There is a great Socrates quote that says:
“The only thing I know is that I know nothing”
but the Skeptics took it 1 step further and added "the only thing I know is that I know nothing, and I'm not even sure of that". What they're talking about is uncertainty; to be willing to say "I don't know" or even "I was wrong". How many people do you know who can do that? The Socrates quote is famous, it's right up there with "I think, therefore I am". If so many people know the quote why do so few practice it?
I think it's because there is a huge difference between knowing and doing. Here's an example, I recently watched this documentary 'Cowspiracy' (clever). It's about climate change, they argue that cows are the main cause of it. I really connected and believed in this idea. So much so that I couldn't even bring myself to google "Cowspiracy debunked" because I knew the arguments against it would piss me off . I eventually did but instead I searched for "Cowspiracy fact check" instead assuming it would be less harsh.
We all feel this pull, we all have strong beliefs we aren't even willing to question. This was just a movie - a movie I just watched. What if it was a long held belief handed down from my parents? How does a person who was raised to strongly disbelieve in evolution, gay rights, climate change etc. look at the facts objectively?
I don't think we can be objective if we identify with our beliefs and equate an attack on them as an attack to us. I think school is at least partly to blame. They teach at a young age that there is right and wrong answers and if you get it right you're "smart" and if you get it wrong you're "dumb".
Sometimes I have to tell people when I start coaching them that 1) there are no wrong answers, 2) It's OK to take your time and think. Can you believe that? That I have to tell people it's OK TO THINK (my anger here is at school here not at my students). School treats learning like jeopardy, where you have to get to the answer fast and if you don't someone raises their hand 1st and beats you to it.
Good questions are more important than good answers. It's the foundation of good thinking in my opinion. The weaker players I coach ask worse questions than the better ones; it's that simple. How do you ask good questions then? Questions about definitions & the meanings of things are a good start. For example if someone asks is Obama a good president you should to ask what does it mean to be "good". Is it climate change, freedoms, the economy, how well he has helped the poor? Good is a terrible word by the way but that's for another blog. We use a lot of words without knowing what we really mean by them. for example what does smart mean, intelligent, successful, stupid, cool, lazy etc. mean?
Back to uncertainty, the 1st problem was not being able to be objective due to emotional attachment. So how do you teach people how to be detached long enough to really listen to the other side of the story? If it's anything like my experience it won't be easy. It was about 6 years ago when I 1st started to learn about things outside of poker and at that time if anything I listened to hit an emotional chord with me I automatically believed in.
I bought something and was telling my wife excitedly that it was "fair trade certified". She was curious and asked "what does that mean?" I had no clue, I guess I just liked the idea (I still don't know what it means). I was also a sucker for conspiracy theories for example. Eventually I read some of the debunking of them and I felt like an idiot. So after that I swung to the opposite extreme and disbelieved everything I read which is equally bad and not as fun.
From there I improved though through various methods (and failures) one was reading books like Fooled by randomness, Thinking fast and slow, Letters of a stoic and most importantly Montaigne’s: How to live. Listening to infinite Joe Rogan podcasts helped too. A few years ago when he 1st had Graham Hancock on, he talked about how archaeologists have the same emotional attachment to their ideas of how and when the pyramids were made. He had strong evidence against their ideas (in my opinion) but they either mocked him or got angry.
Even these scientists couldn't detach themselves. I couldn't understand why back then but not it makes more sense. They spent much of their lives on this subject it makes total sense that they completely identify with it. That's no excuse though, as scientists they should've learned ways to detach themselves.
A surprising way I learned to was through meditation, I would watch my thoughts as if I were just an impartial observer. It's hard to talk about meditation so I'll just say sometimes (not often) during arguments or debates with people I can feel myself getting defensive, attached, biased etc. and make an adjustment (this doesn't happen often either).
The second big problem was schools effect on how people learn and think. What I think helped most with this was spending 14 years learning poker and seeing everything I thought I knew to be true flipped around, I studied all the "simple" parts of the game like 3betting since forever and still am pretty clueless about it. It's a humbling experience. That's the best way I think, spend a ton of time on something you love, see how complex it actually can be, how much there is to learn, how much you don't actually know... how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Coaching was also vital, I got to talk to many good players who had drastically different ways of thinking about the game. I realized the game was not as black and white as I thought and I was more uncertain than ever but my understanding of it deepened.
Maybe to truly learn and understand something comes in this kind of method. Learning with different methods, different books, different experiences, different people with different ways of thinking. Learning in different ways is valuable because we can only understand something it if we can relate it some Previous experience (really geeky link).
If we can't, we won't understand whats going on at all. For example a lot of us can't understand Quantum physics because it's so foreign to our experiences (it's also because of a lack of background knowledge). More experiences and varied experiences lead to greater understanding and thats what it's really "all about" (I hate when people say stuff like that), it's not about being certain/correct.
I can't write a post about uncertainty and then give you clear cut answers so I guess this is the end of the post. There are no easy paths to building important skills like this, it's different than knowledge. I think the difference is analogous to the difference between the engine and the fuel in a car. Fuel (knowledge) is abundant and ready made for you, and it's relatively cheap. The engine (skills) you have to build yourself and it takes time, there are many parts logic, emotional intelligence, uncertainty, detachment, willpower etc.. The better your engine (skills) the better MPG you can get with your fuel (knowledge). You can have all the fuel in the world but if you have a shitty or broken engine you won't go very far. A good engine needs much less fuel and can go much farther with the same amount. That's what teaching is all about in my opinion, helping people build better engines. Hopefully this blog helps a little.
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- Jul 12, 2017 How to get the benefits of meditation without meditating Jul 12, 2017
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