The Trust Formula: Message from the Morning Man by Kojo Yankson


The Trust Formula: Message from the Morning Man

by Kojo Yankson

3rd December 2015


This time last year, I was blessed with the opportunity to write my first book, Messages from the Morning Man. All year, the book has received critical acclaim, and sold out several times in major bookstores across the country. This Christmas, many of you are buying it as a gift for a friend or a loved one, and for those of you who are yet to get your copies, I have been sharing a handful of the stories from the book. Today, I’ve got a great one for you. It’s called The Trust Formula.


How do you earn money? By earning people’s trust in you and your product or service. And how do you earn trust? Well, that’s not as straightforward.

In all our life’s endeavours, we always seek out people we can trust. When we’re hiring a babysitter, when we’re choosing political leaders, when we’re picking a mechanic, when we’re assessing potential romantic partners, even when we’re buying tomatoes in the market, our minds will attempt a quick assessment of the trustworthiness of individuals before we engage with them on any level. As humans, we always want to minimise risk in our lives, and so we gravitate towards the people who make us feel safe – those who seem trustworthy. Now, there are so many things that our brains look for in determining the trustworthiness of another human being: how they look, what clothes or car they have, how they sound, what other people say about them, and most importantly, our own past experiences with the person(s) in question? Over the years, our minds use this information to form their own little formula which we employ in performing on-the-spot assessments of people’s trustworthiness.

Obviously, a person’s appearance goes a long way to help us determine their trustworthiness. Imagine you’re entering the consulting room at the hospital. You go in, and there’s a woman in a white lab coat sitting at the desk with her glasses on her nose, and a stethoscope around her neck, writing out prescriptions. If this woman then asks you what is wrong, would you doubt for a moment that she’s a doctor? And when she gives you a prescription, will you question her credentials before you buy and swallow the pills?

Especially if she sounds right too… Confidence is contagious, and a person who sounds like they know what they are talking about, puts us at ease and makes us trust them. How else would Fauster Atta-Mensah have almost convinced the entire nation – including some pretty smart Pentecostal church leaders – that he was a
Nobel Prize winning NASA physicist?

The one factor in the Trust Formula that can’t easily be faked is the track record. This is the actual answer to the question, how is trust earned. It is earned by doing exactly what you say you will do all the time – even when nobody is watching. It is by proving to people that they can rely on you to come through for them when needed.

It is by under-promising and over-delivering in every human interaction, with such consistency that your word can be taken for granted. There aren’t many people who are able to meet this standard, but for those who do, no door is ever closed to them.

In Britain, and many other developed countries, applying for a bank loan is a very quick and simple exercise. You can do it from the comfort of your sofa at home, without setting foot in a bank. All you do is go online and fill a form. The form is usually one page long, and it asks questions about who you are, what you do, where you do it, and how long you have done it for. This form is designed to help the bank answer two questions about you:

(1) are you who you say you are, and 
(2) can you pay back this loan?

The system then checks your answers (how you look and sound) against your Credit Report (your track record of how you have handled other debts in the past) and gives you a credit score, which is then used to form an instant decision, right there and then, as you sit on your sofa. My dear friend, this morning I want you to ask yourself one question: How would you perform in a trust credit score? How would you fare against the Trust Formula? Would your appearance, your voice, and people’s
experiences of you, all combine to give a sense of safety? Are you trustworthy?

If you aren’t, don’t despair. Trust is earned, just like money, and it’s never too late to start building a good reputation. Start with the small things and the big ones will be added unto you. Nobody will trust you with a whole project if they can’t even trust you to get to work on time. If you can’t manage your own household, who
will trust you to manage a nation? You can’t lie about how you feel, and expect your partner to trust you with their heart. Trust is earned, but it’s never too late. Start now, and never stop.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and I don’t trust those who lie to me, so I don’t lie to those who trust me.