Would you subscribe to T-Mobile because Catherine Zeta-Jones recommends it? Don’t fall for the celebrity effect

Two cabins remain on the August trip to Scandinavia

On a recent visit to Israel, our group visited the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. It’s a fascinating story. 

There’s a nice, modern visitor’s center on site. On my way to the bathroom I had to walk through the gift shop. (I deplore tourist gift shops; bladder control is one of the only reasons I enter.) I glanced down at one of the advertising displays and saw this picture of Mariah Carey. I was amused, surprised, and reminded once again of the idiocy of being influenced by the celebrity effect. 

Mariah has been hired as a spokesperson for Premier Cosmetics Laboratories, an Israeli cosmetics and skincare company that manufactures its products using mineral components extracted from the Dead Sea. I smiled at the tagline “I call the shots and I think I know the best.” (See this webpage for more information on this debacle.)

It’s sad that our culture is so infatuated with famous people that we succumb to advertising campaigns that exploit our naivety. I sort of understand the connection between Michael Jordon and Nike shoes, but when Roger Federer poses as a coffee machine expert and Jennifer Aniston promotes Smartwater, we should recognize the disconnect. 

The celebrity effect is the ability of famous people to influence others. Companies use that star power and influence to boost their own products and services. 

No doubt, it works. When Chanel signed Nicole Kidman in 2003, global sales of the perfume they promoted increased 30%. When Nike and Tiger Woods inked an endorsement deal in 2000, Nike’s market share went from 0.9% to 4% in six months.

The celebrity effect is used in about 14-19% of advertisements aired in the U.S. 

Let’s resist

Travel with Friends trip to Scandinavia – August 13-29

On the 2024 Travel with Friends trip, we’ll circumnavigate the Baltic Sea. Northern Europe is one of the most pristine areas of the world. The scenery is spectacular and the cultures are interesting and accommodating.

Together, we’ll explore: Amsterdam (one of the great cities in the world), Berlin, Gdansk-Poland (where WW2 started), Stockholm (including the place where Nobel Prizes are given), Tallin-Estonia (one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe), Copenhagen-Denmark (awarded 2023 World Capital of Architecture by UNESCO), and other places.

Here’s the brochure. Baltic-Sea-Trip-2024-Brochure-110823-Fillable

Contact me if you’re interested. [email protected] – 214.783.4414


Everyone needs a “mystery box”

When I was a teenager I heard a sermon on the mystery box. The pastor recommended that throughout life everyone should keep an imaginary box into which you place those things that happen in life for which there seems to be no good explanation. In the course of life, events and issues happen that we don’t understand. We ask “why” but never get an answer (though some well-meaning friends will offer their opinions). We pray for answers and reasons, but God is silent. 

So when a painful, unexplainable event happens, open your mystery box, place the event inside, close the lid and then stop trying to figure it out. Someday, in heaven, open up the box and talk to God.

I remember the first thing I put in my box. When growing up, my hero was the minister of music at my church. He was a wonderful man and effective minister. When he was 42 years old (I was 18) he had a stroke and became incapacitated. He recently died when in his 90’s so he lived 50 years in a compromised capacity. I have wrestled with God about his illness and subsequent limited lifestyle. I finally opened up my mystery box, placed the anger, confusion, and unsolved mystery inside, and shut the lid.

I’m now 71 years old and have five things in my box. 

This is a wonderful, effective way to deal with imponderables. By placing them in the box, we’re not denying or minimizing our pain and confusion. We’re simply acknowledging that there’s no clear answer available in this life, but there will be in the next. When we get to heaven, we can discuss these issues with God (though I think they will become clear the moment we arrive). 

One of my favorite Bible passages is Isiah 55:8-9: 

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

This is not new or shocking news. Do we actually think that God thinks like we do or is restricted by our limitations? If he did and was, He wouldn’t be God.

