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My Definition of Dumb

Recently I had a conversation with my wife about an annoying person. All of sudden in eureka like
excitement I exclaimed that that person was "flat out dumb." At first we were both stunned by my overly simplistic description, but as I thought more and more about it, what I said did actually make some sense.

By dumb I don't mean someone who is deficient in IQ or basic cognitive ability. Some of the dumbest people that I know have PhD's and are wealthy. What I mean by dumb... (drum roll please) is a person who lacks self-awareness so much so that he/she makes the same mistakes over and over again.  Alcoholics Anonymous have a saying that goes something like this: insanity is doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results.

Let me illustrate with some examples:


  • "Dumb" is that boss who keeps yelling at his staff and wonders why productivity and morale is so low. 
  • "Dumb" is that person who keeps saying yes to their child the wonders why they are spoiled. 
  • "Dumb" is that woman who keeps looking for Mr Right in a bar and complains that all she finds are drunks.
  • "Dumb" is that person who keeps getting taken advantage of and wonders why they are always angry.
  • "Dumb" is that person who enables a drug addict or alcoholic over and over again the wonders why they are not getting better.
  • "Dumb" is that person who always wants to be the center of attention wonders why they don't have any friends.  

 In all of these examples a person is dumb not because of educational experience but because of a basic lack of self awareness which is manifested through making the same mistakes over and over again.

So what is the antidote or cure to being dumb?

1) Self awareness. A person needs to examine their life everyday. A good way to do this is by journaling, asking such questions as how could I have done this better? Am I getting the desired result?  Another helpful way to develop self awareness is through soliciting honest feedback from friends and family.

2) Humility. Through self awareness one develops honesty which in turn turns into humility. Humility is simply the ability to see the truth in all circumstances.

3) Change your behavior. If through self awareness you learn that you are doing something wrong promptly admit it and then change the action. Remember it  is OK to be wrong, but it is not OK to be wrong and not to admit it.

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