Just do a tiny life experiment. Go talk to a familiar stranger today (I know it sounds paradoxical). This person may be someone who you see daily on your commute to work, or they may be someone who lives in your community but you’ve never had the chance to talk and get to know them. Chances are they may be completely opposite to who you thought they were. In fact, on a majority of such instances, your assumptions would prove to be completely wrong.
The same applies for jobs, certain creative projects and initiatives; they end up being completely opposite to what we thought they were. That’s why it’s incredibly important to test our opinions before we get headstrong about them.
As Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman point out in their book The Daily Stoic, “… we must fight our biases and preconceptions: because they are a liability. Ask yourself: What haven’t I considered? Why is this thing the way it is? Am I part of the problem here or the solution? Could I be wrong here? Be doubly careful to honor what you do not know, and then set that against the knowledge you actually have.”
The truth of the matter is that we’re not as intelligent, streetsmart or wise as we think we are. And that’s why we must always test our assumptions and opinions instead of getting deceived by stereotypes, myths, biases and our preconceived notions. The core behaviors that we can cultivate are questioning ourselves and others, keeping an open mind and becoming humble. As Jocko Willink says, “Be humble or you’re gonna get humbled.”
If we don’t question our opinions and assumptions, and act and behave with arrogance and overconfidence bringing our ego into the mix, we set a trap for ourselves. But if we make questioning our opinions and humility our go-to behaviors, then we take a better path and become wiser with time.