The quote “Often wrong, never in doubt” is often used in the context that you have to be confident in yourself and not doubt yourself even though you may be wrong. Doing something and failing is far worse than doubting yourself and therefore not even trying.
An alternative view can be taken from this statement, the meaning I took from it when I first heard it, was that it refers to over-confidence in some belief that could very well be wrong. It’s the delusion of certainty without actually having the full facts.
I see this as a major problem, rather than something to draw inspiration from. Sure we have to take risks in pursuit of dreams sometimes, but we should always strive to have the full facts and not follow things on a whim.
Beliefs shape behaviour and at the extremes, people are willing to die or kill in pursuit of their beliefs, As a society, we really don’t want beliefs being built on such shaky ground.
Question yourself, where have your strongest held beliefs come from? Can you back them with evidence? Are they built on truths?
I’ve done this myself, and many of my beliefs, held for many years are built from assumptions, inferences and from the testimony of other people, often people I considered experts and authority figures. Very few have come from my own research, from facts and backed by hard evidence.
I’ve learned to test and check as much as possible, and take everything else with some level of scientism.
Relying on the testimony of others seems like a good strategy, it makes sense, after all we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we can stand on the shoulders of giants and make use of their knowledge. If you want to learn about wealth creation, learn from someone who has built wealth, if you want to learn about health, learn from someone who has achieved great health and fitness.
However be wary of authority figures manipulating you for their own ends. We’ve all seen scandals and cover-ups from banks, politicians, businesses and trusted individuals who turned out to be lying and misleading for their own ends. I take the view, the bigger they are the less we can afford to trust them. Mainly because financial pressures change people, the more they have the more they fear losing what they have. This makes them do things they might not have done before.
I am now very cautious of anyone who is certain of being in the right, knowing the truth, and who are subsequently certain that this or that will happen in the future, but have no real evidence or data to back that opinion up. If they are unwilling to at least, listen to an alternative view, I tend to run a mile. Their beliefs are out of control, and it’s likely to end in tears for somebody.
So what should you do if someone tells you something?
In a recent study from Northwestern University psychologist David Rapp outlines several ways to avoid falling into the misinformation trap:
- Critically evaluate information right away. That may help prevent your brain from storing the wrong information. “You want to avoid encoding those potentially problematic memories,” Rapp said.
- Consider the source. People are more likely to use inaccurate information from a credible source than from an unreliable source, according to Rapp’s previous research.
- Beware of “truthy” falsehoods. “When the truth is mixed with inaccurate statements, people are persuaded, fooled and less evaluative, which prevents them from noticing and rejecting the inaccurate ideas,” Rapp said.
I would add a couple of other things to this list. First, whoever is telling you, ask yourself, what’s in it for them? What’s their angle, have they anything to gain for telling you what they’re telling you? Even if you can’t answer these questions, be skeptical.
Finally I would add one last thing, ask them, how do you know? where’s the evidence? If their answer is something like, they’ve heard from a friend, or from unnamed source, take it with a pinch of salt. If they’ve got first hand experience of it, then take note, but again refer to the previous point of questioning their motives.
So in conclusion, we should be very cautious about our beliefs and those of others. Question everything, don’t just take things at face value. Beliefs are dangerous, particularly when you hold them with conviction, and have little insight into where they really come from. Social conditioning is very effective at indoctrinating people into doing what’s best for society or for a particular cause. This is not always the best for individuals.
For instance, parents often push us to play safe and not take unnecessary risks because of their social conditioning and fears instilled in them by their parents. They are just as socially conditioned and as blind to their conditioning as we are. It’s kind of like the blind leading the blind. They love you and care for you and want you to be safe, so they project their fears onto you, and so the cycle goes on through you and your children.
We might grow up with the belief that we should always PLAY IT SAFE, when we’d be better taking calculated risks at certain times or WORK ON OUR WEAKNESSES, when we’d be better doubling down on our strengths.
Question your beliefs and subsequently your opinions and views, and don’t be one of those people who are often wrong, never in doubt.