I woke up early in the morning. Dawn was breaking in the East. My stomach twisted, eyes wide open and mouth dry, and the memory of a nightmare was already fading. Or was it not a nightmare but a recollection of past events? “How stupid I was, and why did I do it?” I thought. The heart was still pounding, but I calmed myself down. The mind played a trick and dramatized the events of the past year.
I remembered myself standing up among the people to read a bit of text. There were only a few sentences, so I thought to memorize a part of it and fill in the gaps. This was all unnecessary. I rambled, lost the thought, tried to read back from the paper and failed, then fell back to the chair. A person on the right sneeringly asked if the text was too long.
Although the above example does not radiate stupidity, it was unpleasant for sure. Here, I remember something more…
I, with my wife and kids, took a trip to Indonesia. We arranged many things, including the pickup from the airport. Our host came to the airport and waved a piece of cardboard with my name on it. We followed him, and two other guys picked up our luggage. We walked to the parking lot then stopped at the tiny grey MPV. Apparently, the two guys who were “helping” with the bags did not know our host. One concierge showed me the international sign for some tips. Except I had only Euros in my wallet and no coins. For some reason, I thought it would be all right to give a 20 Euro tip instead of just ignoring them. What is more, I felt obliged to tip our host as well, because he saw me tipping those guys 10 quid each, so I gave him a tenner upon arrival as well. I am not rich; those 30 euros were a lot to me and more to those guys.
So far, it was an example of some spontaneous behaviour that should be considered weird and questionable. Other memories haunt me, like when I did not do something because of stupid procrastination mixed with ignorance and self-righteousness. One of the most vivid ones was the abandonment of an attempt to mine bitcoin, despite my interest. Adversity to the crypto grew with its price ever since - go figure. Similar examples in life expose a pattern of a lack of curiosity and decisiveness that brought everything “might-be-great” to a halt.
Why did I not start saving earlier? Why did I not try harder? Why did I tell my neighbour, quote “walking is good” when he offered me a ride in the morning? Why, why, why?
The other day I was reading “Principles” by Ray Dalio. It is an exciting book with good content, plenty of commandments to carry you to Heaven. Aside from the gospel, the author mentions the importance of feeling stupid. I do not remember the exact words, and I am too lazy to get upstairs and find it. The idea is that if you think that you were stupid some time ago, that means you are progressing. Inversely it probably means you do not see the stupidity yet. It is profound - we are all stupid all the time, but we get more intelligent each day. Some of us do.
Acceptance transforms you. There are both positive and negative aspects to it. If you knew that your actions were treated as being stupid, you might hinder them. Why risk getting criticized or being branded as ignorant? On the flip side, you might feel empowered to experiment, to risk doing stupid things now, not later.
Ever since past stupidity got on my radar (yeah, it was off the radar for a while), I gained more confidence in my decisions and actions. Examples include better salary negotiation, bolder plans for the career, easier acceptance of rejection. There were some improvements at home as well, but it is much harder to grow smarter in your partner’s eyes.
I’m optimistic you should be too. There is a silver lining to everything, even to ignorance, provided you reflect on it.