December 30, 2016

That Doesn't Make Sense

I heard some interesting advice on Tim Ferriss’ podcast. It was far and away the most fascinating bit of a conversation between Tim, Josh Waitzkin, Ramit Sethi, and Adam Robinson. At one point, Adam said:

You’ll hear someone say the following words: that doesn’t make sense. And that’s always a sign of something really powerful.

Although he uses an example I loathe, namely Donald Trump winning the recent election, he makes a good point. No one expected Trump to be taken seriously. It just didn’t make sense that he would run. It really didn’t make sense that he could actually win. Yet there was (unfortunately) something there. Something most people were missing. And look at what happened.

So many people underestimated a situation simply because it didn’t make sense to them. They laughed it off. Said his initial success was a fluke. Somehow, it wasn’t. We just failed to look more closely at something that didn’t make sense.

However, if we take the time to look deeper into something that doesn’t make sense, there is potentially immense opportunity there. There is an opportunity to 1) better understand the world and the people in it and 2) get a leg up on everyone else that doesn’t take the time to make sense of that which doesn’t make any sense initially.

When we think something doesn’t make sense, it’s usually not a fault in the outer world, but in our own biases. We have our own mental models of the world and how things should work. When they don’t work that way, we dismiss them. But it’s dangerous to do so, because you can bet that it makes sense to someone else. Trying to understand other models of the world and other opinions allows us to readjust our own mental models in an educated way.

And when we do that, we have an advantage over people that don’t take the time to do the same. A better, more thorough understanding of the world and the people in it allows us to make more informed decisions and (hopefully) have a greater impact on the world.

On the flip side of all of that, Adam mentions applying the same critical thinking to anything that seems obvious. When something is seen as completely obvious, we don’t look any deeper. Again, we dismiss. By investigating further, we can understand why something appears obvious to others, or we can reveal that something that’s obvious and seemingly right, really isn’t. Either way, it helps to educate, allows us to adjust our viewpoints, and make better decisions in turn.

There’s real opportunity here, and I’m going to try to take it to heart.