Introduction

rethink PERFECT,  The Upside of Uncertainty. 

Caution, this book comes with a warning. It is not perfect and has yet to be scientifically tested. This theory has only one sample of a Rethink Agreement, which is presently in use between my brother and me. I recommend that you do not try to retrofit any disputes that you already have. Better to simply apologize for not having rules of engagement in place before the dispute, and apply Rethink Perfect from now on.

A Test of a First Rate Intelligence: F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that, “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Rethink Perfect is a “test of a first-rate intelligence”. I like to think it is a combination of  “glass half full” AND “glass half empty” thinking. Or perhaps it is the art of being pragmatic AND a dreamer, the ability to hold both opposing and contradictory outlooks at the same time. What is really new, I think, is my application of Rethink Perfect on interpersonal relationship theory, and the tools that I have spun off that act to moderate us and our own disputes.

Think of a thought, an idea, a concept, a feeling, a product that you feel certain is just right, fully developed or perfect. Now ask yourself, are you willing to rethink it? If you have found an idea that you are not willing to rethink, then learning to do so is the essence of Rethink Perfect. Maybe you are certain that you do not consider any idea to be perfect. Then I would ask you to remember the last time you thought that you were in the right and someone else was in the wrong. Are you willing to rethink your position now? If so, great! – and welcome to Rethink Perfect thinking. This practise is designed to reduce or control the bias of certainty in our thinking that drives much of our decision-making process, and which also is the underlying cause of our disputes.

Rethink Perfect is designed to reduce the emotional and intellectual stress of engaging with people that express dissent. Why is diversity important in relationships? Because it is diversity and its dissenting views that offer us more alternatives to choose from, when innovating or trying to make new and successful decisions. It is “coordinated behavior” or conformity that can cause extreme events, such as the subprime market crash in 2008, or the dot-com crash in 2000, or mass suicides like those of Jonestown, plane crashes through pilot error or even young people marrying too early because all of their friends are doing the same thing. Presently, I believe our society is experiencing a prolonged episode of coordinated behavior. The ongoing statistics of personal disputes, divorce and breakups point to a crash culture rather than a single crash event. Rethink Perfect is my attempt to responsibly introduce diversity and dissent back into the subject of relationshipsand matrimony, so that we can come up with new solutions to interpersonal problems that exist in the world today.

Rethink Agreements: As far as I am concerned, no agreement is perfect or can be relied upon for certainty. Agreements are only as good as the understanding of the available information used to create them. This understanding can change on a day-to-day or even
minute-to-minute basis. Understanding and agreeing to the limitations of agreements is part of the first principle of Rethink Perfect. It is the first agreement of what I call “Rethink Agreements”. As we continue to relate, it is likely that this information and our understanding will change continually and we will need and desire to revisit this, our first agreement, and any others we have formed. Understanding this, I think you will see that it will be necessary to have a robust method or framework of engagement, however new and untested, that we can use to deal efficiently with future discussions in order to prove, resolve and improve on any previous Rethink Agreements.

This type of thinking is not for everyone, as it requires a shift from how we normally think. However, if we did agree to use Rethink Perfect, could we have a war or even a fight? Somehow I doubt it. Heck, we could not even fight for the idea of Rethink Perfect, since even it is worth rethinking. Rethink Perfect is the dogma of uncertainty or the dogma we have while not having a dogma.

The First Principle: Whatever we think, hear, say or see could be wrong, or is at least flawed. From this basic idea follows everything in this thesis. If you reject outright the principle that anything and everything is open to rethinking, then it is quite possible that this book is not for you. That is not to say you are “wrong”. Within the framework of my philosophy, I have to assume that I have not yet refined my ability to convincingly explain this first premise. Or perhaps your concern is that agreeing to this principle would imply a commitment to follow through. It may be that at this point, you cannot envision retrofitting your life and other relationships with this kind of thinking. That is understandable to me. At this point, I would suggest you do yourself a favor and stop reading, as I do not think that you will get much more out of this book. If you do continue and subsequently find yourself scoffing at some of the ideas, don’t say I did not warn you. If you wish to make any complaints after this point, please try to do it responsibly. See more about this in chapter 4.

Why Write This? The concept of Rethink Perfect has been refined over the course of the last 26 years. First and foremost, this was done for my own benefit, to help me develop as a person by removing any residual dogma or unreasonable certainty and the attendant reactions that they caused in me. It has also been written for and with the help of my brother Steve, who has allowed me to test these concepts and rethink agreements on him through the years. Steve believed in the value of these concepts, even when they were in their more rudimentary form.

