How To Be Dumb

A few weeks ago, I experienced a mild life changing event involving a useful everyday convenience. It happened very early in the morning and was sudden but not entirely unforeseen. Anyway, the problem I ran into couldn’t come at a more inopportune time. Despite the issue I faced, it was not the end the world. All told, I thought the decisions I made that day were fairly astute.

I didn’t panic. I had consummate self-control. I thought through what seemed to be my options. I maintained composure all the days that followed. The situation wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t totally bad. Or, so it seemed.

Weeks later, I can look back and recognize many mistakes I made based on several factors. I spoke with nearly two hands full of people who went through the same situation. I realized that choices in the situation was stupid and internalized that you rarely run out of time in your life to be stupid. What follows are some lessons I am aware of, though I am not ready to say I’ve actually learned them.

  1. Trust is the foundation of human interactions.
  2. A person may not trust you’ll come through on a simple deal and thus not deliver when expected.
  3. Trust built up over years can come undone over the course of minutes or days. Very hard to get it back.
  4. One of the worst things in life is the eradication of trust. That can actually be worse than most stressors you can encounter. Likewise if you are let down on a matter hinging on trust.
  5. A lack of life experience with certain kinds of problems can set you back hard when you could have made better decisions. You owe it to yourself to think through potential problems in things you take for granted such as food, laundry, housing, transportation, clothing, and electricity.
  6. Some people are in a position whether willingly or not, they will take you for all you got. Misjudge their capacity for doing so and your compassion can be intuitively used to undo you swiftly and steadily.
  7. Ignoring your instincts in the face of obvious duplicity can be among the most foolish things you could ever do. You should be nice, but you are not supposed to be stupid. Sometimes, the best thing to do is walk away and not change your mind about a bad deal or situation.
  8. Be very careful when a person and/or a group of people are heavily laying down a narrative laced with fervent belief in their abilities or the upside of a proposal. Your instinct may be to walk away, but under mild anxiety in which they appear to have the answers, you are likely to acquiesce if you fail to say those magic words, “I will think about it”.
  9. Some things are so critical that you are often better off doing it yourself. It may be the common thing to go to a place and have people do a certain thing for you. Unfortunately, you may not know if they actually did what they were supposed to do. Later, you suffer dearly for their lapse of professionalism and things escalate in a negative direction. Yet, doing it yourself may be uncomfortable or more inconvenient but you can be certain it is done.

It is my sense that the prospect of errors further out in time is largely knowable. The problem is second guessing yourself based on the modern emphasis on rationally derived proof. Elsewhere, you may ignore the signs of issues because you are too busy or you too focused on other things. Taken together, failing to understand these things, to have the discipline to prepare for issues, or just ignoring instinct generally all can be signs that you may be leaning too far towards the dumb side of the continuum.

The good news is sometimes dumb can be fixed.


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