Intelligence is not only the ability to reason; it is also the ability to find relevant material in memory and to deploy attention when needed.Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow
Without knowledge, it’s hard to be curious. We need reference points to make connections and inspire deeper thinking.
Give a teenager a car and a detailed Google Map, but unless they’ve got some training, they are going to increase the likelihood of an accident.
Give a kid some crayons and some looseleaf paper, but without any guidance on how to draw, the results will be comically abysmal.
Experience puts the bones in the goose. It is only then can we teach ourselves to be safer and more creative.
We’re all created equal but we’re not all experts.
Experts are the hedgehogs, the servants; they do one thing well. They’re indispensable like doctors. Yet, the internet came along and unleashed a free for all of know-it-alls.
Our friends and family members, even ourselves, opine on subjects where we have voice but no mastery, not even of the fundamentals. We’ve given people a microphone, a platform, and they produce garbage, demonstrate ignorance, and bask in mediocrity.
Says Tom Nichols in his new book The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters:
“Having equal rights does not mean having equal talents, equal abilities, or equal knowledge. It assuredly does not mean that ‘everyone’s opinion about anything is as good as anyone else’s.’ And yet, this is now enshrined as the credo of a fair number of people despite being obvious nonsense.”
We need practicians. We need the ideas. But we really need people we can trust. It’s no surprise that our experts are usually the ones with most humility and eagerness to learn.
Generalists know a little bit of something about everything. They are curious and use their vast references to combine ideas. Generalists make good cratediggers.
But when it comes to goal-setting, generalists tend to be depressed. They struggle to specify exactly what they want and instead opt for the abstract.
Meanwhile, specialists excel at doing one thing. They tend to be confident yet defined. They only know what they know right now and can only see something as it long it connects back to their area of expertise. This is why accountants are matter-of-fact thinkers and creators can’t justify formulas.
The reality is that one has to be both expert and liberal arts student. The world admires interesting people with just enough flair for a good conversation.
Good knowledge is half-baked. It’s fragile enough to manipulate yet purposeful enough to help make decisions.
A world of facts is too predictable. Facts affirm the right way to go yet impede the will to experiment and try something different.
Why repeat the same old things even if they work? The canvass starts blank because everything deserves to be explored.
Everybody admired the way Zinedine Zidane touched the football because he was always two steps ahead. He saw the future before it happened and just worked backward to execute.
You can galvanize a player’s effort and refine his/her skills but you can’t teach them instinctiveness. That comes from years of extra practice.
The beauty of the first touch is that it appears effortless. Sometimes plays happen without even touching the ball at all. Talent is one thing but instinct inspires all the magic.
They don’t know any better because they’re disconnected from the world.
They don’t know any better because they’re not exposed to what you are.
They don’t know any better because they’re taught to serve rather than to question.
The knowledge gap between people that know better and know nothing widens every day. Education and Internet access help bridge the gap, but so does merely learning how to think.
The human mind is naturally curious. It’s only when we begin to accept the way things are that we defy progress. Some say ignorance is the key to happiness but I think knowledge is really bliss.
You pay attention to what you want to. You hear what you want to. Your bias is your own filter.
But if you keep an open mind and a neutral ear, you start to notice more diverse thoughts and opinions that challenge your own. As a result, you start to think differently or reconfirm what you already know.
You’re only as right in so far as others agree with you, no matter how clairvoyant or righteous you may be. Consensus drives movement.
So in addition to resolving ignorance, you have to take action. No one follows theory.
We can’t possibly know everything, nor should we reject the possibility of always knowing more. Keep learning, experimenting, and leading the pack. There’s always something new or to improve.
“Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.” –Hunter S. Thompson