It only takes one slow-walking person in the grocery store to destroy the illusion that you’re a nice person. And it only takes one ugly mistake to destroy the illusion that you are smart…
In preparation to my What’s the truth about you workshop this morning, I have been looking how to have the conversation about your delusions about who you are, how you are, and your abilities.
It’s a touchy issue… in fact 80% of humanity think themselves smarter than average, and smarter than they are. The remaining 16% don’t ever think about that or anything else, 4% think themselves less smart than they are.
Both the 80% who think themselves smarter, and the 4% who think themselves less smart experience the seesaw effect of surprise, disappointment, and the roller coaster of life but in different proportions.
I am one of the 4%.
I have a life full of pleasant surprises… And a few unpleasant ones. I have nothing to prove, so I try my hand on many things, and to my surprise, I can get good at many things… over time. And when I don’t understand or can’t do something, I am not dismayed, I am not depressed over it: I expected it, given my self-image: not very smart.
My students who are on the delusional side of this equation, who are part of the 80%, on the other hand expect themselves to succeed at nearly anything, without much effort, and they spend much of their times in despair, disappointment, frustration, anger, and self-recrimination, maybe even self-devaluation.
Charles Bukowski — ‘The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.‘
It is not intelligent to think yourself more capable than you are, no matter what anyone says.
Why? One aspect I have mentioned above: if you fancy yourself more capable than you are, you will think, really! that you don’t have to fully learn the craft, or understand the enormity of a job, or do everything that needs to be done. In every area.
You can be stupid in any area of life. And you can be normal.
Some people are intellectually stupid… or not that very smart. Even inside intellect, you can be defective in one area, and OK in another.
The problem with delusional self-image is that you won’t do what is necessary to do what you intend to do, fully.
None of my students is stupid… they are normal or slightly above average. But fancying yourself smart while you are normal makes you stupid…
For you everything looks the same as everything else… except not always… (est training)
You have trouble with identifying issues, emotions, intentions, the deeper parts of reality…
When you are delusional your enthusiasm tells you: piece of cake… your experience tells you: you are nothing… or next to nothing.
What a life?
Nothing substitutes for work, looking, looking wider, looking deeper, and patience. Nothing. No brilliance, no smarts, no diplomas, no others telling you how smart you are. Unless you do the work, look, look wider, look deeper, with patience, over time, your life is a train wreck, or a roller coaster.
The world is full of these people… I can say 80% of all humanity belongs there… for the simple reason that they think they are more capable than they are.
What should you do if you are one of the 80%?
I recommended to one of my delusional students to do the spiritual exercise nightly, where he hugs himself and tells himself: Not being special is really good, being special was like a straitjacket. Let’s just be normal, OK?
You don’t have to be special to be loved, wanted, appreciated, or succeed.
In fact, being special is a real hindrance: being normal, being average, being neither smart nor stupid, being vulnerable and humble is the best way. Then your aspirations are in line with what you can accomplish, your attitude towards others doesn’t have to prove anything, you’ll be able to see people for who they are, and that will make all your relationships work.
When you bring ‘I am special’ to any conversation, you’ll get the other person to hate you. Want to cut you down to size. To damage you in some way, so you stop being so darn obnoxious.
The great successes, the great winners in negotiations always made sure there was something ‘human weakness’ about them. President Reagan, pretending to lose his train of thought, or not remembering a word, is a great example. There are many more examples I could quote here… I just can’t remember right now… lol.
Life is constant negotiation. Between you and other people. Between you and life. Between you and tasks.
The more humility you can summon, the better your results will be.
It is not what other people teach, is it?