Assume You Are Not a Savant

Always assume that:

  • you are not a savant.
  • you have absolutely zero natural talent.
  • you are not the exception to the rule.
  • you are completely and utterly average.

Why would I do that? It all sounds very negative. Shouldn’t I be encouraging myself? What if I become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

I don’t know about that, but I’ll tell you what is negative – living a life of disappointment because you expect everything to go your way all the time.

If you expect yourself to be naturally good at everything you try, you’ll be disappointed every time you’re not. If you thinking everybody should love and adore you, you’ll be offended every time somebody doesn’t. And if you believe that for some reason only good things should come your way, you’ll feel personally attacked every time they don’t.

That’s the problem with trying to be “positive” all the time – it can become delusion. The further your expectations drift from reality, the more deluded you are. And if the way you behave causes you to be disappointed, then how helpful is this blind positivity, really?

Of course, tons of people go too far the other way. They become cynical and bitter about the world. They think that since having overly positive expectations leads to disappointment that it’s better to expect the worst all the time. They close themselves off. They refuse to try new things. They think that if they’re not naturally talented enough to be perfect straight away there’s no point trying at all.

Well, there’s no need to be like that, either. That’s just as delusional. Being overly positive and being overly negative are merely different sides of the same reality-avoidance coin, and whichever side you pick, you lose.

So what if there’s a way to look at the world where you always win? There is: assume you are no better than average.

If you assume that, and you’re right, then isn’t it a good thing you were prepared for that? It’s better to know where you stand – even if you’re actually way below average – than to just guess and rely on “positive thinking.” Now you can make a decision, grounded in reality, as to whether you care enough to put in the work to raise yourself up, or whether you’ll hedge your bets somewhere else instead. Either choice is fine, but at least you’re making an informed decision.

And then if it turns out you were wrong – if it turns out that you were actually above average, and incredibly naturally talented – then that’s awesome! It’s a bonus! But most important is that you lost nothing by assuming yourself to no better than average. All you did was protect yourself from unnecessary disappointment, and got a pleasant surprise to boot.

I’m always on the lookout for places in life with very high upside and very low downside. This little attitude adjustment is one of them.

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