Visual Lessons from Our Election

“I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies.” – Le Corbusier

As we wake up realizing we’re at the end of this stage of our democratic process and as we prepare to move on to whatever comes next, I have a couple thoughts on the pictorial side of things.

1.     Emotions trump all.


The human brain works on many levels. At bottom, your brain-stem responds to simple sensory inputs with immediate “fight or flight” reactions. Next up the chain, your limbic brain triggers emotional responses to what you perceive: happiness, sadness, fear, lust, hatred, and joy. At the top, your massive neocortex enables you to pause, take a breath, analyze your reactions and emotions, think them through, and then make informed decisions based on evidence, experience, reason, insight, and wisdom.

At the beginning of the race, I expected to use my neocortex. During the first debate, I struggled to rise above the limbic level. By the end, I was all brain stem. At moments we saw attempts to rise to rationality, but real “thinking” never had a chance this time around.

The lesson: when you look like you’re losing, ring the amygdala. It works every time.

2. Window seats look out, aisle seats look in.


I noticed an interesting aspect of the voting map. It reminded me of the seating chart when I buy a plane ticket. For the most part, those states with “window seats” voted blue and those on the aisles voted red. The people in the window seats like to look outward and see the world beyond the plane. Those in the aisles prefer to watch the movie. It is two different mindsets: seeing the outside world as an opportunity to be seized, or seeing the outside world as a threat to be avoided.

I fly a lot. Virgin America is my favorite airline. They play a little jingle just before takeoff. It’s called “We’re all in this together.” It reminds you that even though you might not like the person sitting next to you, you still need to be civil and clean up after yourself because, well, we’re all on this plane until it lands.

I like the sentiment. I hope the whole nation can live up to it. I might not agree with you, but you know what? I still prefer the window.

3. Life under a megaboss won’t be the fun some people seem to expect.

This is my most personal concern about this election. I find it unsettling how much Donald Trump admires Russian President Vladimir Putin. Not many people know this, but I lived in Russia for seven years. From 1990 to 1997, I lived and worked in Moscow. It’s a long story, but the key is that I had the opportunity to move to the Soviet Union at the end of the cold war, and I took it. I was able to build a successful advertising business in Moscow. I learned to speak Russian and made many friends, learning important lessons every step of the way. At the end, I sold my business for traveling cash, and moved back to the US.

But you know what matters most? I saw every day what it is like to live in a place where the boss alone is the boss, and what he says goes, without debate. In hindsight, I was afraid every single day I lived there. If you are a success, toe the party line, and don’t make waves, you’ll be fine. But if you choose to think different, express yourself, and raise your head for something the boss doesn’t like, be careful. The boss will take your head off.

Let’s remember; we’re all in this together. We’re all Americans, and we got here by being open, not closed. This is America. Not Russia.


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Excerpted from Draw to Win by Dan Roam with permission of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Dan Roam, 2016.


13 thoughts on “Visual Lessons from Our Election

  1. Dan,

    I think your conclusion is straight out of the amygdala to say that we are now going to become Russia. Your final conclusion is emotional and only incites fear.

    The middle picture is best… remember, we are all in this together. Trump won (and I’m not a Trump guy) because he had a more simple, powerful and concise message. No one could really follow Clinton’s confusing message – it was ever changing and very muddy. Seriously, it’s that simple. I thought you were the guy who understood that best.

    Sometimes I think you reverse engineer your messages based on your undeniable bias, but I guess it’s hard not to do that when it comes to politics and deeply held convictions. From my perspective, both sides were very much reaching for the Amygdala with messages of fear and hate. Your final picture only creates more fear and suspicion. Such rhetoric gets old and only creates more division.

    Dig deeper on this and see if you can’t come up with a message that better reveals what happened this election season.

    • I certainly agree with Jason’s thought! On point and makes all the sense in the world. Clinton’s message was all of the map, was confusing and brought others in at the last minute to further cloud her efforts. Keep it simple—which is what Trump did …and got the presidency!

    • I completely agree with Jason and Lorraine.

      In addition, I don’t know why people like you and Beyonce’, Lady Gaga, Amy Schumer etc. think you have to politicize everything.

      When people like myself go to a concert or to see a show, or subscribe to your blog so I can use the method for business reasons, I don’t care to listen to somebody’s political bias.

      People should stick to what they do best! If it’s singing, then just sing. If it’s teaching the power of visual thinking, then do that.

      Your audience may love your work, but they may not necessarily agree with your political views so it is best to keep them to yourself instead of trying to push it down the throats of your captive audience and turning off 1/2 of the people in the US who may want to buy your books.

      This election is only the second or third time I have ever voted in my entire life.

      Trump won fair and square and against all odds, in spite of the fact that Hillary, the Democrats, the Republicans, the DOJ, the FBI, the main stream media, the celebrities and George Soros have all joined forces against him.

      In addition, Hillary still could not win even though they were having dead people vote for her and there were evidences of tampering.

      Had Hillary won this election, you would expect, I’m sure, that Trump’s supporters accept it and not act like sore losers.

      • Agreed! Love your work, Dan, but please don’t shove your politics and slanted views down your customers’ throats.

        Maybe take heed of the opening quote you included above:

        More drawing!
        Fewer words (and opportunities for….well, you get it. Right?)!

  2. Thanks Dan, for sharing these interesting insights. Well, the US get now, what they asked for. I am quite intrigued about how “We will make America great again” will be filled with more substance. It is a great catch phase and The Donald now has to deliver.

  3. What comes to your mind when your think of the words “Executive Overreach”? Consider that one definition of overreach is “get the better of (someone) by cunning”.

    I think Obama got the better of the Legislative branch when he pushed Obamacare through saying things like ‘this is not a tax’ and ‘you can keep your doctor’. But later the supreme court upholds the Obamacare law citing “its a tax”.

    To me, Obama and Executive Overreach are in the same ballpark, arguably both are in the infield. But isn’t the word ‘boss’ in the same ballpark at Executive Overreach? To me, your picture of life in Russia could also be a picture for Executive Overreach; Your picture of life in American could not be a picture for Exectutive Overreach.

    I am a Trump supporter, but until writing this I have only shared that info with a couple close friends because I feared being called a bigot and a racist, which I am neither. One of my takeaways from your drawing is that because I am a Trump supporter I only use my Lizard brain. So now I am a bigot, racist, and dumb.

    If infact one take-away from your drawing is that ‘Trump supporter = Lizard brain and no intellect’…how does that reconcile with the definition of bigot?

    Bigot – a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions

  4. Your thinking always inspires me, just as it did back when we worked on the Woodshole Oceanographic Institute project! Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

  5. Wonderful insight Dan. Very simple and intuitive way to showcase what happened. The insights inferred could well be how people have voted. Effective visualization of the election result.

  6. As I see it, some of the comments have confused clarity with simplicity.
    Dan’s message was clear.
    Trump’s message was simple.

    You cannot run the most economically, militarily, and culturally influential country in the world with simplistic ideas.
    I might add that racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia are also simple and emotionally powerful ideas. They are also wrong.

    We need the tools of clarity to move forward and confront our complex problems.

    Thank you Dan for making a positive contribution with your tools and insights.

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