The map is not the territory 📍

1 second

20 million bits of information

2 million bits processed

5 senses

Less than 9 bits retained

In 1 second, our brain is surrounded by more than 20 million bits of information.

We process somewhere around 2 million bits through our 5 senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, taste.

Our short term memory can only retain 5-9 bits of information at a time.

How do we do it? We filter!

  • We generalize – we look for common ground. We look for what’s familiar to us.
  • We distort – we make connections based on things we already know. We put things into categories we already understand.
  • We delete – we notice what interests us and ignore the rest.

All of this we do in a split second using our values, beliefs, and past experiences as filters.

None of this is real.

Our brain is NOT reality.

Our brain is a map of reality.

The map is not the territory.

Why does any of this matter?

Whatever the event, message, intent…

  • The way you see it isn’t how it actually is
  • It’s not how they see it either (whoever they are)

Our subjectivity makes life rich and relationships interesting. It’s the root of change, innovation and progress.

It also complicates communication.

If you want to achieve anything beyond the most superficial interactions:

  1. Understand your own filters and bias.
  2. Be curious about the perspectives of the people you hope to reach.
  3. Be crystal clear about your intent and your message (the entire sensory experience you create).


  1. If you Google these numbers, you will find all sorts of debate about the actual processing capacity of the brain. That’s not the point. I went down this bunny trail – I can save you the effort.
  2. Thanks to Ileana Dăian-Șova for two incredible days of training to understand how our brain experiences is the world.
  3. Shout out to the Knowledge Academy for making such training possible

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