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Don’t trust Your Gut ! Vol 57

November 19, 2014

If the only reason you bought an e-reader was to adjust the font, you must be a Boomer !

Being a Boomer, we struggle with our current passage in life, constantly questioning where we are, where we are supposed to be, and how to bridge the gap. My blog deals with this chasm, suggesting that doing nothing, just staring at the gap, is just wrong. Much better to do anything that do nothing. Why ? I know its hard to try something new. There is your ego, your comfy couch, your wonky knees, your thin wallet, and your growing gut in the way. Just think of the next 30 years you will probably live, and all that time that needs filling.

I have suggested doing what interests you, not as a long term thing, but as a way of trying something outside your comfort zone. Not a big thing, but something. Baby steps. I have commented that failing fast, trying a new thing for a while full blast, and if it does not feel right, giving it up fast, and moving onto something else. Since all us Boomers are different, I use the word something, because the range of choices is limitless. Education, music, volunteerism, travel, writing, full-time, part-time, helping out a friend with their business, trying out a new hobby or sport, looking after aging parents, ect …

Unlike our old mantra to our kids that “once you start something, you must finish it, or you are a quitter”, this is a different phase of life, and the old mantra does not apply. Really, what I am suggesting is the same mantra with a new finish line. Unlike the sociological aspects of learning to overcome adversity ( don’t quit ! ), we already know the lesson. So, the new lesson becomes how to start something and not feel like you have to become an expert, or win a medal, or play at Carnegie Hall before you can stop. No way. This is not a lesson, this is discovery. Trying something new is good for the soul, and thus its the act of trying that is the lesson, not the finishing. Besides, starting out trying to learn the saxophone may lead to taking lessons, to working in a music store, to helping out a band, which might lead to … who knows ?

Whatever you do, don’t just trust your gut to make decisions. An interesting book, Enlightenment 2.0, by Joseph Heath, a philosophy professor, points to trusting logic, and not your gut, to make your future choices. Essentially, your gut is instinctive, and reacts to a familiar set of stimulations, which feel reasonable but are not. To name of few, as mentioned in the book, our intuitive minds are optimistic, self-serving, short-sighted, terrified of loss, and prone to confirm our own prejudices or suspicions – we see what we want to see. The best example I can think of to view this phenomena is in the stock market. The majority of traders are undisciplined, buy high and sell low, buy on tips, and blame others for their losses. Sound familiar ? These are the reasons why there is soooo much money in mutual funds and ETF’s.

My personal favourite part is the conservative versus liberal arguments, or as stated in the book, tradition versus reason. As far as I can figure out, and I may need some clarification on this, tradition, the way it was, is the conservative view of life, and bespeaks to our tamed past. Yes, we are evolving, but at the correct speed, not too slow where we are endangered as a species, but not too fast where we rush headlong down the wrong path. Conservatism ensures a safe passage, a safe but evolving evolution. Almost an animalistic instinctive view of the future.

Reason, or liberalism, is much more rapid, accepting of new ideas, leapfrogging current convention no matter the consequences. In the book reason needs ways to counteract tradition, and so it builds social scaffolding outside the human brain. Language allows us to communicate with each other and resolve disputes, governments mitigate our tribal and personal vengeance instincts, and schools add layers of socialization onto our brutal personalities.

While you can believe in either side, the point of the book is that it is easier today to be instinctive, and not logical. Essentially our environment is very effective at finding ways to increase the manipulation or exploitation of our senses. Advertising, money in politics, social media, all trying to find the best ways to pander to our intuitions, our gut instincts. Buy today, don’t wait, it’s a once a year sale, its new and improved, the price is going up tomorrow, don’t be the last one in your neighbourhood to get one, the other candidate hates women … you get the picture ! How can reason argue with all that stimulation.

Perhaps this explains the climate change wars. Science and reason talk to us changing the planet, in harmful ways. Just look at Beijing and the smog, and think of London, England and its coal tar. Look at the soil erosion that favours tornadoes in the mid US. Fresh water, well that problem is becoming unfixable. We must do something now, or it will only get worse ! It is interesting that Environmentalists have been unsuccessful in using the scare media to change our behaviour – its been reason all the way.

Tradition, on the other hand, talks to the fact that we have always used the planet, so why stop now ? The planet is here for us to use. The fact that Miami is drowning is not nature’s fault, its that people want to live next to the water. Really, is New Orleans an ecological disaster, or just a lot of dumb people trying to live below sea level ? Coal is needed to warm us, and cook our meals. Water is needed to grow our food, and fishing feeds us. Yes there will be damage, but its always been there, will always be there, so get used to it, its the price of progress.

So, the point is to make a plan for the future, while trying to ignore your gut.

Next on Boomers – WTF !, what’s your credo ?

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