To Hoot or Not to Hoot | The Public Announcement Conundrum (Part 1)

Chinese drivers are bad.  Really bad.

Living in South Africa, isolated from the rest of the world, I honestly believed that Johannesburg had the worst drivers on the planet.  I complained along with everyone else about how they had no right to drive like idiots and I constantly fixated on the accident rate on our roads.  However, when I came to Shanghai I realised we have nothing to complain about.  Shanghai’s roads are absolute chaos.

I could write 10 pages on how ridiculous the driving was, or how confusing the intersections were – but that’s for another day, it’s not the point I want to get at.  I just want to focus on one particular attribute of your average Shanghai driver – the hooting.

It seems that hooting is part of Shanghai’s DNA and if there is one thing that is constant – it is the sound of those horns blaring at every possible moment.

In my own driver’s test back home I was required to perform a ‘5-point check’ at every stopping point where you would use your mirrors to ensure that it was safe to start driving off.

From what I saw, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that when you go for your licence test in China you have to perform a ‘5-point hoot’ every time you stop.

  • Slowing down… <HOOT!!>
  • About to turn… <HOOT!!>
  • Turning… <HOOT>
  • Swerving Across 4 Lanes of Traffic… <HOOT!!>
  • U-turn into 4 lanes of oncoming traffic… <HOOT!!>

I cannot emphasise enough how unnecessary it all is.

But isn’t that what we all do?

  • A simple daily task… <FACEBOOK STATUS!!>
  • Pondering the meaning of life… <BLOG POST!!>
  • Changing our ways… <TWEET!!>
  • Trying to impress people… <INSTAGRAM!!>
  • Desire to be unique… <TELL ANYBODY WHO WILL LISTEN!!>

In this generation, where everything has to shared, we are not any better than those Chinese drivers.  Somewhere along the line we forgot that we should be seeking our own approval (using our own standards) and not simply measuring success by the approval by others.

But we hoot.  Again and Again.

In this short TED Talk by Derek Sivers, he says:

“Repeated psychology tests have proven that telling someone your goal makes it less likely to happen.”

By hooting about everything we want to achieve, before we have achieved it, we allow ourselves that small sense of gratification when people pat us on the back – and that release often impairs our work ethic when it comes to taking action.  In other words, our minds sub-consciously believe that we have achieved the goal because we verbalised it.

That is why the majority of New Years Resolutions don’t work.  It feels great to tell people about your resolutions during dinner conversation and they respond with enthusiastic calls of “Good for you!” or “That’s great!”

And we get a short burst of delight as we have gained someone’s approval.  So we slack off, we got our fix of satisfaction and there is now no incentive to actually follow up on our words.

So we end up giving up.

Perhaps the better strategy is to take conscious action towards those goals and produce the goods before hooting about ourselves.  In this way we have something to work towards – that gratification of someone else’s appreciation.

See how I just turned that around? 

By using the recognition of other people as a catalyst to drive us towards a goal, as opposed to dis-incentivising us to achieve it – we can turn ourselves around.

So stop hooting.  And just do it.

(The irony in this post is not lost on me.)


This is the first part of a 2 part series.  Read Part 2 here.