Tag Archives: personal development

What Makes a Fool

My Favorite Fool

Some people occur to us as intelligent and bright. Others, however, strike us as painfully dumb. If you asked folks, “What makes a smart person smart and a dumb person dumb?” many might quickly reply that it is the amount of knowledge one possesses that makes them smart or birdbrained.

For the average case, I would disagree. Lack of knowledge means they don’t know too much, but does that make them foolish? After all, don’t most of us know about a certain topic in which others are clueless (usually job-specific information)? Does this make us smart and them “dumb”? More specifically, is this really the quality that makes one seem intelligent or unintelligent–simply knowing something that others don’t? I don’t think so; that’s an incomplete picture.

I’ve noticed that what a person knows actually has little to do with whether they strike us as smart or a few fries short of a happy meal. What really makes a person sound unintelligent is not a lack of brain content, but rather an overestimation of it.

Think about it; you must know some graduate students, business people, doctors, lawyers, rocket scientists, engineers, etc. who shock you with their stupidity. “How did they get into [insert college with impressive name]?!” Humans can possess a ton of information but still really strike you as a few noodles short of a casserole. How? They lack one important piece of information: the limits of their information.

If you are over-confident about your knowledge, you are less likely to ask for help or go and look up something that you don’t know because you won’t admit to yourself that you don’t know it! When someone “does something stupid,” what really happened? They didn’t stop and think, “how should this be done?” And why didn’t they stop and think that? Because they were operating under the assumption that they already knew. This also applies to “saying something stupid.”

We want to fix this, never be a dingbat and become clear about what we don’t know, but knowledge is funny–we don’t know everything that is unknown to us. We know some of it (for example, I know I don’t know biochemistry), but the stuff that we don’t know that is unknown to us oddly doesn’t exist on our mental map. The only way we can go about dingbat prevention is building a habit of evaluating our knowledge and, when appropriate, saying “I don’t know.” We can help ourselves by developing an attitude of humility when it comes to our knowledge.

The difference between dumb and not-dumb is “I don’t know.” The difference between not-dumb and smart is “I don’t know, let me go and find out.”


Seek and Find Out

Nadal after winning his first grand slam

“Seek and you shall find.” Wow! What a big guarantee. If I seek, I shall find? Honestly, that sounds like a cheesy, empty promise that I can find in a fortune cookie in a second-rate Chinese restaurant where they yell at you when taking your order at the counter.

A lot of people are job seekers but they aren’t finding. Some people send out daily applications, visit recruiting agencies, and have created personal branding website things. Often times it leads to the business venture. So many fail in their first year because stuff just couldn’t work out.

Being fit is important to a lot of people. They invest in the athletic wear, get the right supplements, buy a gym membership or home equipment. But it’s hard when you have a big family or a demanding job.

As a country we want change. Our political leadership is failing us, we seem more and more divided, and we just can’t take it anymore. What can we do?

There are people who get jobs, start businesses, are fit with jobs and families, and people who bring about change, however. Are those people different or have some special set of talents? The more I learn from people I admire, it seems not.

Gary Vaynerchuk is one of those online guys who has a big following, started some great businesses, and became a best-selling author. His simple response when asked about what made him so bad ass was “I out worked you. Straight up, I out worked you.”

As a nation, it’s hard to say we’re seeking political change when the average American spends over an hour per day watching TV and being active voting for Project Runway contestants on Twitter, but not one hour per week researching candidates or economic policies.

As a person trying to get fit, it’s hard to say you want a six-pack when you don’t work out because “you don’t feel like it.” Saying you want to start a business but you don’t have time because you have to check out Perez Hilton.

You get where I’m going with this. The first step is honesty. Trusting that what you’re doing right now is exactly what you want to be doing, that you’re lying to yourself when you say you want to be fit as you shove a Twinkie into your face. Every second you’re making a decision. Every second you spend watching TV is a decision to watch TV and not to learn to play the harpsichord or whatever you (say you) want to do. The first step is that honesty…”so this is what is important to me.” How does that sit with you? Does this provide fire under your behind to make you want change? (Related post on embracing dissatisfaction, opens in new window – No Shame In Dissatisfaction)

Some people might respond “well, I’m not willing to give up my side things or distractions. I guess I don’t really want x y or z if it comes at the expense of my relaxation time when I get home from work.” Okay–that is good and dandy. There is nothing wrong with that.

