stories and build common beliefs.
What underpins all of this? Trust.
We trust the stories that we are told. We believe them to be true. This trust then guides and shapes the decisions we make and the lives we build thereafter.
When we take advice from someone, it’s because we trust them. We trust their opinion. When we do something for ourselves, we do it because we trust that it’s going to work, it’s going to deliver some result. Trust underpins any economic exchange as well. We need to trust each other in order to do business together.
At a fundamental level, trust underpins everything from the foods you decide to eat to the exercises you do to stay healthy to the amount of sleep you get and how you largely shape it all.
Trust is also what underpins the battle with your inner critic.
If you have a loud inner critic, a voice in your head that doesn’t leave you alone, it’s because you don’t trust the decisions you are making for yourself. You don’t trust yourself.
If you don’t trust yourself, it’s usually because you’ve let yourself down in the past. Your brain has a good way of remembering all of the times that you didn’t follow through on what you said you were going to do, and if you consistently don’t do it, well, you’re not going to trust yourself.
So at a root level, you have to trust the decisions that you are making for yourself – I would define this as confidence. Trust in yourself. You trust your decisions. Confidence is what shows as a result.
In a way, you can really look at this as the difference between confidence and insecurity – insecurity is when you don’t trust yourself, and confidence is when you do.
Interestingly enough, the words trust and confidence are the same word in Portuguese – confiança. Turns out it’s also the same word in Spanish and French as well. It’s all the same root of trust – confiar, which makes trust and confidence essentially synonyms.
This is ancient knowledge I’m tapping into here 😉
More importantly though is what this implies – If you can’t trust, it’s impossible to be confident. Trusting yourself, trusting the people around you, trusting yourself to be trusted, and trusting in the larger life circumstances that surround you. By definition, if you can’t trust, you can’t be confident, which means you will constantly be stuck in a position of vulnerable insecurity.
Taking this lens to life, how do I stack up in these categories? Am I confident or insecure? Do I trust myself? Do I trust the people I’m surrounded by? Do I trust where I am and where I’m heading in life?
I think at a fundamental level, if you trust yourself, people will trust you. They see the confidence that you have in yourself, and thus they are willing to trust that you know what is best. You’re kind of outsourcing the decision to someone else. We can’t make a decision for ourselves so we look to someone who we trust to make the decision for us.
So when people evaluate you as trustworthy or not, they are asking themselves if you seem like the type of person who trusts themselves. Who is confident.
Flipping it around – how do I feel about other people trusting me? If I were to take an inventory of it, who are the people that have put their trust and faith in me over the years? Do I feel like I can lead people in the right direction? Do the right thing for them? Do I trust myself when I know that I have the trust of others? How does someone’s trust make me feel? Does the power scare me or excite me?
It brings me back to the days of when I ran BrainGain. It was a business that involved a lot of trust. People trusted me to fly them across the world to work for a startup in Bangalore, India. It’s really insane when you think about it. People trusted me so much that they were willing to accept a job in India for 1/4 of what they would make in the United States because they trusted that what I was telling them was true. They trusted and believed in that mission. They put their life in my hands.
Equally my co-founder was living a beautiful cushy life in New York, and he decided to leave it all and come live with me in Bangalore and build this company together. He dropped it all because he had trust and faith in me that this company was going to be a success. He trusted me to lead him down that path.
“Lead someone down the path.” I like that as an example of trust. It really highlights the relationship between trust and leadership. As a leader people trust to follow you on the path.
Did I do a good job of leading these people down the path? Was I a good leader?
Equally as important – What did I do to evoke that level of trust from other people? Why do they trust me so much? What are the qualities I exuded to build those relationships in the first place?
Equally if I were to flip it around – I think back to my family and how they influenced me. Whom amongst them I trust for what areas of life and who I go to for what reasons. Same with my friends. My co-workers. Who are the people I trust and why? What about the books that have had such an influence on me, what did that author do to build such a deep level of trust?
Likewise who don’t I trust? Why? What have they done to violate my trust? Who has violated my trust in the past, how did they do it, and how did that make me feel when they did? How did it change my future decision making with them? How did it change how I trust people in the future?
