How Do You Know What You Know?

Once upon a time when dragons roamed the earth, guru’s were thin on the ground and the Internet was still on dial-up, there lived a very wise man in a land far, far away (probably China).

This particular wise man was so wise he was deemed to be a Zen Master.  In the wisdom stakes that’s pretty damn good, let me tell you. He was revered by all the villages as the go-to guy on any issues pertaining to wisdom and trivia quizzes.

Then one day it all went horribly wrong.

Our Sage was sat in his hut, stroking his chin and drinking green organic decaffeinated wild mountain tea when the door burst violently open. In stepped Bob the village Fishmonger brandishing his best fish filleting knife and not looking at all happy.

“You have been sleeping with my daughter” screamed the irate Bob.

“Is that so?” replied the Master

“Yes it is that’s why I said it. And another thing, she’s pregnant!”

“is that so?” said the Master again

“Yes, and the child will be your responsibility when it’s born”

“Is that so?”

“Can you stop saying that now please, it sounds silly”

“Is that so?”

At this point the story gets hazy, but I’m pretty sure Bob pounced on the Zen Master and punched him several times and pulled his beard very hard indeed.

I was on Twitter yesterday and quite frankly came under the sort of attack that I haven’t experienced before. Completely out of the blue somebody responded to a comment I had left at the end of this review on How To Be Rich and Happy, and demanded I explain on Twitter what I was up to with the pricing structure for the book.

It’s not very often I get annoyed by tweets or blog comments because they are water off a ducks back most of the time. But this was different because I felt, rightly or wrongly I was having my integrity questioned in public by somebody that didn’t even know me.

If I was working with a Life Coaching client under similar circumstances I would have advised a completely different strategy to the one I foolishly rushed to adopt with this guy.

I would have said something like this:

Look, it doesn’t matter who you are, how you act, what you do or where you do it, there will be always people that don’t like you, don’t like your values, don’t like the way you dress, don’t like your nationality, don’t like your style of writing, don’t like the way you talk and 1,001 other things.

They will think they know you, when they don’t. They will presume they understand your motives when they don’t.

I often say to clients, I’ve enough problems understanding what is going on inside my own head, how the hell am I supposed to know what is going on inside somebody else’s? I’m almost certainly going to get it wrong because I’m never in possession of all the facts.

You have no idea what this guys motives are or were. You can run around defending yourself if you have the time and energy to do that, but what happens if/when the book takes off and that one guy becomes 25 or even 100? What will you do then, hire a team of VA’s to do all your defending for you?

Or would it be wiser to concentrate on those people you can help, those that get what it is you’re doing and those that aren’t so quick to judge, and just ignore the rest?

As Jeffrey Gitomer once said “Isn’t it about time you resigned your job of the General Manager of the Universe?”

That’s what I would have said to a client, and on the whole I think they’re wise words. Maybe not Zen Master type wise, but not too shabby nevertheless.

I’m not sure if the tendency to defend ourselves when we come under verbal attack is hard-wired in at birth, but even if it isn’t, it’s fairly well established in the vast majority of adults, including I have to say, myself.

How often is it valid though? How often does it help us as opposed to throwing gasoline on an already roaring fire?

Of course we want people to think positively about us, but if they don’t, should we really worry about it? Should we use up our energy trying to convince somebody how lovely and cute we are, when we don’t even know their motives?

Their actions may stem from jealousy, fear, having a bad day, rampant paranoia or a genuine belief they are helping others. Or of course they may just be an asshole that enjoys stirring the pot.

After the baby was born to the Fishmongers daughter, Bob went to drop the kid off with his new dad.

“This is your son” said Bob.

“Is that so”

“Oh don’t start that again, I’m not in the mood”

“Is that so?”

Bob felt his hand slowly caress the cold blade of his knife, but then remembered his promise to Marge his wife not to decapitate the Master, and he backed slowly and silently out of the hut leaving the baby behind.

A couple of years later and there was a party at Bobs for his daughters 21st birthday. There was much merriment and lots of ‘herbal’ tea being consumed. Quite frankly Bob’s daughter was hammered, and in her inebriated state decided to announce to the world that the Zen Master wasn’t the real father. It was actually Frank the traveling knife salesmen.

A huge gasp went up in the house, not least of which came from Frank who was in town for a few days attending a knife sellers convention.

“Shit” said Bob, “I suppose I now have to go and apologize to the Master and get the bloody kid back?”

Off he trailed back up the hill, only this time on arrival he knocked meekly on the door. As he entered he could see the baby asleep on his ‘fathers’ lap.

“Er, I’m going to need the little fella back please Your Highest Excellency”

“Is that so?”

“Yes Your Divinenebuddhistness. Er, this is all a bit embarrassing because apparently you didn’t nail my daughter, it was that bastard Frank. You know, the knife guy with the mullet hair cut” (laughs weekly)

“Is that so?”

“Yeh, who’d have thought it, huh? Oh well, got to be going I have a delivery of Hungarian Haddock due in any time now” With that he scooped the baby up and ran back down the hill.

We all carry many misconceptions around with us. We often have to form incredibly rapid decisions about people and events without all the information. That is just life and there is no way round that.

It isn’t making the decisions that’s really the problem, it is the holding onto them when contrary evidence shows up to suggest we were wrong in the first place.

We have a tendency to start looking for evidence to back our initial opinion up, rather than evidence that will cast doubt on it. When we get into this mindset we often don’t even see the truth of the matter when it presents itself because we have become so invested in our initial belief.

There is power in knowing this. Power because I KNOW you will have some such beliefs about yourself. Beliefs that aren’t facts, but may well be holding you back because you continue to hold on to them.

Well, you’re an open-minded person, so what about scrutinizing them a bit more seriously? What about really exposing those beliefs to the ridicule they quite rightly deserve.

Could you do that today? could you take one niggling, self-limiting belief and demolish it with contrary evidence? Sure you can.