Our minds have those subtle ways of being both daringly idealistic and ignorantly optimistic. This fusion builds a bubble of a fortress that holds for as long as possible before it inevitably bursts. Bursts because of what, you maybe wondering? Action.
Not only must this feeble combination be broken up– of daring idealism and ignorant optimism; but we must battle everything that is inside ourselves that would help it. To do that, let’s first give it a name: maybe ‘Our False Reality’.
What is the False Reality?
Like any proper, feel-good Disney Blockbuster, our False Reality coddles us into a make-believe confidence– or you could think of it as an ego of sorts. I mean, we’ve met these people (although hardly recognize the characteristics within ourselves). Millions of unemployed football coaches yelling at their screens on any given Sunday afternoon, “Why’d you call that? I would have never have ran that option!” Oh, and the back seat drivers; God help us, with just a pinch less of self-restraint those people would be hiking. You know the kind of attitude I’m trying to describe.
The Corner of Daring Idealism and Ignorant Optimism
Now, there is nothing to say that Idealism or Optimism upon their own merit are wrong; or good for that matter. I would suppose that it depends on how they are defined– or better yet, how they are used.
What we need to see here is a misused idealism and a misused optimism. A situation where either is out of balance and has gone rogue.
We see misused idealism when someone says that another person has ‘their head in the clouds’. They aren’t thinking with any sort of concrete rationale, that can be supported on the earth below.
With misused optimism, we shake our head as we tell our friend, who is about to make a poor romantic decision, “You’re seeing things with those rose colored glasses again.”
In both these instances, there is the feeling that reality is being suspended and an alternate reality is being embraced. When that happens, we are now living in a world where we can (at least internally) program things to suit our wants and desires with minimal effort. Thus, the Make-Believe Confidence, or false reality, we have been talking about.
Have We Settled or Been Charged to Action?
If daring idealism and ignorant optimism are the crossroads of our false confidences, then action and inaction are our stoplights.
When we find ourselves at the place (or when we find others there), where we have a false confidence, we need to check to see what we are doing. Usually, we will find that we are in fact, not doing much.
There is something about watching 500 videos on how to play the solo in ‘Free Bird’, that makes a guy think he could get pretty close to playing it. Even if he has two left hands and no guitar. We have those friends who have their GED but act like they got a Masters in Poli-Sci from Yale just because they watched CNN last night. Not quite buddy, your enthusiastically voting for Trump.
Consumption does not Equal Competence
There is a sort of passive coming into information and other people’s experience that puffs up a person’s ego. I have found this in multiple areas of my life.
From a young age, I have had a strong interest in history and literature. Also, from a young age, I’ve had an uncanny way of blowing through massive amounts of information without letting it fully sink in. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent watching the History and Discovery Channels (in their prime, mind you), the many History and English electives that I enrolled in, and the books I consumed one after another.
But there is something about honest, hard work that kicks your butt. I hated the papers. The nitty-gritty research. I couldn’t stand going back to the drawing board on an idea or opinion that didn’t quite make it when it was left out to fend for itself in the intellectual wild.
For me, I was caught preferring a steady consumption of information rather than working with it– than wrestling with the facts and my own opinions. What I had left was just an inflated ego that believed that I was the best person I knew at History or Literature or whatever was on CNN that previous night. Again, no.
Confidence and Action
Confidence born of hard work is a great thing. There certainly must be other restraints (like humility?) for that kind of confidence, but it is definitely a good thing to posses.
Confidence that hasn’t been tested through hard-work and action, really is just ignorance. It’s a false blanket that we use to cover our ego from the harshness of the facts. And a lot of the times the facts say that we suck– that we suck at something.
We may be protecting our ego, but we are damaging two vital things. We damage the chances at improvement, and we damage people’s perceptions of us.
If it hurts to know how much we suck at something, maybe it will either hurt enough for us to quit putting so much stock into that area or hurt enough to make us want to press into it and make ourselves good at it. Either we put value on that thing, or we shed the value of it in our life. How freeing!?
It brings us closer to our friends and colleagues. We aren’t so volatile, being high on the false ego that we have built up in our dream world. It allows us to put less strain on the people and relationships we have when we have an accurate and humble view of ourselves. We are able to enter into something, truly mutually beneficial.
Look who’s laughing now that you’ve wasted
How many years and you’ve barely even tasted
Anything remotely close to
Everything you’ve boasted about
Look who’s crying now
Jack Johnson: F-Stop Blues