Reflections: The Drawbacks of Too Much Confidence

In my whole career I’ve been passing men with greater bravado and confidence. Confidence gets you off to a fast start. Confidence gets you that first job and maybe the next two promotions. But confidence stops you from learning. Confidence becomes a caricature after a while. I can’t tell you how many confident blowhards I’ve seen in my coaching career who never got better after the age of forty.”

– Super Bowl winning coach Bill Walsh, quoted from Rich Karlgaard’s book Late Bloomers

Three Things That Will Make You Smarter Than Your Friend

How much do you know about your world? Here are 3 things many people claim to know, followed by some important facts on each topic that will instantly make you smarter. Read through each one and make a mental checkmark next to each item you already knew to be true:

  1. Humans use less than 10% of their brain.

  2. The AIDS virus originated in Africa when someone had sex with a monkey.

  3. The fashion designer Tommy Hilfinger said he wished black people wouldn’t wear his clothes because it tainted his brand, causing Oprah to kick him off her show.

So, how many of these bits of wisdom were you already aware of? Better yet, how many of these items do you accept as true? If you said zero, congratulations: This is becaure each and every widely accepter “fact” we just listed was in actuality completely false – a cultural myth that has been told and retold again until enough people believe it to make it seem true. In actuality . . .

The idea that humans use only 10% of their brains.

This myth is so often repeated that you’ll commonly find it given as a “fact” all over news and radio shows. In reality, humans utilize all of their brain capacity. This myth started because examinations of the brain revealed that only around 10% of it is composed of neurons, whereas the other 90% of brain matter consists of glial cells. Neurons are what transmit electrical signals and seem to encode information, whereas the purpose of glial cells was largely unknown at the time. (Though still somewhat mysterious, science has since discovered some of the roles these cells play.) Yet journalists who didn’t understand the discovery misread the finding to mean that humans only use a fraction of their brain potential. It’s also a somewhat comforting myth – implying that we’re all geniuses just waiting to be turned up to full capacity – which is probably why it spread like wildfire.

On the origin of AIDS.

HIV did indeed originate in Africa and come from monkeys, but not because someone had sex with one. Rather, hungry people who needed to feed their families frequently butchered bush meat, providing regular contact with the raw blood of monkeys, which facilitated the jump from monkeys, which facilitated the jump from monkeys to humans. SIV, the ape version of the virus, has been around in monkeys for at least several thousand years – long enough that it is rarely deadly anymore for primates. Yet you’ll encounter scores of people who believe the monkey sex tale, probably because it makes for a more interesting story.

Oprah versus Tommy Hilfinger.

Oprah did indeed kick Tommy Hiflinger off her show, but not because he actually said such things. Oprah is just a gullible woman, who, being the queen of gossip,foolishly believes everything she hears. The alleged insult never happened . . . it was an internet rumor.

The true test of wisdom.

If you did poorly on this quiz, don’t feel bad. Just about everyone who reads this article will have been fooled into believing at least one of these myths. The real test of intelligence is not about whether or not you already knew these things, but rather, how you use this newfound information going forward.

The point of this exercise was to illustrate a simple fact: Much of what we believe to be true comes to us from haphazard or misleading sources, and can turn out to be utterly and completely wrong. And if these assumptions about something (or someone) can be so wrong, so are the conclusions we all form on a regular regarding the world we live in.

The reality is that there are thousands upon thousands of assumptions we all make in our everyday lives which are just as erroneous as these “facts” listed here. That brings us to the true measure of intelligence: Having the wisdom to know that there are many things you don’t know that might alter your perspective if you did, and that many of those things you assume to be true may not in fact be correct. This realization is far more important for intelligent thinking than any particular fact, and will put you one step ahead of almost everyone else you meet.

Resource box:

You can learn more about how knowledge alters perspective, ( link to section in psychology of healing book) and discover how this plays a role in the turmoil and suffering we all experience in our lives, by visiting our website. You’ll also find many other free family guidance resources (link to website) that will help your family through difficult situations in life. Also, visit our blog for interesting news items about kids.


Misinformation, perception, cultural myths, knowledge and world perspective, truth versus myth, life wisdom, public ignorance,


What we know (or think we know) about the world influences that way we view things. Read this article to test your own knowledge, and you just might come away with newfound wisdom that will serve you well in everyday life.

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