Unskilled and Unaware Of It

My first time on the mat was enlightening. After clumsily drilling some jiujitsu technique, we were allowed to spar. I was paired up with a cauliflower-eared guy just shy of 150 lbs. I thought to myself, “I’ve got 60 lbs. on this guy and am a helluva lot stronger. I better take it easy on him so I don’t hurt him and look like a jerk.”

Any of you that train jiujitsu know what happened next (my ass was handed to me). Before my “armbar/triangle choke/leg lock-induced enlightenment,” however, my understanding of what makes a good fighter was similar to most of society’s understanding.

I was suffering from the Dunning-Kruger Effect. I was unskilled and unaware of it. The Dunning-Kruger Effect, as explained by the always trusty Wikipedia, states:
“Dunning and Kruger proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:
1) tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
2) fail to recognize genuine skill in others; and
3) fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
Put more crudely, they’re too stupid to realize they’re stupid.”

This concept, unfortunately, is pervasive in our society. Try this: Randomly ask ten people if they are good drivers, and those ten will all tell you they are GREAT drivers. Ask ten people if they think they are funny, and all ten people will tell you they have a GREAT sense of humor. This is statistically impossible. A couple of those people are crappy drivers, and none could make it as a comic.

So, what’s the cure for the Dunning-Kruger Effect? Training. The Dunning-Kruger study showed people recognize how bad they suck if they are given some training in that skill. Unfortunately, it seems most people are content to assume they are awesome from a distance without ever actually trying, failing, trying, failing, etc. Long story short, don’t be that guy. Think you could be good at something but haven’t actually tried it? Prove it!

“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”
-Bertrand Russell

Some media examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect (strong language warning/Not Safe For Work):


7 thoughts on “Unskilled and Unaware Of It

  1. Pingback: December 16, 2013 | BJJ News

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