A Little Knowledge is Dangerous

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“Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.” – Michel de Montaigne

Human being tend to overestimate his own knowledge. He will often make small mistakes because of that. Nothing to worry. From time to time a huge and fatal mistake can happen. We see a lot of examples in our daily lives of people doing errors because of pure ignorance. Right off the bat, I can think about one of my brother’s co-worker. My brother was starting weightlifting few months ago. He did a great job and increased his squat to 200 pounds ass to grass after few months of work. The co-worker started to claim that he could do the same thing without any training. This guy doesn’t even do sports. He went to Crossfit once and that’s about it. He doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about, yet he did ONE single Crossfit training. That’s a lot of knowledge. I can already see him attempting that squat and hurting himself badly.

You want another example? A friend of a friend was good boxer. I cannot deny it, he had a lot of skills. Fast, good punch and strong. He decided to make the transition to MMA. His first fight was knockout in 30 seconds. He went into his second fight thinking that he would totally destroy his opponent. For the sake of the show, he went for a fast takedown. Unfortunately for him, his opponent was great in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. I think you can guess what happened next. That was the end of his MMA career. Was it a problem of little information about is adversary? Maybe. Was it a problem of little knowledge of Mix Martial Art? Probably. Any proper MMA fighter will avoid the ground against someone with good skills in BJJ. He should have kept the fight on his feet where he had the most skills. He paid the price for his little knowledge.

Let’s head to personal finance. I see many people who start investment like they are seasoned Wall Street traders. You can see they know nothing we they talk about “playing”. That’s why they will lose thousands of dollars doing bad moves. You need proper skills and knowledge in the field. Thinking that you will make thousands of dollars when you start trading, is like thinking you will hit a home run the first time you play a baseball game. It’s possible, but in most case you’ll be strike out. I’ve stumbled on a surprising news a week ago. You know Jack Johnson? He’s a hockey player for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The guy earned 17 million dollars in is his career. Well…he filled for bankrupt last month. Bad investments and decisions lead to his downfall That is really crazy.

History is full of mistakes done by ignorance and we repeat the pattern. It’s like we never learn. In Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb write about medical harm in history. A lot of time, more harm was done by doing something than doing nothing. We see mistakes of not accepting new discovery because we think we already know everything. The first patient treated effectively with penicillin was during the 1880s, the second one during 1940s. It’s not different today. It’s most likely probable that some people are currently treated the wrong way.

Two wars you can remember were started with little knowledge. In Vietnam, United States had no clue what would happen there. They didn’t know that the communists would resist that much. Added to that, they didn’t have a good knowledge of the field, clearly not as much as the communists. More than 58 000 americans died over their. In Irak it was a bit different. United States won fast in 2003. But, they didn’t know that an asymmetric war would last for years. Knowing that before hand, maybe they could have prepare for it or simply avoid that war altogether.

The less we know something, the more we think we know it. The more we know something, the less we think we know it. Isn’t that a paradox?

Listening to: Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

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Book #4: The Dip

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“Quite or be exceptional. Average is for losers.”Seth Godin

You probably already know Seth Godin because of his popular blog. Who doesn’t know him? If you don’t, I seriously think it should be on your must read list. For the others, it’s also possible that you know him because of one of his seventeen books. He’s a best selling author. On the top of my mind I can think of books like Tribes, Purple Cow and Lynchpin. In the field of marketing, Seth is a great and popular writer. For The Dip, he went in a different direction. This book isn’t about marketing. It’s a book about motivation and life decisions. The main idea is “when to stick or when to quit”. This is the core of the book. Well obviously, the author push the subject deeper than its surface. The book is quite short, less than a hundred pages, but it very interesting. Believe me, it is worth it. Recently, I had a few problems with a project. I was about to quit. Then, this book came back to my mind. The project was saved. Thank you Seth.

Godin advocate that we should know when to quit. Many projects are dead ends and shouldn’t be pursued. That’s a problem we often meet. Let’s take the example of someone who isn’t able to let go a business that isn’t worth a shit. Another common example is staying in a job with no possibilities of advancement in salary or/and responsibilities. It’s the idea of accepting a permanent status quo. This kind of situation is a dead end in the pure sense of the word. It’s not even a dip. If you work harder, nothing will change. On my part, I can say I had that exact problem when I was in university. I’ve forced myself to complete a bachelor in a field that I had zero intention of working in afterward. My decision was already taken at the end of my first year. At that time, my motto was: “always finish what you start”. What a dumb idea! Looking back at it, it was a useless “pride” problem. Pride can easily be the cause of a dip.

