"How many problems of life can be solved actually by tinkering with perception, rather than that tedious, hardworking and messy business of actually trying to change reality? Here’s a great example from history: Fredrick the Great of Prussia was very, very keen for the Germans to adopt the potato and to eat it, because he realized that if you had two sources of carbohydrate, wheat and potatoes, you get less price volatility in bread. And you get a far lower risk of famine, because you actually had two crops to fall back on, not one.
The only problem is: potatoes, if you think about it, look pretty disgusting. And also, 18th century Prussians ate very, very few vegetables … So, actually, he tried making it compulsory. The Prussian peasantry said, ‘We can’t even get the dogs to eat these damn things. They are absolutely disgusting and they’re good for nothing.’ There are even records of people being executed for refusing to grow potatoes.
So he tried plan B. He tried the marketing solution, which is he declared the potato as a royal vegetable, and none but the royal family could consume it. And he planted it in a royal potato patch, with guards who had instructions to guard over it, night and day, but with secret instructions not to guard it very well. Now, 18th century peasants know that there is one pretty safe rule in life, which is: if something is worth guarding, it’s worth stealing. Before long, there was a massive underground potato-growing operation in Germany. What he’d effectively done is, he’d re-branded the potato.
It was an absolute masterpiece.”