As I watch news coverage about peace on the Korean Peninsula, I keep hearing commentators say, “No one saw it coming.” That isn’t entirely true. For the benefit of history, I’ll document my own evolution of thought on this topic. I believe it is the subject I have written about the most in the past year. My interest in North Korea stems partly from not wanting to die in a giant ball of nuclear fire, and also because I saw a skillset in President Trump that seemed ideally suited for solving this seemingly unsolvable problem. I don’t have to tell you that was a lonely opinion to hold for a year. But I’m getting used to that feeling.
My opinion about North Korea was that we were dealing with a psychological problem — literally a set of illusions — masquerading as a set of physical problems. If we could figure out how to think about the problem right, we’d find a solution without firing a shot. Luckily for the world, the United States had recently elected a President with every tool needed for that job. To me, it seemed like a once-ever chance to solve the unsolvable. And fingers crossed, we might be close to an outcome that is not just a fix, but something beautiful.
How did President Trump get us from the brink of nuclear war to something closer to loving thy neighbor? He did it by making everyone involved think differently. North Korea probably thought about its risks differently as it became apparent the sanctions were only going to get worse, never eased. China probably came to think differently about its reputation and brand in the region, as well as its risks to trade with the United States. The shipping companies that were violating the sanctions on North Korea came to see their risks differently as we photographed and publicized the capture of ships. Without firing a shot, President Trump made every participant think differently.
Starting about a year ago, I imagined I might have a useful role in helping people think more productively about North Korea. And so I made the topic my obsession for a year. I blogged and Periscoped about the potential for a peaceful end to the North Korean war because I wanted people to think it was possible. We humans don’t act on the things we believe to be impossible.
I figured the right people would see my writing. A number of people in the Trump administration read this blog. I know because I’ve heard from them directly. And we also heard in the news that Kim Jong Un’s operatives were monitoring American pundit opinions about President Trump to understand him better. I was one of the most accurate predictors of President Trump’s rise to the presidency, so I would expect North Korean operatives to know about my blog and my book, Win Bigly. In all likelihood, I had the audience I needed. I wanted both sides to start imagining peace, to borrow a powerful idea from Master Persuader John Lennon. We pursue what we imagine is possible, not what we imagine is not.
And so I started writing about various ways we could think about North Korea differently. The details didn’t matter as much as the exercise itself. If we can all spend some time simply imagining a peaceful outcome in which all sides win, it becomes an option. Until you can imagine peace, it is not a practical option.
Imagination is my game.
Let me show you how I played it, in case you missed it as it happened. I’ll start with an article from The Sun that summarizes my writing on the topic so you can see it in context. Dilbert Scoops ’em All On the Inside Story of Trump Korea Talks
Here are my blog posts on North Korea, in chronological order. Most of them are linked in the article:
And then another article summarizing my blogging on the topic:
I have no direct evidence that anything I have written or blogged made a difference to the outcome. As I said, President Trump had all the tools to get it done, and I have told you many times that people who have persuasion talent approach things in similar ways. I would expect President Trump to be thinking of North Korea as a psychological problem, not a physical one, and we see evidence he guarded against the physical with shows of force while playing the psychological game. And apparently winning.
But future Nobel Prize winner President Trump isn’t the only winner here. Kim Jong Un is bringing his game too. North Korea could be on the verge of an economic boom the likes of which we rarely see.
At least that’s how I imagine it going.
If you want to predict the future using what I call the Persuasion Filter, read my influential bestseller, Win Bigly.
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