There Are No Certainties

I believe in critical thinking skills.  It is good to be a little skeptical about nearly everything.  I recently articulated the position as, “I trust in God, but everyone else had better bring evidence.”  Not everyone is happy about that. 

Evidence matters and it is in short supply when people project future events, people’s attitudes, or the reasons events occur.  We often assign meaning with an incomplete foundation.  We misunderstand the idea of probability. 

We cannot project the future or even adequately describe the past and present.  It is an interpretation issue.  Here are a few reasons:

  1. Everything is contextual.  If the future context is dissimilar to the past context, past outcome will say nothing about future outcomes.  People adjust.  Old rules don’t work once everyone sees them. When banks were easy to rob, many people did.  You might want to think about index funds as seen from here.  The current wisdom relies on an old context.
  2. Everything is perspective.  Problems and opportunities are different depending on from where you view them.  Be sure your perspective is not overwhelming the available information.  Beware of echo chambers and data mining.  There are many who cannot understand the recent US election because their perspective on society overwhelmed the available evidence.
  3. Education informs, but it also makes things outside your sphere harder to see. Psychologists don’t see people the same way as mathematicians do. Politicians see climate science differently than people who have studied it objectively.
  4. Be cautious about communication.  Some people will emphasize trivia and rely on you to not see the bigger picture.  If you get a twitch that something is off, seek more information.  The, “Is there more I need to know” question should always be there.
  5. No policeman believes history.  At one time or another they interviewed several witnesses to a traffic accident and discovered that their stories have little in common.  Traffic accident description must be easier to establish than the cause of the Russian revolution or the Second World War.  Never assume you know enough to assign purpose to anyone’s actions.

The past is gone and holds incomplete lessons. The present does not last long.  The future is unknowable.  Use your skills to estimate reasons and guess outcomes.  Look for tendencies among the players.  Look for new information. Do not expect things to always work out as you thought.

Recall Damon Runyon’s similar advice.  “The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.” Gamblers work on the balance of probability idea and so should you.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  866-285-7772

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