see the poster that sparked this whole thing here
i have heard it attributed to many people, but usually it is bukowski – “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
this phenomenon has actually been studied and is formally referred to as the Dunning-Kruger effect. a quick and dirty summary basically states that confidence is often a result of ignorance. that when we learn a skill we suddenly begin to understand the requirements of mastery, and gain an understanding of the depth of the field. to put it simply – when someone says they are good at something it usually means that they have no idea what being “good” at that thing really means. they are, as mr. roth would put it, fucking charlatans.
we all know these people. mouthy, arrogant, and often with some level of success. there are always people willing to believe. people who want to believe. believe in shortcuts, in promises, in a quick path to greatness. the worst part about charlatans is that they are not called out enough. they operate, in part, because of the martyrs.
the martyr is one who has some competency, or at least the willingness to work, but hides their knowledge. while infinitely preferable to charlatans, i am starting to get tired of the martyr game. i feel it is a stage of growth. the swing of a pendulum. children are the first charlatans, we all once made grand plans and wild promises. as we aged we became more realistic (at least most did) and decided to grind it out. the problem is that too many good people are unable to articulate their skill set. too many competent people downplay themselves to the point of dishonesty, and because of that allow the bullshitters to thrive. this can be from the fear of looking like a charlatan, the fear of not measuring up to their peers, it could be a number of things – but the fact is as long as they are quiet they are not fulfilling their potential.
the third stage, the third column in the poster is the hustler. talk and action exist on a 1:1 basis. not a braggart. not a boaster. just a person who does exactly as they promise. who doesn’t feel the need to play up or down their abilities. someone who knows the field and their place in it. this is what i aspire towards. this is my goal. to be a true hustler.
it’s not arrogance if it is true. it is possible to know how far from mastery you are, and still admit that you are better than 90% of the population. it is fair to call people out on their shit. it is actually helpful. it is ok to be competent at something.
almost every time someone tells me they want to do something. to be “good”, i ask them about scale. about how “good” they want to be and what kind of costs they are willing to incur. in general, standards are dismal and i honestly feel if you are willing to do something, anything, with some intention for an hour a day you will probably be in the 90th percentile within a year. maybe a lot sooner. now, if you want to excel… that is where it can get expensive.
being a hustler doesn’t mean you are the best. it just means you are honest. that you can take criticism, and dish it out. we have a copy of that poster hanging in the gym, as a reminder. a reminder to own your victories as well. we all travel through stages. this work is about constant growth, re-evaluation and stimulus-response. the physical work we do is an analog to the greater lessons we wish to learn, of the changes we wish to make. make small steps. build your confidence one well fought victory at a time. own your victories. own your defeats. take heed, correct the course, and keep moving forward.
“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” -Bertrand Russell
also worth remembering: it has been a long road, and most things have been done and said before. don’t get hung up on it, and if you can’t be original, at least be sincere.