Berkshire Hathaway
Why Don't I Know the Answers?

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By whatismyoption
February 9, 2009

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As a child I always wondered why my father and his friends were not running the country. I couldn't understand why dad wasn't the coach of the All Blacks or why all referees were vision impaired idiots who did not know the rules. I was puzzled why only imbeciles were elected to run the country. My dad and his friends clearly knew better than all the coaches and politicians, their eyesight and in-depth knowledge of the rules of most sports were better than any referee. My dad and his friends knew how to fix the country and right all the wrongs. Why would no-one listen to them?

As I grew I felt blessed that I had inherited my father's insights and wisdom. I came to know all the answers. Then slowly I became aware that everyone seemed to know the answers. Strangely their answers were different from mine. Even more peculiar was that they weren't interested in my answers; they only wanted to tell me theirs.

I then started university and was stunned the psychology lecturers could be so adamant they were right about either nurture or nature. I wondered if confidence in your ideas was essential to learning and pushing forward the boundaries of knowledge. I started to worry as my own certitude began to wane. I often challenged my professors to see if they had any doubt, if they did they never let on. My doubts grew. I started looking into overconfidence and began to realize it was part of the human condition. That only exacerbated my growing uncertainty. My uncertainty grew to such a level that despite being 6'5" I pondered whether I was really taller than 99.6% of the population. I wrote an essay on the possibility of height not being an empirical measure.

I'm a lot more knowledgeable now and yet answers seem even more elusive. The difference is I'm now content with my doubt and I believe it may even help me in being happy. Doubt is pervasive and I do not wish to encourage anyone to follow my path. I'm writing this in the hope that the next time you're about to shout your indignation, or abuse someone at TMF, you'll stop and ponder why you think you're so right and why you need to convince others. Discussion is great, but the most important part is not to prove you are smarter or right. The important part is to listen and see if you can learn anything. To see if your answer can be improved, if only slightly.

My name is Dean, I don't know the answers. I may not even know the right questions.