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The Naivete of Certainty

By Fred Treuhaft  |  Jan 24, 2016

Recently, my buddy Mike and I were chest deep in the beautiful turquoise waters of Turks and Caicos.    It was an absolutely beautiful, sunny day.   The water was warm, the waves were slowly rolling past us.   It was the kind of day and activity where you reflect on life.   Mike asked me a question that I am sure all of us have thought about many times throughout our lives.   “Fred, what if we would have known then, what we know now?”

How many times have you thought of that question?    Think of the times you exclaimed,  What was I thinking?  How could I have been thinking that? What a goof!   

It is normal to remember when you blunder, said something silly or offensive,  made the wrong decision or a variety of other miscues.    It sure would be nice if our memories were as vivid when none of these  happened, but, that is not how we think.   Positive and normalcy rarely sticks with us like the goofs.  So, we have to live with these ugly memories far too long.

Wouldn’t it then be wonderful if everything we did, every conclusion we made, ever action we took was perfect?   That each led to the best possible outcome?     It reminds me of one of my favorite stories from the parody site, The Onion.


In this fictional commentary, the author, a Mr. Edwin Wiersbicki, remarks how much he knows and how right he always is.   Keep in mind, this is a parody article, but, reading it again, it reminds me how right I have thought I have been over the years.   Right or just plain naive?    The absoluteness of wrong!

I had a client several years ago that when asked about something, she often replied, “I am 100% certain of this”.   100%?   All the time?   Perhaps 90%, 50%?   I am guessing 25% may have been the appropriate response given her track record.   It was Benjamin Franklin who said “..the only thing that is certain is death and taxes”.   How could she be so absolutely correct, 100%, all the time?

All of us need to make decisions or come to a conclusion.   We need to have confidence in our thinking and express this confidence to others.   But, what happens when we are wrong or situations change?    Are we flexible and nimble changing course, or do we stay stubbornly on course leading to the wrong result?

Some thoughts on improving the results you seek:

–Set a time frame for making decisions.   Analyzing forever often is worse then making the wrong decision.

–Seek diverse input.    Listening to only those who agree does little for making the right conclusions.

–Be open minded and humble when wrong.   Quickly making the right decision after a wrong one is the next best thing.

As I reflect on my past, perhaps my post’s title should be The Certainty of Naivete.   I have learned  from all this naivete,  allowing me to grow, develop and improve my chances of coming up with correct conclusions and appropriate decisions.

Do you reflect on your past conclusions and decisions?   Have you learned from your mistakes and naivete?    How about sharing so others can learn also?   While we all can’t be 100%, perhaps we can collectively raise the odds.

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