My relationship with my mum has also contributed to writing this book. With her, I encountered “irresolvable” issues that at first seemed impossible to overcome. Trying to reach a resolution with my mum over the last 26 years has helped develop Rethink Perfect. Consequently, our relationship is improving.

This book has been designed so that any reader may offer feedback on these concepts. I would like to convert them (my concepts, not the readers) so that these ideas are more easily understood and can be more easily accepted.

I set out on my quest to see if I could come up with a way to stop demands being put on me, but without me putting my demands back on them. Starting with the biggest and what I consider the most outrageous demand of all, which is to promise that we will remain “committed” to a person for a lifetime. How can we be committed to the person when we are continually learning how we prefer to be treated, and that person is in a constant state of flux? How can I make a promise about what I will be thinking or doing tomorrow, let alone for the rest of my life? We allow society to push us into making these outlandish and ultimately dishonest promises and compromises. I believe that such rigorous expectations and demands contribute to the appalling statistics regarding failed relationships across the world today.

That is not to say that I advocate dumping the binding legalities involved in such partnerships. I am simply attempting to separate the state from “love”. If two people embark on a legal and binding agreement, they should treat it as such and abide by the legal and financial requirements. It is the outrageous claims that are made in the name of “commitment”, “agreements” and “love” that this book will be looking at.

Q.  What is the biggest cause of divorce today?
A. Marriage!

That joke is not so very far off the mark. With the advent of rethink agreements, no more can someone scream, “But you promised!!” when the other wants to revisit the agreement. Or “You should know better!” implying an agreement already existed, when no agreement was discussed. This does not mean that this concept condones the breaking of agreements. It is incumbent upon Rethink Perfect thinkers to agree to a new rethink agreement before the old agreement is made redundant. Thus we get a ratcheting effect from this process of building upon previous agreements.

Q. What is the biggest cause of marriage today?
A. Divorce!

As this joke implies, I think that it is because people can so easily get out of their marriage contract that couples readily make false promises, or so-called commitment. This book is still about commitment, but rather than one person committing to another, it is about being committed to an idea or concept that both can agree to and review at any time. That is Rethink Perfect.

This book is the result of half a lifetime spent pondering agreements, filling some 60 A5 journals with thoughts, questions, frustrations and eureka moments. Rethink Perfect has been a journey of discovery for me, my mountain to climb. Every day reinforces my decision to undertake the investigation of so many implied agreements or expectations, and the aggression and unhappiness they induce when we fail to live up to them.

My Epiphany Moment: The title, Rethink Perfect, was derived from an epiphany moment I had in 1985. At the time, I was using my certitude to fight a Christian organisation’s dogma, and not getting very far. It finally dawned on me that “I could be wrong” in my thoughts and deeds, which allowed me to abandon my crusade without feeling like a quitter. I applied the “I could be wrong” test to other people, to determine whether they could be wrong, too. To my surprise, I found that most people had thoughts that they believed couldn’t possibly be “wrong”. This discovery led me to look at dichotomies, and how we tend to think in black-and-white or right-and-wrong, with very little room for shades of grey or nuance. Edward de Bono’s book from 1990, I Am Right, You Are Wrong, with his concepts of parallel talking and thinking, had a big impact on my journey. Influential, too, was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, whose protagonist searches for the definition of “quality” and through the process, goes crazy. While reading his book, I coined a new word to describe the opposite of quality: “unquality”. I found that it was so much easier to understand concepts like dishonesty, imperfection or uncertainty by looking at them through the lens of unquality or its flawed side. And it possibly saved me a stint in a psych ward.

The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham also played a part in my realising that life is for learning, without necessarily going to university. Black Swan by Nissam Taleb helped me see that the “I could be wrong” theory had been around awhile in the form of Critical Rationalism, which was advanced by Karl Popper, one of the greatest social and political philosophers of the 20th century. “I could be wrong” then evolved in 2010 into “Rethink Perfect”. A quick search on the web proved that I was the first person to have coined this phrase. Hopefully, I will not be the last person to try to practice it.

The book goes into explaining my take on;
Ch 1. Perfect Thinking
Ch 2. Rules and Rethink Agreements,
Ch 3. Prepare for the Failure,
Ch 4. Complain Responsibly,
Ch 5. Six Rules of Engagement,
Ch 6. Conversations and Conversions,
Ch 8. Direct Feedback Moment,
Ch 7. My Relationship Treaty,
Ch 9. Biron’s Quest, a fairy tale,


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