The Burns Equation

Concept illustration of human brain hemispheres with information about left and right brains in modern flat line art style. EPS10 vector.

In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Filmmaker Ken Burns referred to a Merle Haggard quote included his PBS series Country Music.: “Country music is about things we believe in but can’t see, like dreams, songs and souls.”

Burns backed up Haggard: “There is in front of us a rational world in which 1+1=2, but the thing that compels us forward as human beings is that we look for 1+1=3. We find that in our faith, our art and our love of one another.”

The human need for this missing component mustn’t be overlooked if you want to be persuasive. It applies whether you’re pitching a new product to investors; justifying your budget to a board, or proposing a system change to engineers. It is expected that you will present a rational, logical argument.

But focusing exclusively on logic or facts is 1+1=2, and will engender debate, even argument. To win over even the toughest critic, include the third component and make audiences believe in you and your content.

Whenever and wherever you speak, commit to your material and cause. Then express that deep commitment to successfully transmit it to others. The two hemispheres of the brain have different functions and needs. The left controls rules, linear thinking and quantitative analysis. The right controls the whole idea (distillation) feelings and imagination. When you present, balance your content to engage both sides of the brain.

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