Are You Bold Enough to Challenge Your Assumptions

We need to challenge our assumptions if we are going to solve an epidemic. Earlier this week it was Kate Spade. This morning we heard about Anthony Bourdain. We remember Robin Williams. All of them led successful lives that touched millions. Yet their deaths came at their own hand. How can we disrupt this horrible trend? What will it take to prevent suicides? As leaders determined to disrupt the status quo, we begin by asking the tough questions.

Why would successful people kill themselves?

I imagine we all have our easy answers.

  • “They were depressed.”
  • “They did something wrong and couldn’t live with it.”
  • “They were selfish and didn’t consider those they left behind.”

The problem with those easy answers is that easy answers don’t solve complex problems. We pick one answer and ignore the others, thinking it is the “real reason.”

Then we imply the easy solution. “If only they would ____________ there wouldn’t be a problem.”

Think Bigger.

Complex problems are not solved with simplistic answers. To solve a complex problem we have to think bigger, dig deeper and reach higher.

We can re-engineer our thinking when we are willing to listen, feel, think and work for the tough answers.

Challenge your assumptions by asking why?

First, Examine the Numbers.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s recent report, 45,000 people commit suicide each year. That is 15.6%  for every 100,000 people. If we stop and think about it, that is like having almost the entire population of Ames, Iowa, disappear. Losing that many would wipe out a third of Syracuse, New York or a quarter of Yonkers. Think about your community. What would happen if you lost 45,000 in one year?

Now imagine that number has increased 30% in the last 20 years. Project that forward and by 2038, we will be losing 58,500 per year.

Challenge your assumption by looking at the numbers.

What do you learn from those numbers? How important is it to solve this problem now?

Second, Examine our Response.  

Our response shows that we care. If we don’t respond, it shows we don’t care.

How are we responding to those trends? The CDC reports that the United States has no publicly funded program to prevent adult suicide.

What does that say about our commitment to solving this problem?

Challenge your assumptions about your response.

Third, Examine the Causes.

We think we know the causes but when we study it, we find that we are mistaken.

We think those that suicide is caused by depression and that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. Or we might think that suicide is by those demented and dysfunctional individuals. Still, others think suicide is the easy way out, committed by those who can’t live with the mistake they have made. Maybe the worst is that some believe it is a selfish act by a calloused individual.

What is the research show?

“Often, the suicide seemed to happen without warning: 54 percent of the people who killed themselves didn’t have a previously known mental health issue. ‘Instead, these folks were suffering from other issues, such as relationship problems, substance misuse, physical health problems, job or financial problems, and recent crises or things that were coming up in their lives that they were anticipating,’” (

Challenge your assumption about the causes of suicide.

What assumptions do you make about suicide?

Fourth, let’s examine our Assumptions

Many who have not been touched by a suicide don’t believe anything can be done about it. In a recent conversation, a friend told me that he was convinced nothing could be done without drugs and hospitalization. But that is not the professionals say.

Suicide is preventable.

Often it just takes noticing, feeling, thinking and taking the appropriate action. That’s right, it is JUST . . . Small actions can make a huge difference.

In our book, “The R.O.I. of Compassion”, my wife and coauthor outline a four-step process.

Start by noticing any change in behavior, appearance or language.

Feel with them. Understand it from their perspective.

Then, pause to think, study, and learn what the appropriate action would be. Learn about the warning signs. To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Fourth, take action. Doing nothing only makes the problem worse. I promise you, if this happens to your loved one, you will be haunted by what you did not do.

What assumptions do you make about a suicide? Are you willing to challenge those assumptions?

I hope this article, “Are You Bold Enough to Think About This Topic?” has provided educational,  inspirational and disruptive value to you. Before my coaching on this subject, few of my clients were aware of or following these disruptive shifts. I hope you will take my advice to heart. If you re-engineer your thoughts along these lines and maintain that disruptive thinking, you will find many new opportunities where you used to only see obstacles.

If this article has been valuable, please forward it to your social media site. Let’s raise awareness to solve this horrible trend.



If you subscribe to my FREE Disruptive Leader Newsletter (Link), I will offer a $100 discount for my 90 Minute, Disruptive Opportunity Challenge. Those that have taken the challenge identify 1 to 3 disruptive opportunities where they can create products and services that meet current and future needs. As leaders, they all appreciate learning of the trends that would displace their business or customers. Are you up for the challenge?

When you sign up for my FREE Disruptive Leader Newsletter, I’ll also offer you a discount coupon for my book Chevettes to Corvettes: Unleashing the Ultimate Small Business. In the book, I provide a more detailed dive into the 6 gears to take you from ordinary to ultimate. You will appreciate the metaphor that challenges our ordinary thinking when the ultimate is at our fingertips.

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Loren Murfield, Ph.D.

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