In a blog post from early 2007, Lee Thayer proposed a series of “brain stretching exercises” meant to getting one’s thinking gears in shape. Today, I will attempt to exercise my brain by tackling one of these exercises. The exercise in question revolves around the idea that, “People can’t figure out what they need to know. People can only figure out what they are personally capable of figuring out. So they seek “advice.” And here a paradox rears its ugly face: If you know the difference between good advice and bad advice, you don’t need advice (Thayer).” The link to the exercise is: here. Let’s dig.
Looking at the first two statements I would ask, what are some differences between what people can figure out (what they are capable of figuring out) and what they “need” to know? Is what you need to know dependent upon what you are trying to know? How capable am I (or, are you) of figuring out what you need to know? Are we, as humans, perpetually stuck in the condition of forever being limited by our own capacities for knowing?
Advice: Is most advice sought because one doesn’t know what one needs to know or doesn’t know where to look so looks to someone else for help? What should one do to maximize the quality of the advice that one gives/receives? Which leads us to the paradox that Thayer suggests: “If you know the difference between good advice and bad advice, you don’t need advice.” What this suggests to me is that it all comes down to your capacity for filtering out what is relevant to your purpose and reason for knowing. That is, if you can recognize good advice from bad advice, then you probably don’t need advice. Is that what Thayer is saying?
Would the capacity to be able to distinguish good from bad advice somehow help one in their competency to be able to better figure out what they are capable of figuring out, thus leading them closer to where they should be?
Perhaps, if you have the ability to distinguish what advice is good/bad for you, then you needn’t seek. In other words, the building of the capacity to distinguish the two, in itself, becomes useful in terms of figuring out what you need to know. Where would you start exercising this capacity? In asking yourself for advice?
To further explore: If a person wants to take a job for a certain company, but, in fearing he doesn’t know everything he should know about that company, seeks advice from others, and then, in hearing the advice rejects the advice, did he actually need the advice in the first place? What benefit was the advice that he received? Had he already decided before even hearing the advice?