Rare Skills

Three rare and powerful skills:

1. Understanding why people believe things in a way that makes you respect their delusions.

A rare and useful skill is understanding that people you find to be deluded likely suffer from the same shortcomings you do.

Historian Will Durant wrote in his book The Lessons of History that we should learn enough from history to respect each other’s delusions. He explained:

Our knowledge of any past event is always incomplete, probably inaccurate, beclouded by ambivalent evidence and biased historians, and perhaps distorted by our own patriotic or religious partisanship. Most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice.

I think this boils down to three points:

  • Everyone is heavily influenced by what they’ve experienced firsthand, because what you’ve experienced is more persuasive than something you read about.

  • Even our understanding of firsthand experience is sketchy, because we oversimplify what happened and self-justify our involvement.

  • Those who didn’t experience an event firsthand have an even weaker grasp on reality because they can cherry pick the oversimplified, self-justified arguments and data from people with firsthand experience.

So everyone has delusions about how the world works. You, me, everyone.

We are all prisoners to our past, products of our generation, and influenced by who we’ve met and what we’ve experienced, most of which has been out of our control. Some are worse than others, and some are more aware of their blindspots. But everyone has a firmly held belief that an equally smart and informed person disagrees (Read more...)