Should you listen to your gut?
Food for thought - why America's murder rate has spiked.
It’s the weekly installment of Life Intelligence. Last week’s post on Who’s more tolerant got some enthusiastic replies. Yes, the test was a little cheesy, but that’s why I made a point of saying it was for fun. It’s what you get for free! How tolerant you are should be a subject of deep self-exploration and honest self-assessment.
To the new folks here, welcome! Please, subscribe, and you too can be life-intelligent in no time!
How often do you follow your gut, your innate convictions? And do you keep track of how it works out, or do you go about your day believing it does? Perhaps, your intuition doesn’t pan out, but you ignore the evidence and continue to rely on it. Chances are you don’t have accurate data to answer these questions. Most people just trust their gut. No questions asked.
No big deal if your gut tells you to order the fish, not the stake. But what about important life decisions with major consequences?
I get it. No one wants to think of how they know what they know every time they need to make a decision. We go with what feels right. But in an age of Bid Data, we actually do know if what we intuit matches reality. That’s right. Google knows what questions you have and has all the answers. So, perhaps, that’s the mysterious force that watches over everyone… in a spooky kind of way.
For the guys out there, Google knows you’ve been wondering about the size of your penis. Most guys think others are better endowed, thus, often feel insecure. It turns out that this is such a concern among the male population that it has resulted in millions of searches. According to Google data, the most common size is 5 inches. So there! I hope you feel better now.
Suggestion: Stop worrying about your size and focus on the following four things (they apply to women too):
Be happy and have a satisfying, fulfilling life regardless of your relationship status.
Develop a secure attachment style.
And diligently try to better yourself.
Say what??? Yep, those are the four most reliable predictors for a happy relationship. No, not money. Not hight. Not looks. Not anything people usually search for when they look for a mate, following their intuition and what they think will make them happy. Nope!
Male or female, if already in a relationship that’s not going well because of the usual complaints, consider the four things above and see what you can improve within yourself. Your relationship will likely transform. I know it takes two to tango, but someone has to lead. Perhaps, your partner will follow.
Suppose you feel it’s too late to become a successful entrepreneur because you’re no longer 25 and don’t live in a dorm with other techies. That’s because your gut feeling about who successful entrepreneurs are is totally wrong. In reality, most successful entrepreneurs are over 50 and become such after long years of grueling skill set development, rising through the ranks, and becoming experts in their field. That’s the usual path. Not the Zuckerberg one. We see the bright stars of startups, be we have no idea of what percentage of those who try this path make it. It’s less than 1% of 1%. Yet, they have become the posters of success.
Success, according to Big Data, is a long boring slog and mostly not that sexy. Some guy somewhere, toeing the line for decades, learning everything there is to know about his industry and challenges, finds a solution to a problem everyone is having. Then goes to market with the said solution and becomes rich. Or starts helping others solve similar problems as a consultant and becomes rich. Or writes a book teaching others how to do things better…. and becomes rich. You get the point. First, put in the time, pay attention, wait until you are considered an expert, and take off from there. You won’t be 25 years old at that point.
The most successful employees go on to become founders of the most successful firms… in their 50s.
Did you know that the average age of first-time bestselling authors is 52 years old?
The average millionaire is 57 years old. (Here are some other millionaire stats if you are curious.)
And who exactly are these next-door millionaires? Your gut will probably not consider the local mom-and-pop shop, but plenty of those out there. Also, owners of auto dealerships, physicians, and restauranteurs. So yes, you expected real estate people to get up there, and they do. Owners of financial services seem the natural fit.
But did you know that “independent artists” make the cut, too? Yep, they do! And your mom told you that there was no money in art. About 12.5% of independent artists and performers are in the top 0.1%. That’s a lot of people when you consider the millions of independent creatives out there… Frankly, this makes me very happy! At least someone is doing what they love and killing it!
For the sports fans out there, did you know that watching sports makes you miserable? Big Data says when your team wins, and if you expected the win, you gain 3 points increase in happiness. If you expected them to lose, but they won, you will get a 7-point increase in happiness. However, if you expected your team to win, but they lost, you will get 10 points decrease in happiness. If you expected them to lose and they did indeed lose, you will experience 3 points decrease in happiness.
Translated, your costs outweigh the benefits in terms of happiness… but your gut tells you to watch sports because it makes you happy.
On the other hand, Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist studying happiness, concluded in his research that we are terrible estimators of how bad things are going to be and how unhappy they will make us, usually overestimating our misery. Our gut feeling anticipates awful things, but when we get there, we tend to get over it much faster than we thought we would. Our anxieties often torture us more than whatever actually happens. That’s probably why the proverb goes, “A coward dies a thousand deaths.”
OK, I concede. There are instincts we shouldn’t ignore. If you feel in danger, just go. Don’t think about data. Better safe than sorry.
If something feels wrong in your body, it probably is. Your body doesn’t lie. Go see a doctor.
If you feel compelled to help, that’s because humans have evolved the capacity for empathy and care. Consider who you are helping to make sure you are not getting conned, but for the most part, helping others is awesome! Keep doing it.
Some instincts come from many years of experience. You know your way around something like the back of your hand. That’s mastery talking. It’s wise to listen.
For everything else, measure twice, cut once. Ask Google, do research, and make data-driven decisions. That’s what Seth Stephens-Davidowitz advises people to do in his book Don’t Trust Your Gut, where I got most of what’s in this piece. I enjoyed reading it. You might, too. Funny guy.
This is from The Economist, a British publication that has nothing to do with US politics, from a few days ago.
Why America’s murder rate has spiked
In 2020 the murder rate in the US rose by nearly 30%—the country’s largest-ever recorded annual increase. It has not fallen significantly since. What is it about America that led to this jump, and what can be done to reduce the violence? And how some communities are figuring out how to help themselves!
Thanks for reading, sharing, and commenting. We’re more life-intelligent together!