On experience, understanding, and making rapid decisions.

 

The mental short cuts I use are not 100% foolproof or fail-safe.  They are intended to increase the speed of decision making, which leads to getting more information. You then sort that information and adjust.  Information is sorted by asking “is it useful” and “is it true?”  As much as possible is applied to real-world scenarios like relationship, peace of mind, success, health, and so forth.

 

To that end, looking at a potential role model, mentor, or ally and judging them by those standards is one such “snapshot.”   There is no doubt that there are poor people with financial insight.   Divorced or solitary people with insight into relationships.   Horribly unfit people with insight into fitness.

 

But if you grant that, but put most of your time and emphasis on listening to those  who have achieved the goals you seek, it is my experience that you  move MUCH faster in life than if you weigh everyone’s opinions equally.

 

Lots of ignorant people talk a good game.  If you know a better way to sort quickly, use it, and show me your results.  If they are better than mine, I’ll seriously consider doing it your way.

 

The Dunning-Kruger  effect refers to the problem of low-cognition people not being able to recognize that they are not…smart.   I’m not sure there is a word for the same phenomenon regarding ignorance, and if there is, please inform me, and I apologize in advance.

 

But the expression “he who knows not and knows not that he knows not” applies here. And I’ve seen this endless times when people (including myself) get their information second or third hand rather than through direct experience buttressed by study and thought.  Without the direct experience, they have no way of knowing if the information gathered second-hand is accurate.  It might make sense, but that doesn’t mean it is true without practical experience and experimentation.

 

What arenas have I seen this in?  Civilians thinking they understand the military.   Non-martial artists thinking they understand the arts.  Men or women with disastrous relationship histories thinking they understand each other.  White people who know few or no black people thinking they understand America’s racial issues, or how black people feel.   Poor people thinking they understand rich people.   Straights thinking they understand gays.  Christians thinking they understand religions they’ve only heard about from other Christians.  Americans who have never traveled thinking they understand the world.  People who have never studied science or medicine thinking “common  sense” is more accurate than field research and academic discipline across the board.  And on and on.

 

In some cases, extraordinary cases…they might actually be right. There are extraordinary individuals with amazing intellect who actually do seem to have breakthrough insight without study or experience.

 

But most people aren’t that.   Further, the person with less experience and education in a given discipline or arena who insists that you should respect their expertise is, frankly, usually wrong.  Not always. But it is the way to bet.

 

The internet connects billions of people together and we have rapid, fleeting contact with them.  Some are saints.   Some are lying monsters.

 

Most, I think, are honest. But I know for a fact that I have been terribly wrong about things, that I assumed that I knew about things because I’d read about them or heard people I trusted talking about them, without having had the experience to know whether those sources were correct.  I extend the same caution I now feel for my own thoughts to others.

 

It has always irritated people that I judge their competence in an arena with the “snapshot” of their results or history.  I understand that.   But frankly, if I am competent in an arena, and someone I don’t know well doesn’t accept my expertise, I’m not terribly irritated.  Irritation is a form or anger, which is fear.   If I KNOW that I know what I know, why do I care what someone else thinks?

 

I am more likely to be irritated if I am unsure of my knowledge, and wish others to agree with me so that I won’t doubt myself.  And frankly, this is what I think happens when I decline to accept the expertise of people who have not studied or experienced to the same degree I have.

 

And I would be perfectly happy to live in a world in which everyone judged everyone on that basis.   Respect the person?  Yes.  Respect their opinion? Sure.  But on a sliding scale.   If they have less data than me, they’d better be smarter than me, or have put more time and energy crunching that data.  Otherwise…nope.

 

Anyone can convince themselves that their arguments are sound.  Idiots can do that, as well as geniuses.   I make a clear statement: I evaluate the quality of your arguments not by their internal consistency, but whether they are both internally and externally consistent.  They must mesh with reality.   You must have the actual experience to ground it, otherwise you might have absorbed the WRONG library of books on the subject.

 

Of course some, perhaps many, will disagree with this approach.  I wish you well, and will be interested in your results.  But your protestations and arguments fall on deaf ears.

 

Namaste,

Steve

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