Think about it, if you're trained your whole life to go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a good job, pay your taxes and buy a home you're not really doing any original thinking on your own. You're following a set pattern that has already been provided for you.
Growth usually comes from some type of discomfort or effort. If you want to build muscle you have to actually lift weights and shock the muscles. You put strain on the muscle in order for it to rebuild stronger. The same can be said about your mind. The more you exercise your mind the stronger it will become. But the vast majority of people do not exercise their mind. Following what everyone else wants you to do is not exercising your mind.
Think about the jobs most people do. Do most people even do jobs where being right or wrong matters? Or instead, do most people simply take orders and carry out the whims of others? The more responsibility you have the more being right or wrong matters. But if your job is less about the creativity and decision making and more about following orders or acting like a robot then you're not going to be developing the ability to reason through information. If your job is less productive you aren't going to be called on for your vision and perspective.
So if you don't hold a lot of weight on your shoulders, as most people don't, then it doesn't matter if you're wrong. If you pay no price for being wrong, why would it matter if you're wrong? And if you pay no price for being wrong, do you even know that you are wrong? If majority of people are wrong, and you're wrong with them are you even going to take notice? Of course not.
The Business Perspective
Most peoples' lives don't depend on being right. If they make a bad decision they don't pay a price for that bad decision. But in business if you make a bad decision you may end up losing thousands, millions or even billions of dollars. In business, you have to be right, and if you're not you will pay a heavy burden for being wrong. And if you continue being wrong in business you will eventually go out of business. So businesses have to get it right.
I'm not saying businesses don't make mistakes -- far from it. Businesses and businessmen make mistakes all the time and fail all the time. It is putting yourself in positions to make mistakes and learning from the mistakes that matters. And if you're not trying and failing then you're not learning. And businesses are learning all day long, every day. Most people are not. Most people are living comfortably and not challenging themselves.
The great economist Thomas Sowell has a quote saying this exact thing with government:
"It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong."
In this quote he is referring to the people in government. There is a direct contrast in incentives between those in government and those in business in the free market. In the government you don't have to be right with your money. You have tax dollars coming in whether you do a good job with them or not. In business if you do a bad job with money you go out of business. In business you have to do a good job or somebody who can do a better job will replace you. This is what competition does.
Consequently, smarter people who are better at making correct decisions are naturally going to gravitate towards the private sector and away from the public sector. Smarter people are going to want to be rewarded for being right and accurate and the free market will accommodate to this much more than the government. If you do a good job in the government it doesn't matter. If you do a bad job in the government it doesn't matter. The magnitude is very low in government.
Conversely, in the free market the magnitude is very high. If you do a good job in the free market you are rewarded for it and if you do a bad job in the free market you are penalized for it. The risk is much greater in the free market which means it will require more intelligence and understanding. People who are wrong all the time will not like the free market because it will penalize them and force the to change. People who enjoy change and who enjoy challenge will love the free market because it will keep them sharp and reward their efforts.
And of course, even in the free market itself there is hierarchy where the more productive rise to the top and less productive fall to the bottom. But it should be noted that even the least productive in the free market are still more productive than the least productive in government. And often times the least productive in the free market are still more productive than the most productive in government.
I'm trying to illustrate the different incentives and places where people will naturally gravitate based off of their ability to generate right and wrong decisions. The most accurate people are generally leading the free market. The least accurate people are generally working for the government.
Sports and Competition
We see the same thing in sports. The very nature of sports is competition and winning. In order to win in sports you have to do a better job than your opponent. This competitive environment fosters the opportunity for people to continue to push themselves and better themselves. The competitive nature of sports is friction that makes athletes stronger. If sports were not competitive the people would not perform at the level they perform at. Sports would not be as entertaining and spectacular if they were not competitive. We watch them because they are competitive and bring out the best in people.
