It is way too easy to let other people think — and make conclusions — for you. We are often quick to accept myths, and propagate them to others, as though they were God-given.
Myths are all around us.
We only use a small percentage of our brain. Not true.
Men and women are dramatically different. Not so much. In truth, the differences are actually statistically small when it comes to language ability, spatial reasoning, and many other factors, with a large percentage of women outperforming the average man on all factors except for physical strength (and vice versa on the factors where the average woman outpaces the average man).
Left handed people are more creative. Nope. Visual learners vs auditory learners. Everyone has a major lean one direction or the other, right? No, not right. Mozart makes you smarter. All this is myth because differences that are measured and detected are negligible in scale and biased by the test itself.
Flying isn’t safe. Actually, it is crazy safe. Crashing is not safe — ok, that one is true. Filtering your water or drinking bottled water will make a positive impact on your health. Doubt it, given the water quality in most American cities. Now, if you drink more water because you focus on your water, that’s a different discussion. Location matters: If you are in Africa, water quality takes on a whole new level of concern — filters matter. Vitamins will give you more energy. Unfortunately, not supported by any proof. Aroma oils, or the SleepNumber bed, will help you sleep. Only if you believe it, and your belief is what matters, not the pricey bed, oils, and atomizers.
Want another 1,000 myths busted? Watch Mythbusters — I love a show that questions prevailing wisdom.
Unfortunately, few humans do their own research. The wisdom of crowds is perhaps, not so wise. Google makes it easier than ever to try to dig one or two layers deeper — but of course, you have to question the motives and perspective of the articles you find as well.
My point is simple. When you hear a “fact” spoken with great authority, it is wise to question it. I have found that perhaps as many as 1/2 of these facts are tainted, or the differences exaggerated so much so that making decisions based on them is foolish. I realize that I often don’t get to the truth, but thinking it through, the process itself, is always helpful in the end.
One of the “facts” I strongly disagree with is that a person “can’t beat the stock market averages” so therefore, go ahead and invest in mutual funds, invest with (expensive) professional investment counselors and brokerages, and invest in ETFs. The implication is that you should simply strive to be average. The people that push this one make their living by selling their services to you.
Stock investing returns, and almost everything in life, follows a normal distribution, a bell curve.
If you find your own way to stay above the average even by a few percentage points, your returns over 20 or 30 years will greatly outpace a person that is dead-on average, or a few points below. I believe that is possible by just paying better attention and following some principles in your approach.
The funny part of the myth is that if most people believe they can’t beat the markets, that actually improves the odds for people that believe that they can.
Investing is but one example. Questioning everything opens up new possibilities and new understanding. It is well worth adopting on every aspect of your life.
Life offers great possibilities to be an outlier if you believe you can be an outlier. But that’s a future post.
I.M. Optimism Man