It’s not what you say, it’s not even the way that you say it; it’s who else said it first that matters. Apparently.
I had a conversation with someone on Facebook recently; it went something like this.
The message to me, from someone I didn’t know, said words to the effect of “Try this trading gizmo and you’ll make loads of money!”
Having seen a tad too much of this type of thing in my life, I expressed the fact that I really wasn’t interested because I had been here many times before, it wasn’t for me, and I didn’t believe that it would work for me.
“For those of us who know a little about trading, and who have been around the houses a bit, and seen schemes like this come and go, it all looks a bit like déja-vu and gives me a feeling of ‘oh no, not another one…’. When traders realise that it is so much better to empower themselves rather than try to defer responsibility of their success elsewhere, they are not only richer in the bank, but also wealthier in their life”.
Maybe I was being a bit high-minded, maybe I was cutting him off at the knees and doing the same back to him, and maybe I could have introduced my thoughts a bit more softly. Too late for second-guessing and eloquent editing – I’d pressed ‘send’. The reply came back with a thud:
“When you write a book endorsed by executives from three of the largest forex brokers in the industry and are asked to write Op-Eds for the Financial Times newspaper in London and have a successful record in daily forex markets, comments like yours are discounted very readily. Do yourself a favor and simply be big enough to listen to opinions you disagree with without negative comments.”
In other words, even though the writer knew nothing about me, the fact that others had endorsed this product was meant to show that it was rock solid and that I was an idiot for saying otherwise – just like people said of banks and institutions like Barings, Societé Générale etc.
Fine. He obviously had a strong belief in what he was doing, and he was obviously convinced, for now anyway, that by following his course he was heading for his own salvation. But I wasn’t sure why he was moved to invest so much passion in defending his beliefs and the product’s endorsers and admirers, as opposed to enlightening me more about the gizmo itself.
So I said: “Thanks for trying, but I’m still not impressed. All the same, I’m very happy to listen to opinions I disagree with and am always open to learning. Are you? I guess the first thing is not to spam people with things you are excited about before you have checked that they are wanted.
It’s interesting that your seemingly angry reply to what I hoped was a helpful reply to your question kind of proves my point, if you think about it calmly!
Maybe I was pushing my luck with this guy, but the more fun I had with the conversation, the more frenetic he became with each subsequent exchange, ending up calling me all sorts of names that I won’t share with you here, and cutting me off from communication.
Why did all this happen? Simply because I didn’t buy into something that he had bought into, based on the credentials of others.
Have you noticed how people bolster their own credibility by quoting ‘distinguished sources’ rather than expressing their own opinions? Are we all so insecure about what we think, or at least about the value of what we think, that we feel we have to do this? Have we lost the ability to evaluate something on the basis of a clear description and explanation?
Personally I like to learn by direct experience. I am choosy abut the books that I read as I am not generally looking for the guidance of others into their beliefs and knowledge, rather than trying to develop my own. After all, I guess the people who are quoted had to do that for themselves, and they are the ones people listen to. So, why not me? I am nobody, you may say. I haven’t gone to this university or that, or written for twenty years on one particular narrow avenue of knowledge, so my opinion is not as important as those who have.
Well, if that is the case, where and when do we recognize any value in an original idea? Those who have reached the lofty heights of recognition for their work probably have the same thoughts about their subject when they become famous as when they started out. The ideas don’t change, but the environment around them does. So what started out as novel, idiotic, controversial, fringe or quirky eventually found its way to respect and admiration through the tortuous process of building a consensus.
Most people prefer to follow than lead. It’s safer, and there are more friends in a following. Look at religion, politics, your local football team. The originators – the creative beacons – of whatever you are following are the people who stood outside this mentality. If you always hope to achieve notoriety on the coat-tails of such people, you will never allow your creativity to fly. You’ll be popular, probably, with those who agree with all those whom you refer to and defer to in your borrowed knowledge and expertise, but there will be an emptiness in it, surely, knowing that you haven’t truly realized your own potential.
As they say, it takes great courage to express one single creative thought, because when you do, you are in a minority of one.