Athletes are good at what they are doing because if they aren't somebody else will replace them. If you're wrong in sports you will be out. So athletes practice, train and exercise their minds and bodies so that they will perform at the highest level and make the least mistakes. Athletes are as good as they are because of all the struggles they have overcome and the mistakes that they have made.
The Frictionless Echo Chamber
It's the exact same thing when it comes to business and life, but we fail to look at it this way. We ignore it or never even think about it this way in the first place. We think that somehow everyone has an equal say at something when people have provided unequal effort. Most people are going through life not as athletes. Most people are not exercising their minds and competing to be right. Most people are floating through life with the least friction possible.
If you live in an echo chamber where you never brush up against others and create friction in discussions then you're never going to be challenged. All you're going to do is reinforce the views you currently hold. If your response when encountering friction is to simply hide and avoid it then you're never going to parse that into your reality. And the more you avoid working opposing information into your reality the slimmer and more confined your reality becomes. If you're only allowed to work within a thin band of reality then you are going to have much less perspective than those who operate with all the information available.
And this is what we see. Businessmen have perspective. After being in business for the majority of your life you begin to detect BS everywhere and reach conclusions quickly. You're experienced. You've sifted the data. You've encountered the friction. You've sifted the information and filed it. You haven't run away from problems, you've worked through them. And through this effort you have developed the ability to more accurately reach conclusions. You've developed your reasoning and problem solving abilities.
Noise VS Signal
Most people have theories about things but never test if they're true or not. They have many theories about how to run a government, about how to end poverty, about how to increase the standard of living of people and everything else. People will give you a theory or an answer on how to solve just about any problem. But if you've never actually tested it you don't know if it's true or not. And then once you do test it if you ignore the results or are too inexperienced to even parse and understand the results you're going to have a limited scope on accuracy.
If your theory is built from inexperience and a lack of practice why should anyone listen to you? Would you rather listen to Michael Jordan tell you how to win or some high school basketball player? Who's done the work? Who has the experience? Who has the track record?
Most people are athletes who shoot basketballs but never look to see whether or not they go in the basket.
If being wrong to you means going back to your air conditioned house where you can watch more TV and socialize on the Internet do you really have much skin in the game? If being wrong means that you will simply continue to live a good life and be praised and supported by your piers what incentive do you have for being right and what price do you pay for being wrong? You don't pay any price. Being wrong is no different than being right to you. They both produce the same effects. Because you have so far removed yourself from the effects of your actions you are unable to even understand the results and effects of them. You have no feedback data to re-apply to your theory to shape it and better it. Most people are athletes who shoot basketballs but never look to see whether or not they go in the basket.
If you don't have a lot of value to offer, or rather, if you suppress your value, as most people do, then you are going to be out of practice. Your muscles are going to atrophy. Most people have mental atrophy. They've been so far removed from the game, and probably not in it in the first place, that they are out of shape mentally. When it comes to making accurate and important decisions they simply don't have what it takes. And yet we treat everyone as if they are Michael Jordan on the basketball court. We treat everybody as if their mental ability is of the same value of those who have dedicated years towards research, practice and experience.
So what ultimately happens is we do have people who are constantly exercising their reasoning and mental faculties through effort and work. And these people begin to develop the ability to put things together and weigh decisions better. In a way they are able to see further into the future than most people. This isn't anything new, this is what wisdom is. And older people generally are wiser because they are more experienced. But this experience doesn't have to come solely from time, it just needs to come from doing. And if you're doing and experimenting all the time you are going to level up your sifting abilities much quicker.
The more productive we are towards constructive tasks the more we strengthen our sifting abilities to better determine the correct analysis of something. The less constructive we are the more we atrophy our sifting abilities and the more wrong we will be. When we are less productive being wrong isn't heard. When we are less productive our losses are less felt which is why we are put in positions where we pay no price for being wrong. The less productive we are the more wrong we can be.
Filed under:Personal Development, Crowd Followers, All Theory No Action, Exercise Is Overrated, Right Because No Research, Parroting The Narrative