But I want to make you think. I want to impregnate your mind with something that could drive you crazy, crazy enough that over even months of thinking about it, you reach the point you can’t sit. Did you ever wonder: What can you say that you actually tried your best at…and failed?

What have you done where you have sacrificed your TV time, where you have done something when you didn’t feel like it, where you could say you did everything in your power to accomplish, and failed? Could you be rich? Could you change the world? What can you say that you cannot do even if you gave 100% of yourself to? What if you closed off your cell phone and spend all day working on it? Is there something even worth giving this 100% to? It certainly would be a beautiful passion. Something that you’d stop watching TV for, stop doing things that you can admit are not necessary. Can you call yourself a seeker until you have tried?

Aren’t you curious about the extent of your abilities? What would it be like to die and say “I never tested myself?”

Here’s a good video for those who have not seen it. Good motivational tool. “The Secret to Success” by Eric Thomas

By the way, curiosity is a great form of motivation. I wrote about it a little in the post Why You Should Have Curiosity .

The Rest of Your Life

Foggy Path

How far ahead can you really see?

Ask your favorite mentor or role model “Back when you were my age, did you think you would be living here, doing what you’re doing, married to the person you’re with?” I bet you a Facebook share they say “no.”

It doesn’t seem to make much sense focusing energy past step two in the plan. Two big reasons:

  1. It’s hard to predict what opportunities will open up once you reach the next step. And then to predict what will open up after that is impossible. So why waste the mental energy?
  2. Focusing on step 8 while you’re on step 1 makes tunnel vision more likely. So why waste the mental energy?

Making decisions based on plans 20 years from now is operating on the assumption that you know everything that will take place from now until then. Things that are beyond prediction tend to pop up and change the entire course. You could meet someone tomorrow that convinces you to change everything you’re about–that would mean you learned some really great stuff. Don’t you want to be open to that?

“What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” starts to feel very irrelevant. I can share with you what I’m working on now and other than that, I want to be open to a possibility far greater than I can currently imagine. Otherwise, I’m capped.

Choose to Have Bigger Problems

People have all sorts of problems. Some are trying to fix their back, others are trying to find a job, and many people hate their roommate. There will always be bills to pay and items that you want but can’t afford and neighbors that take your parking spot.

You can research chiropractors, spend your time networking, or move out on your own. You can save your money or look for a higher paying job, and you can figure out what time your neighbor comes home so you can beat him to the parking spot.

Albert Einstein’s problem was that we don’t understand where the world came from. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s problem was that people of his race were not treated fairly. If you asked these men if not having a parking spot was a problem, they would probably say “no.” Their mental energy was not spent on parking spots or empty milk cartons in the ‘fridge.

The law of problems: you will always have them. So choose yours wisely.

How to Strengthen your Visualization Muscle

This past week, I fooled around with some arts and crafts. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I now see that doing art (like drawing, painting, sculpture, etc.) can actually be an amazing way to work a very, very important part of your brain: the part that enables you to visualize and adapt. I wrote about visualization before (Visualizing Success), but I’d like to go over it again AND share how art is a great way to work those critical parts of your brain.

First, why should anyone care about visualization? Continue reading

No Shame in Dissatisfaction

Imagine you are talking with your friend about your job and where you are in life. You relate that you just had a baby, your job is tough and as you speak, your friend interrupts, “well, are you happy?”

Right in this moment, I became aware of a tendency to want to say “yes, of course I’m happy!” I first noticed the inclination in myself and then began to see it in others. People don’t always respond “oh, yes I’m happy!” but you can often see the initial inclination to respond that all is just fine and dandy. What stands out is that we want to say that we are happy before we stop to think if that’s even true. This leads me to believe that we are not just trying to respond to the friend–we are trying to convince ourselves that we are actually happy, as if our response determines whether we are happy or not.
Continue reading