Chapter 6 – You may be an idiot
This chapter will not be very uplifting. It might be downright depressing. These tasks of yours, which you are procrastinating on, they may be… too hard for you. Some books gloss over this possibility and try to downplay it. I think it’s worth really meditating on. You are not capable of doing everything. You can’t learn everything. You certainly can’t become an expert in everything. You can’t even become competent in everything. More than that, you might just be a dumb person… in general. Accept all the ways in which you are dumb (even if that’s every area.)
I have no insight into the nuances of the nature vs nurture debate. This is only an observation: People can be very dumb. And you may be one of those people (I can be too!), and you may have bitten off more than you can chew with a task or problem. And you will fail at it. And it will be painful. And you will have to take that pain, because you are not capable of doing anything else. You will feel like a dumb, wounded animal, experiencing senseless pain, and that will be an accurate assessment. This is sad. I know. I’m bummed just writing about it.
If you think you are dumb in some (or all) areas, minimize the damage you can do. Don’t try to compete wherever possible in this area. Maybe you are not going to be an astronaut, a doctor, a lawyer, or a scientist. Keep reading books, advance your skills, but really lower your expectations. This should be a relief in a sense. You can’t do it – maybe say that over and over to yourself. You can still be a good person. You can still get the basic things done right. Enjoy yourself. Don’t’ beat yourself up. You have set limits, and you won’t go beyond them.
Feel safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to do everything, that some things are off-limits to you. How would even a dumb person get this task done? How would a complete idiot handle this and make it through? How would I act if I had a brain illness, some proof that I was dumber than others – how then would I act? These are questions you could ask yourself. However, you can be self-aware. And a lot of very intelligent people are not self-aware, and that is their downfall. Humility and self-awareness are assets available to all, and cultivated by few.
Similar to accepting your weaknesses is accepting that this task on which you are procrastinating may well blow up in your face. All your beloved anti-procrastination strategies may fail and you may hit the ground hard. You may lose everything. That 100% could happen. It will suck. And you may be so far along in your procrastination that there’s nothing you can do about it.
The benefit of giving up on yourself in this way is that you preserve the energy that you would have spent on false hope. And you feel a little clearer, more focused on the next whatever you want to do. Call it a failure, a true failure. Drop this ideal image of yourself that you did not live up to. That you is gone, and maybe never existed. You are who you are now. And that will have to do.
False hope is the fuel for procrastination. I’ll do it tomorrow. Once x, y, and z happen, then I’ll do it. It’s not really THAT big of a deal, etc. I could learn x, y, and z in a weekend, once I’m closer to the deadline. Give yourself the gift of giving up. You may only be capable of giving up and letting the worst happen. Nothing is worth torturing yourself over, like this. Yes, people will yell at you. People will attack your character. There may be financial consequences. There may be social consequences. And you’ll know it was dumb to procrastinate. But accept it completely, and know that you couldn’t have done anything differently.
Commit to knowing your weaknesses. Feel the ego pain of accepting your weaknesses. Be like James Bond in Casino Royale where he’s getting tortured and he just chooses to laugh in his torturer’s face, pretending he loves it. Embrace this terrible, terrible situation you’re in. Don’t dance around it, really say to yourself, and mean it: I am dumb about x, y, z. I am really dumb. I am not to be trusted with anything related to x, y, z. It is a truly magnificent feat to be THIS bad in these areas. I must be completely transparent about how truly terrible I am in this area. There are hard limits on your ability. There are no limits on your honesty.
And don’t just pick one area. Let’s be honest – there are probably MANY areas where you are a true, true dummy. Honestly, there may ONLY be one area where you’re halfway competent, and that’s it. The rest… you’re just terrible. Whatever it is, accept it. Own it. Stay well clear of anything related to a dumb area.
Most people overestimate what they know. They might say they know X, when really they just know their own limited experiences with X. People say they know things with no thought to epistemology (theory of knowledge.) Take comfort in the fact that this bad habit is widespread. So if we’re all dumb, then no one is dumb, so don’t worry about it. Does that end this chapter on a high note?