The worst habit people learn from politicians and parents is to be overly certain of their opinions on subjects they know nothing much about.
In the book “Man Alone With Himself,” philosopher Friedrich Nietzche says,
“Convictions are more dangerous enemies to truth than lies.”
This is because when we’re convinced that what we think is right, we become close minded to other people’s points of view.
Sometimes we’re right, sometimes wrong. The important thing is to at least be open to new ideas and opinions so that our minds can continue to grow and adapt in a world that is constantly changing.
The problem is most people tend to only look at information that confirms what they already believe in. This is known as confirmation bias.
And typically, people instantly dismiss anything that doesn’t fit into their belief system, but doing this leads to misjudgment.
In politics, for example, people are dead certain about which political party they think is better, but is it clear that there’s a certain party that always works?
There’s no right answer to say that Republicans are better than Democrats, or that Democrats are better than Republicans.
We’ve had great Democratic presidents and great Republican presidents. It’s not like one is right or wrong all the time.
There’s a scientific reason behind why people take on this black and white, conviction mindset.
The billionaire investor Charlie Munger calls it the “superpower” that we use to resolve cognitive dissonance.
We don’t like to not know things so we’re always judging.
If we’re unsure about an issue, then we’ll quickly try to remove any doubt that we have by making ill-informed and quick decisions.
This is called the Doubt-Avoidance Tendency. People don’t like feeling uncertain so they’ll pick a side and stick with it, even if it’s the wrong side.
As a result, you end up with people convinced that they’re right about everything saying things like, “This is the diet you should be doing,” and “Money can’t buy you happiness,” without any real base of knowledge for why they believe what they believe.
But remember what Charlie Munger says,
“I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.”
During a commencement speech at USC, Charlie Munger told the story of how Charles Darwin formed his opinions.
“One of the great things to learn from Darwin is the value of extreme objectivity. He tried to disconfirm his ideas as soon as he got them. He quickly put down in his notebook anything that disconfirmed a much-loved idea. He especially sought out such things. Well, if you keep doing that over time, you get to be a perfectly marvelous thinker instead of one more klutz repeatedly demonstrating first-conclusion bias.”
Ask yourself, what’s a much-loved conviction that you have?
I challenge you to challenge that belief.
If you’re a capitalist, then you should read a book about socialism and Karl Marx, and vice versa.
Don’t just wait for your opinions to be disproved by someone else. Always look for dis-confirming evidence.
Once people get in their beliefs, they get stuck in their ways, and don’t periodically reexamine their own opinions.
Have the courage to challenge your own beliefs. Earn your right to have an opinion.
If your beliefs are true, then it will stand your review and if it’s not, then you’ll move on, and you’ll be that much closer to the truth.
I hope in the future this is what most people will be like.