Recent research reports from Cornell suggest that most incompetent people don’t realize they are incompetent
Isn’t this great news !
I have been accused of being lazy , ill prepared , uncaring and poorly focused throughout my academic and business career.
As far back as I can remember people (particularly teachers) seemed more concerned with my attitude than my accomplishments.
I brought home report card after report card which suggested that I was capable of higher achievement if only I would improve my “attitude”.
Accordingly my folks were always vaguely disappointed with me because I couldn’t seem to reach these unspecified lofty goals. They seem to regard me as a traitor to my “potential”..
In school athletics I never could seem to live up to the expectations of others .
Surprisingly , I was quite tall for my age when I entered high school and I was quickly spotted in the halls by the football coach who also happened to be the basketball coach.
He was so enthusiastic about what he regarded as my potential that he ignored my total lack of experience or interest in either game.
Next thing I knew I was a two sport jock . Although I became a regular on the football squad it seemed to me that the coach was constantly trying out other guys in my position hoping to motivate improved performance.
Basketball wasn’t bad but I had a tough time scoring from my normal seat on the bench.
The coach was constantly fretting about my lack of achievement.
Turns out I may just be incompetent.
This disenchantment has followed me throughout my rather undistinguished business career .
Early on , I held a variety of jobs in a number of industries. Those hiring me seemed to have a lot more confidence in my outstanding destiny than I felt warranted.
Inevitably however disenchantment would set in. It was never that I wasn’t doing the job . It seemed that I was never able to do it as well as they thought someone like me could do it if only I would apply myself.
So eventually I would move on to another position where I would become a source of frustration to another mentor.
Eventually I decided that I belonged in commissioned sales . At least there , I could share my employer’s disappointment on a monetary level. We could be disappointed together.
Later, I discovered that the only way I could avoid not living up to management’s expectations was to become one myself. Of course that invited more uncalled for expectation from another, more senior group but fortunately I found that most of this club had spent their life trying to live up to the frowning scrutiny of superior beings so there was a strange feeling of kinship.
And we are not even going to talk about marriage !
So, this report out of Cornell is a welcome revelation.
It gives new meaning to the expression, “he’s too stupid to know any better !”
It could also explain many of the world’s most puzzling questions.
For example …
“What was Bill Clinton thinking ?”
“Why did they invent karoake ?”
“Who programmed the Mars Polar Lander ?”
“Why did I sell my Rogers stock at $15 ?”
The more serious lesson appears to be that we should never try to live up to the expectations of others .
Of course most of want to “achieve”. But our needs and interests may be somewhat different than those of a casual observer . Usually other folks want us to conform to some design or plan that they have established – based on their own level of incompetence.
It’s important that we establish goals for ourselves that are realistic , attainable and satisfying.
And we probably are capable of more if we really want to “press on.”
This has to be a choice that we make in a very personal sense.
It’s not about equivocation , it’s about choosing a path and a lifestyle that is consistent with you as an individual .
It’s about fulfilling your dreams – not anyone else’s. .
But then again – what do I really know.