Smart People Are Actually Wrong – A Lot

I know the title above probably confuses you, but if you think about it, (and are smart 😎), you will realize that the phrase is true. Let’s look at Jeff Bezos to see how that works. Bezos is worth over $200 billion, so he must be a pretty smart guy. About 25 years ago, he took a simple idea of selling books on the thing called the Internet. That was a pretty smart move. But, if he had stopped there, he would never have been the person he is today. He had to admit that he was wrong about his first idea. Books were not the only thing he ended up selling.

Another radical idea when he brought his company public was to tell his future stockholders that they would not see any dividends for decades, if ever. I’m certain that drove away many of his weaker minded investors immediately. I bought a few shares of his company then and more since. Those few shares became a serious backbone for my retirement investments. He is a smart guy who readily admits he got stuff wrong.

Here are a few quotes and thoughts about him:

The smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking,”

That willingness to consider new information goes hand in hand with a willingness to admit your old way of thinking was flawed. In other words, to be super smart you have to change your mind a lot. Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Bezos apparently agrees that consistency is overrated.

keep Will Rogers Banner

I bring this post to you now as an introduction to a new series I have hinted to a few weeks ago. It is called Thoughts on Stupidity and is based on writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a Lutheran theologian during Hitler’s Germany. His observations about the stupidity of that time I think are fundamental in trying to understand what is going on presently in the U.S.

The primary link between this post and the series that starts next Monday is that smart people often are initially wrong about something. It is only when they see that fact that they can become really smart. By the same token, stupid people cling to the same thought or idea regardless of any evidence proving it wrong, or even proving detrimental to their own circumstances. I just thought we should look at the other end of the intelligence spectrum before looking at the topic of stupidity. More on that next week.

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