Ego and humility – when incompetent people think they are amazing!
I don’t think I ever thought I was amazing at anything. I’ve always looked upon myself as a jack of many things but a master of none.
I received a University scholarship when I left school and studied architecture for six years, but I was never that good at it, and it wasn’t until that final year that I realised I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life behind a desk, doing something I didn’t particularly like.
But the architecture course was more than how to design a building. It was a design orientated course that included photography, drawing, landscaping, interior design, town planning, and all aspects of general color and design theory.
From when I could lift a hammer I was always tinkering with wood (see BERT AND MARTHA Post) so when I said goodbye to university;
- I could design a building and probably get it through council, but it probably would not win any awards
- I could build many things from wood, but probably not as good as a cabinetmaker
- I could use a camera but not a good as a professional photographer.
- I could write OK, but not so that I would be game to write a book.
- I knew the principles of good design but lacked the experience to be a ‘good’ designer.
- I think I was also OK relating to people but loathed the thought of public speaking.
Thus, a jack of all trades, but a master of none. Not that this worried me, I could do any number of things most people could not. It’s just I was an expert in none. But I am so grateful for that architecture course; it provided me with life-long skills.
I went on to work at an alternative newspaper, as joint editor and layout artist, and also did the occasional feature interview plus some photography when we couldn’t find the photographer.
I could do any number of things most people could not. It’s just I was an expert in none.”
So, all that is background for this post; The Dunning-Kruger effect. What is that? I hadn’t heard of this until recently, but when I did hear someone talking about in on a radio show I could not help smiling to myself! I’ve since found out that a lot of people have heard of it.
(This next section taken from “What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect”:
“The Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. Essentially, low ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognize their own incompetence. The combination of poor self-awareness and low cognitive ability leads them to overestimate their own capabilities.
The term lends a scientific name and explanation to a problem that many people immediately recognize that fools are blind to their own foolishness. As Charles Darwin wrote in his book The Descent of Man, ‘Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.’”
Basically, it’s when incompetent people think they are amazing! Many variations of this Dunning-Kruger graph appear on the internet:
Notice how 100% confidence only occurs on ‘Mt. Stupid’ (or Mt. Dunning-Kruger!); those with knowledge and experience are more cautious. The Dunning-Kruger effect afflicts many who have little experience but are super confident. Even when they compare their effort to a professional they think theirs is just as good, or even better, whereas the more one gains experience in a subject, they realize how little they know about it!
Someone who has great self-confidence, and little or no ability, can be dangerous to be around because their self-confidence often lands them in a position of authority. This means they may be the ultimate decision maker on a particular project or scheme. As leader they can make the final decision. It is frustrating being around people such as this because they will not listen to reason because they “just know” they are right.
Someone who has great self-confidence, and little or no ability, can be dangerous to be around because their self-confidence often lands them in a position of authority.”
I’m reminded of a comment by Sir Richard Branson, the founder and chairman of Virgin Group and one of the richest people around, who said “Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, empower them, and your business will thrive”.
Where am I going with this? Well I want to relate this to a Vedic verse, which talks about the importance of humility.
“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” Sri Siksastakam 3.
Humility is such a desirable characteristic. The more humble a person is, the less chance of a Dunning -Kruger character.
The Dunning-Kruger effect – we should all be aware and take care!
Thank-you and Namaste!