By the way, we often fumble the ball when responding to other people’s imponderables. We do them and God a disservice when we try to explain something for which there is no explanation. I even resist saying things like, “God will cause this to work out for your good” or, “this will make you stronger.” Either don’t say anything or suggest that they start their own mystery box. [Here’s a post I wrote titled Don’t say this to someone who is hurting.]

Let’s just trust God and his ways in our lives and the lives of other people.

Normally $450; on sale now for $215 — don’t be snookered by the anchoring effect

Anchoring (also called focalism) is a cognitive bias in which we become inordinately influenced by initial information (considered to be the “anchor”). Once we accept the anchor, all future judgments, decisions, negotiations, arguments, estimates, etc. are made in relation to the anchor. And we become reluctant to embrace information and facts that challenge the initial information. 

In short, we tend to rely too heavily on the first piece of information we’re given. It unduly influences our thinking.

For instance, anchoring is used by businesses and organizations to manipulate the perceived value of a product or service. The retail price of an item is listed (anchored) at $450, but it’s now on sale for $215. Naively, we may think the product is really worth $450 (though it may be worth only $50) so we believe the lower price must be a good value. To make matters worse, we may not even be interested in the item, but the “good deal” seems too good to pass up so we buy something we don’t need at an inflated price.

We can also become anchored to a plan of action, our first impression about an individual, a political persuasion, or the first comment we hear about a current event. 

Do not underestimate how gullible we humans are to this effect. In a study by Dan Ariely, an audience is first asked to write the last two digits of their social security number and consider whether they would pay this number of dollars for items whose value they did not know, such as wine, chocolate, and computer equipment. They were then asked to bid for these items. The audience members with higher two-digit numbers submitted bids that were between 60 percent and 120 percent higher than those with lower social security numbers. The number had become an anchor. When asked if they believed the number was informative of the value of the item, quite a few said yes. Even though everyone’s social security number is a random series of digits, those numbers had an effect on their decision-making. [My social security number ends with 00, so I probably would not have even bid.]

It’s very hard to totally avoid anchoring bias. Like all cognitive biases, it happens subconsciously, and it’s hard to identify, much less challenge subconscious thoughts. Here are some suggestions.

    1. Be skeptical of first impressions. Challenge all thoughts and statements, but be particularly doubtful about first thoughts and statements. Develop counterarguments to primary thoughts.
    2. When making a decision, always consider alternative options.
    3. When making decisions as a group, designate someone to be the devil’s advocate—someone who will intentionally oppose and challenge the group’s ideas.

Ikigai – Everyone needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning

Plus – Zoom meeting on March 11 on Baltic trip

I just finished reading Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Garcia and Miralles. I highly recommend the book.

In Japanese culture, there is a concept called “ikigai,” which loosely translates as “a reason for living.” A French philosopher might call it a raison d’être. I would summarize by saying “everyone needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”   Every person, it is believed, has an ikigai that they must search for. The search is long and deeply personal, but once your ikigai is found it is what you devote your life to. It’s the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect.

The entire book is nicely summarized and explained by a well-thought-out Venn diagram (a graphic that uses overlapping circles to illustrate the logical relationships between two or more sets of items). Take a minute to study this diagram.


I think our personal Ikigai can change throughout life. For instance, when my daughter Sarah graduated from Juilliard her primary focus was on building her career. But five months ago she gave birth to Claire and now the child is Sarah’s reason for getting up in the morning (and several times during the night 🙂 and is the primary source of fulfillment.

What has been the prime motivator in your life? Has it changed recently?

Travel with Friends Information Meeting

Join me on March 11, 7:00p.m. CST for a 45-minute information meeting on Zoom about the 2024 Travel with Friends trip to the Baltic Sea and Northern Europe.

We’ll discuss the itinerary, accommodations, and ports of calls. The Q&A will answer all your questions. If you want to attend, let me know and I’ll send you an invitation. You can download Zoom for free. You can also participate via a conference call using your mobile phone.

Here’s the brochure that we’ll discuss. Baltic-Sea-Trip-2024-Brochure-110823-Fillable

If you want to attend, email me at [email protected] or call me at 214.783.4414