Mark Twain wondered, “whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.“
His quote could have been written 1,000 years ago as easily as today or 1,000 years from now. This is one of many reasons I like Twain. He knew how to think accurately about human nature. He focused on things that never change.
This way of thinking is an antidote to the well-intentioned, even deeply thoughtful leaders around the world that lead our nations into pointless wars, drag our economies into and through idiotic trade negotiations, levy taxes on the core tenets of growth and prosperity and deceive themselves and, sadly, their voters.
Not because they are bad people, but because they are misinformed by scholars, ego and the status quo – promulgating nonsense.
Let’s unpack these three sources of hogwash:
Scholars have strong opinions, tightly held. We joke, cerumen deeply impacted, that the local ENT surgeon tends to be biased in the surgical outcome when the procedure is named after oneself.
Some scientists are immune to this nonsense. Many are not. Agendas are plentiful. Politics is played hard. Tenure and research grants are not taken lightly. Often, unfortunately, the science is.
Ego is perhaps the single-strongest destructive force on the planet. It blinds even the best-intentioned and most-disciplined leaders, like a dust storm blinds everything in its path. Ryan Holiday was right. Ego is the enemy.
Status Quo claims a close second place to ego in the potential to destroy truth and keep entire generations of people, scholars, leaders and industries stuck in neutral or slip-sliding in reverse.
Charlie Munger was right when he said professions and industries tend to change one funeral at a time.
What is the solution, you ask?
Great question. First, acknowledge and understand you already have everything you need to make a difference in your life, so that everyone around you thrives. The good news is that it has never been easier to take advantage of advanced economies and technology to build a great business, learn new strategies, impact change and control the sails.
The bad news: there are more distractions (more noise, more wind) tugging at your sails. There’s more out of your control and you’re more aware of it than ever before, so it seems like chaos at all time, if you allow it.
Imagine listening to 24 hours news for 30 days and then measuring your anxiety level, confusion and frustration at the “imbeciles” Twain references. Then, imaging extracting the news from your life and asking what changes. The answer: nothing, except you would have your sanity back.
Get into the habit of assessing each day before you go to bed. Review the day in your mind.
Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Marcus Aurelius, Munger, Buffett – any many other deep thinkers, have contributed tremendously to society because they were not ignorant to misinformation.
Smart minds know a lot of misinformation comes from “scholars” who have never tested their theories in the trenches of life and business. Smart minds know the destruction that comes from unchecked ego and make it their modus operandi to buck the status quo.
The next time you see something on the news that you think will impact you or your business, give it some time to breathe. Often, it will resolve itself, die from lack of attention, like a fish out of water, or self-destruct like a moth to a flame.
If it’s outside your control, let it do what it will. Pay it no attention.
If you feel it falls within your purview, ask what the experts and the status quo can tell you, seek how your ego might impact your decision and then ask what never changes.
Twain knew his assessment of the average leader could stand the test of time. Rank your most-recent handful of important business decisions. Can they stand the test of time?
Now rank your most-important and successful decisions in the last 10-20 years. What key components can you identify inside the decision-making process for those excellent decisions and what never changes, what scholars might have done, where your ego was at the time and what the majority would have done at the time.
This is how you become a better thinker – which is exactly what I’m tasked with doing here – helping you be the best at getting better, nudging you to continue growing. It’s an opportunity the average business owner wouldn’t fully appreciated, and so it’s the highest honor to work with you here each week.
Onward and upward!