Loneliness, aloneness, and confirmation bias

Magnus Nielsson

I first wrote something about Magus Nilsson four years ago and never published it, but don’t know why. Friday night I watched a documentary about Fäviken and had a whole other set of thoughts I wanted to put down. I’ll include both here. The first has to do with loneliness vs. aloneness, and the other is about confirmation bias.


Once upon a time American Express approved me for a Platinum card. The privilege included a flattery tax of $450 per year. Apart from airport lounge access, the only perk of note was the delivery of Departures Magazine, which actually is quite good.

In the fall edition of 2012 an article ran called Chef Magnus Nilsson Experiments. The article is really great and you should read it, but the thing that stood out was the following paragraph. The author says,

“I thought: There is a loneliness in what Nilsson is doing, an excitement of discovery that he has no one to share it with. Then I thought: No, it’s aloneness, not loneliness. There is also joy and no sadness, a sense of a science newly found, very 19th century. You can see why he needs to write it up. You are no longer alone when you are telling a story.”


So true. There is a gigantic difference between loneliness and aloneness. To be alone is a reality. To be lonely is a feeling. You can’t be alone in a crowd, but you can be lonely. This chef is very much alone for most of the time, but he’s not lonely because he is telling his story and that is company in itself.

This was massively encouraging to me as I began my ministry in a new city where I was very much alone compared to my previous situation. Your work, whether it’s preparing food or sermons, becomes a form of company. Enjoy it.images-2


Confirmation bias is the tendency to favor evidence that supports our assumptions. I first read about this in the paradigm shifting book by Nassim Taleb called the The Black Swan. It relates to Fäviken (the hotel where Nilsson is the chef) because it’s just so obvious.

If I travel from San Diego to Heathrow, and then to Stockholm, and onwards to Are/Ostersund, and then hail a cab from there to the restaurant, then I’ve already dropped about $1500. When you add another $500 for the hotel room I’m out two grand before sitting down at one of the five tables in this amazing restaurant. Yes. Five tables.

fävikenchef  magnus nilsson

Magnus Nilsson

In addition to the $2000 spent getting there, dinner is another 3000 Swedish Krona (prepaid at the time of reservation), which in case you’re wondering, is about $350. Since I would obviously need to bring my lovely wife on this expedition we’re looking at almost $5000 before we even unfold the napkins.

So, what will I think of the meal? The answer is simple. It will be the best meal I’ve ever had, even if it’s not. Why? I’m so heavily invested in it, and I’ve told myself so many times that it’s going to be amazing, that I have no choice. Everything I see, hear, taste, touch, and smell will confirm my preconceived idea. That’s confirmation bias, and that’s why it can be really dangerous.

One thought on “Loneliness, aloneness, and confirmation bias

  1. Thank you Jon! This helps me understand some things we are struggling with. I really appreciate your insights!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s