When I think back on this, there are two experiences that come to mind when someone violated my trust. They are the only two points in my life that I can remember when I was truly furious. Red with rage. Livid. And they stuck with me for a long long time. Although I’ve long since forgiven both of those people, those experiences still hang in the air, an anchor and a reminder of what once happened. It’s also a reminder of the power of forgiveness, (an equally powerful lesson, but that’s for another time). The point is that the experience of having someone violate my trust will always be something that I remember.
What about the larger world and society that I live in? Do I trust the world leaders around me (hell no!!). Do I trust the direction that society is going in? Do I trust that the planet is going to start reversing itself or do I trust that the planet is going to start wiping us out via natural disasters pretty damn soon?
It’s part of why everyone is freaking out right now. A year ago we had more trust in the systems around us. Now, we know that we can’t trust healthcare systems, world leaders, or even each other for that matter. Everyone feels like they are on the defense and no one can trust each other which leads to if you remember it before – insecurity!
The United States is such a good example of this. I remember when I was in college at 20 years old everyone was so sure that it was the “greatest country in the world.” Americans were confident.
Now we’re seeing the insecurities rise to the surface. Americans are no longer confident in the same systems they were so proud of a few years before, and now that lack of trust and faith is making everyone go insane. Basically – this is what an insecure country looks like. No one has any trust in the systems. Our trust has been violated. Just like I mentioned above, the only two times in my life where I was red rage pissed was when someone violated my trust, so I can empathise with where people are coming from right now.
Alas, I find it all so ironic because trust underpins nearly every aspect of our lives, and we’re such system oriented optimisation minded society, but we have collectively largely avoided creating scalable systems for trust and what to do when we lose it. None of us have a system for how we know what or whom we should trust, and what our course of action looks like when someone or something inevitably violates that trust (such is a realty of life and equally important to protect against).
I believe that trust is based on our values. And this is different for each of us. We all have different belief systems and values of what is morally right and wrong and how we trust people will be largely determined by those experiences. Based on someone’s belief systems I might not be trustworthy because I’ve smoked weed for 15 years and taken Ayahuasca 10+ times, for other people that might be exactly why they trust me. The point is, it’s different for everyone.
There’s no real set criteria of how to trust someone, but it’s a feeling that we’re all connected to. I think to start off with, taking an inventory of trust in all areas of your life like I did above is a valuable exercise. Where do you trust vs not trust yourself. Who are the people you trust in what areas of your life for which things? Why do you trust them? What are the qualities they exude? Who don’t you trust, why don’t you trust them, what did you learn from those experiences about how to trust people in the future? Are you holding yourself back still from that? Do you feel confident or insecure in all of these areas of your life? If you could create a set of qualities or characteristics of how to evaluate trust based on the people you trust the most vs the least, what would that list look like?
I think that this is a good place to start off with. A valuable exercise to be run. Another tool to tinker with in your journey of understanding your thinking in the frameworks of trust.
In the end, trust is a feeling. A connection to our intuition. A strange intangible the we can’t quite grasp or define or measure but we know it’s there all the same. These attempts to define it are a good start, but part of why I’ve enjoyed this exploration of the word trust is this intangible element to it. Smoke like in nature, can’t quite grasp trust in it’s fullness.
Trust is fundamentally connected to the self. Our sense of self, our inner being. Trust is connected to our intuition. Similarly with intuition, we can’t quite really grasp where it comes from or how it behaves. How it’s going to act and what it will do.
But we do know that we can explore and build that connection. We can build a strong relationship to our own inner sense of trust. Developing trust with ourselves as one of the fundamental pillars to our growth and self development. Developing our trust for the people around us and society at large.
So for now I trust that this is all I have to say on the topic of trust. How do I know? I trust. When I initially started I had some thoughts in my head rambling around, words like trust and confidence and confiança and leadership, thoughts of how people trust me, how I trust others, how people have violated that trust…and this is the result that has plunged onto the page nearly two hours later. I hope you enjoyed and continue to trust me 🙂