I know you didn’t expect this, and I’m sorry. But it’s true, and not because I said so. Acting stupidly is the only approach guaranteed to make you lose time, money, opportunities or relationships. Compound all of these and you’ll see how much you’re actually losing by being stupid.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that, as opposed to diamonds, stupidity isn’t forever. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be.
The Opposite Of Stupidity Is Not “Being Smart”
I wish I could tell you in a couple of words what’s the opposite of stupidity, but I can’t. And that’s because we oppose stupidity to so many different things, using it as an umbrella concept, covering a plethora of situations.
For instance, losing an opportunity qualifies as “being stupid”, in our collective mental model. But so does losing a valuable relationship because of bad behavior. Or losing a job because slacking. Or behaving too submissively when we shouldn’t, like not standing up for what’s ours.
Whereas “being smart” is just a combination of knowledge an perspicacity.
So yes, I hope you’re starting to see how pervasive stupidity can be in our lives, and how expensive it can get.
But if the opposite of stupidity is not “being smart”, how can we avoid it? How can we outsmart stupidity, if “being smart” is not enough?
Well, while I don’t claim to have a definitive answer to this question (to be honest, I paid a lot of dues because I was stupid), I do have a little bit of a testimony. I can share at least what worked for me, hoping that it can help you too.
Don’t Believe Yourself (Too Often)
Ego inflation is probably the most frequent consequence of acting stupidly. Just because you think you know something, it doesn’t mean that something is actually true. We all carry around outdated mental models that we don’t even know they’re outdated. Remaining strongly coupled to any line of thinking, to any thought school or reality model will make us rigid.
Just give yourself the benefit of the doubt somehow. Yeah, maybe you feel like you’re right, but what if you’re not?
Don’t Be Ashamed To Change Course (Damage Control)
Missteps are annoying. But more annoying than a misstep is another one, following it. And another one after that. Yes, you maybe took the wrong path, happens. Just stop. And turn around, or to the right, or to the left, just change direction. There’s benefit in accepting your limitations, instead of relentlessly trying to reinforce them, while being constantly contradicted by reality.
Try repeating this: “Ups, I was almost stupid about that”. It sounds way better than “How stupid I was about that”, right?
Every time you survive a difficult situation, something interesting happens: you accumulate experience. Don’t let that go to waste. Keep a journal, some records of what you did and review that every once in a while. Stacking up experience on top of experience will eventually create a more light around your path.
“When was the last time I faced something similar? And what did I do back then?” Try memorizing these two questions. And use them often.
Maintain Advisers Around
Even if you compound experience, there’s only so much experience you can generate, as an individual. And that’s irrelevant in front of the sheer randomness with which reality can slap you. That’s why it pays back to have a circle of “advisers”. They may be friends, mentors, famous people biographies, you name it. As long as their experience is a) complementary with yours b) proven to be successful, these people are worth having around.
Or at least it’s cheaper to pay them with your time, money or respect, than to pay for your stupid deeds.
As you practice this, you will come to the understanding that being rich is not necessarily a question of how much money you have in the bank. Because you can do stupid things when you have money too. As a matter of fact, if you have money and you do stupid things, you vastly amplify those mistakes. I know, I’ve been there.
Being rich is a question of not paying a ridiculously expensive fee for your passage on this Earth. If you manage to do this, the rest will eventually fall into places.