On the opposite side, some people quit way too soon. I’ve seen a lot of people starting weightlifting with promise. Things would go well for a few weeks, then whitout warning they would vanish from the surface of the earth. No explanations, total mystery. The problem is that we all start things with ease. After the honeymoon, things start to get hard…sometime really hard. That’s “the dip” and that’s where most people will quit. When I’ve started snowboard, everything was easy at first. I had a teacher and everything was going fine. Once the teacher was gone, the dip came and my snowboard adventure was over. I could make a very long list of all the things “dips” have crushed in my life. The problem is that we want it easy, we want the quick fix mentality. We are pain avoidant. As soon as things will get hard, resistance will tune in and we’ll most likely quit.

People who do great things are the one who get through dips. They see the light at the end of the tunnel where others aren’t able to see it. It’s accepting the long term rewards. Being on the other side mean big opportunities. Godin is right when he says that we should never start something if we intend to quit when we reach “the dip”. Otherwise, it’s a total waste of time and energy. It’s making a habit out of it. Like Godin said, you’ll become a serial quitter. Starting one thing after another and never finishing anything. Quitting is most likely a bad decision at a bad moment. One of the best advice I got from this book is to never take a decision during a crisis. We tend to make big moves during those times of panic. In other words: “Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.“.  The best thing to do is to wait and take you decision when calm is back.

Nobody can avoid the dip. Not you, not me. The only difference is how we react when we meet one. The next time things start to get hard, you’ll know that are going down in a dip. The good news is that you can reach the other side. Remember, hard work and persistence can lead to big rewards. Be great or quit. It’s the only solution.

The Everlasting Rush

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“God made time, but man made haste.” Irish Proverb

You’ve probably identified Jason Statham on the picture above. That was from the movie Crank released in 2006. I don’t intend to do a review of that movie…don’t worry! Anyway, if you don’t know about it,  it’s just a popcorn flick to tune the brain at off. To shut the rush in our heads for one small moment. The movie is about Chev Chelios a mobster in Los Angeles. At the beginning of the movie he’s poisoned by a mafia boss for a reason that I forget. He will die in less than 24 hours. The poison affect Statham’s character slowly. With time it is making is heart become slower and slower until the fatal moment. His only way to survive and commit vengeance in the end, is to keep is heart pumping.

All options are considered. The character will take incredible amount of energy drinks, drinking red bull after red bull. Chelios will use drugs to speed is heart. He’ll even have sex in public. And yes…he will us booster cables on his tongue (or what is it in Crank 2? Nobody cares). You see the pattern? The movie goes at an incredible speed. Things are just moving too fast. It last an hour and half with non stop action. I know that the movie in itself doesn’t make sense at all. It’s purely fiction and hollywoodian. The point here is that our life is most likely the same as Jason Statham character. We don’t acknowledge it, but we are in a constant hurry. We finish item A, to start item B, before starting item C.  In other words, we do one thing to do the next. You brain always want the next thing, the new stuff or the new thrill. Your life is on booster cables non stop.

It’s something we tend to lose focus on. We forget about the haste of modern life. It’s just what it is. It’s normal. The rush will most likely only finish when we’ll be 6 feet under. It’s sad but true. I was trying to find where we went wrong. Where did we take the path to always be in a hurry? Most likely it’s not something that come from human nature. We see a lot of examples of cultures that don’t encourage that behavior. We can see that in the last 150 years, our relationship with time has change dramatically. The cause would be the rise of the machines. The industrial revolution. Remember Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Time? This is a great depiction of our modern relation with time. What is ironic is that we thought 60 or 70 years ago, that every work would be done by robots in the year 2000. You don’t have to take a time travel to ask the question, just ask your parents or grand parents.The idea was that robot would do all the work and that human would have all the time in the world. It seem we got in the opposite direction.

More technologies than ever and less time than ever. Instead of finding more time with technologies, we simply do more. We are in an era where time is scarce. The great depression of time. It’s already a start to know that we are part of the everlasting rush. But unlike the movie Crank, the clock will still race in 24 hours. We will still wake up and get some shit done. Probably at an incredible speed. We will cross every stuff on that god damn to-do list. Then, we’ll start again the next day. In truth, we are responsible for all of that. We are the creator of the everlasting rush. We are perpetuating it. And it will never end, unless we choose to. I could end here with crappy self-help stuff like “live in the moment”, “be simple” or “doing less”. I won’t, I just wanted to hit the nails. I don’t have magic pill for all of this. Napoleon Bonaparte is a better teacher than I am. I’ll let him finish. He said:Order marches with weighty and measured strides. Disorder is always in a hurry.The everlasting rush is disorder. Find the order and you’ll find the cure. It’s probably easier to say than to do.