As humans, we have a unique superpower. That superpower is our ability to convince ourselves that something is true — when it’s not. We act stupidly.
Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than evil.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian
Sometimes stupidity makes people act against their own best interests. When their belief in what is true is challenged by contradictory evidence, stupidity causes people to hold on to those beliefs even more strongly.
The source of our acting stupid? From the herd, we align ourselves with.
We Are All Stupid
Numerous scientific studies have shown that our herd can sway how we take positions that go against all logic. In the course of 12 experiments on conformity, 75% of the participants conformed to the herd’s incorrect position at least once.
Translation — 3 out of 4 people acted stupidly. To be more precise, you and I will act stupidly about something at some time. So the problem isn't the other herd. It is us. We are the problem.
To fight stupidity, we must be willing to listen to those outside our herd and be open to changing our minds — what we call having mental agility.
Instead, society is mostly made up of people who operate with mental rigidity, the stubborn unwillingness to change an opinion or behavior in the face of new and compelling evidence. Mental rigidity is about refusing to listen to new ideas, not considering the evidence before forming an opinion, refusing to consider other points of view. In order for us humans to be successful in life – our careers, relationships with family, and friends – we must think outside our comfort zone else we will never change — never improve.
It is tempting to resist changing our minds and instead want others to change theirs instead. Deeply held convictions are hard for anyone to let go of — especially when our beliefs feel like “truths we hold self-evident.”
To fight stupidity, we must be willing to use mental agility, the ability to change our minds when presented with new information — new perspectives — new understanding.
Mental agility involves practicing deep listening — suspending judgment, and digging deep to understand the other person's belief and perspective. It is important to realize that people, including ourselves, don't change their minds easily.
“A wise man changes his mind. A fool never will.”
Remember that you are your own person; don't let your herd tell you how to think, feel or believe about something. Use your mental agility by being open to new facts, new beliefs, new perspectives.
When was the last time you changed your mind?
Phil McKinney Newsletter
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