THREE UNSERIOUSLY SINCERE IDEAS
I HAVE A STRONG OPINION ABOUT OPINIONS
Oh. It’s that time of month again. Not my period, that was last week and it went well thanks. What I’m talking about is the time of month I promised you (read: promised me) that I’d send another one of these newsletters with Three Unseriously Sincere Ideas.
Last time I actually called it Three Uncomfortable Ideas (thanks for paying attention), but I do change my mind a lot. Get used to it.
I said I’d send it out on the 16th of each month and it’s the 16th of this month right now, as I write the dang thing. I’m actually suffering from an unpleasant internal tension that can only be resolved by finishing it or faking my own abduction so everyone is like “ohhh, she was abducted… well that explains why we didn’t get the newsletter on the 16th like she promised”. But I already told my boyfriend I was excited to see him when he returns from work, so going missing today would be awkward.
Let’s kick off, shall we.
1. I HAVE A STRONG OPINION ABOUT OPINIONS
“Having a strong opinion is important, but you have to know what to do with it.”
I found these words to be of great use to me the other day when I decided I had a strong opinion about having a strong opinion.
In some circles a lack of strong opinion will mark you an uneducated bonehead. In others, too much strong opinion will mark you a right pain in the neck. Some people get it just right, and they might be your best friend. But I do wonder about the people who are full of strong opinions but are well aware of the fact that they’re not trained in the art of expressing a strong opinion.
The quote above was actually pulled directly from my very own mouth in response to my boyfriend saying it was important to have a strong opinion. He said that my response was profound and so I wrote it down and made sure I put it on the internet today so I could be talent scouted by the Profound Poachers more easily.
It was the first time we had agreed on something during our healthy debate that morning, so we had healthy pancakes for breakfast and then got on with 2020. However, my wondering about the untrained opinionated-oids of the earth continued past the pancakes and into today.
You see, the guy I go steady with has many, many opinions, which he is happy to fill your ears with if you ask. He has a particular penchant for philosophy, psychology, technology, politics and other stuff you might roll your eyes at if you like Jerry Springer. This intellectual curiosity, in conjunction with his charisma, composure and ability to draw on facts like they live on the tip of his tongue, makes him a hard egg to debate with. The only time I ever really feel sure of my superior knowledge is when we discuss what constitutes a healthy pancake.
He is confident in his ideas and over the years he has sharpened his skills with his ability to express them. He was doing this while I was slutting my attention out all over the place, probably dating hippies or getting naked for art. I struggle to pay attention to big chunks of information and I really struggle to retain them. And so while I have strong opinions about many things – the environment, food waste, animal welfare, equality, to name a few – I’m learning that I’m nowhere near well enough immersed in the data to start standing on a soapbox.
What 2020 has highlighted me to more than ever before is just how dangerous highly opinionated people who are not trained in the art of delivering opinions can be.
The problem is that while we are all entitled to our own opinions, most of us get around driven by emotion and our own cognitive biases, which means we choose from what the media presents us and run with whatever feels like the truth, instead of actually getting out and doing the research to discover what is the truth. And when handed the FREE amplification tool that is social media. Well, you get 2020.
My opinion about having an opinion is that opinions are like weapons and you should not handle them if a) you’re untrained, and b) if you’re busting to go pee. If untrained, you’re just likely going to cause mass destruction by blasting more people with your fake news. And if you need to pee, you’re going to let them out thoughtlessly, in a hurry, much like this newsletter. Do as I say, not as I do.
One last piece of advice to wrap up this falafel of an Unseriously Sincere Idea, is always be prepared to have holes poked into your opinions like the block of Swiss Cheese they really are. Even if you are the most well-informed, know-it-all, pain-in-the-neck of them all, your opinion is still just an opinion. Opinions can be based on facts, but they are also only interpretations of facts. And sometimes, dear reader, other people’s interpretations of the same facts might have less holes, or simply be less destructive than yours. It can be uncomfortable to shift perspectives and consider looking at things from a different light, but this is one of the best ways to grow, you little cheese maker.
2. WE’RE HERE NOW, MIGHT AS WELL PAY ATTENTION
*Walks out of room and rattles around doing nothing important for 20 minutes before realising my attention pulled another doozy*
Sorry, I’m back. Let’s talk about Attention.
The last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to convince anyone who will listen that I either have some level of an attention deficit or – combined with my unique ability to unintentionally make every social interaction awkward – that I’m somewhere on the spectrum. My friend with the most credibility on the matter said, if anything, I could have Asperger syndrome. But even then it was pretty unlikely and I was more likely just an everyday bozo who gets bored easily and needs to learn to read the room better.
My dad saw how disappointed I was about having standard abilities to function in society and said, ‘Don’t worry, Jess. We’ll find something wrong with you.”
I don’t think I’m more unique or special or more of a victim of my quirkiness than anyone else, I just want something to explain why I always got in trouble for daydreaming in kindergarten and have lived in a heightened state of neuroticism as an adult. I really struggle to keep my attention on anything if it isn’t stimulating my senses to a certain standard, and I’ve used the last few hours of an entire month to write this because I’ve been jumping between about a million other unfinished endeavours. Oh, and I had a wee holiday by the seaside. That caught my attention.
Anyway, I watched this TEDx Talk on Attention recently. It’s given by this guy diagnosed with ADHD, who has pimped out his attention onto a million different things his whole life but considers himself to be as well-rounded as the more conservative folks who don’t let their attention date before marriage. He states – and I really like this – that he doesn’t have an attention disorder, he has an attention difference.
An attention difference is inconvenient because it’s near impossible to focus on things that aren’t stimulating enough for ya busy mind. But it’s super great in that it inspires you to try out lots of different things to find one that floats your brain’s goat.
I haven’t been diagnosed with anything but I can relate to an attention difference. I struggle to read a text book and listen to simple instructions, but I can happily say I have varied experiences in film and TV, writing for advertising, writing for marketing, strategic marketing, print marketing, social media, travel, travel writer, freelance writer, comedy writing, stand-up comedy, blogging, workshop creator, improv, acting, self-help… over the years I have also worked in hospitality, been a corporate receptionist, landscaped, picked grapes, cleaned houses, painted houses. I’ve not been great at it all because sometimes it was booorrring, but I had a crack and I learnt a lot.
Point is, this attention difference idea is a helpful revelation for those of us who sometimes feel they’re like generally all over the bloody place. We feel like our attention needs its hand held when it crosses traffic and we always have to chase it down the street to bring it in for dinner, but it doesn’t mean our attention can’t sit down and play the tin whistle for hours if it has a good time doing it.
Aside from the fact that more of society needs to start looking at ADHD in children as something to embrace and cater for, rather than fix or sedate, there’s also a lot to learn from all the sorts of differences in attention that there are in the world.
Because people who do and experience lots of things gain a tremendous advantage on being able to see the world through the lens of a greater number of people. And seeing the world through the lens of a greater number of people makes a person overall less of a prick to be around. It also widens your comfort zone, which is an ever moving and evolving thing, that gets expanded and stretched, but will shrink back to boring if left doing just one thing for too long.
Today you tried the tin whistle in your bedroom, tomorrow you’re at band camp with a flute. What instrument will you be playing next week? Keep testing, trying, playing, stretching, putting things where they’re not meant to go. You’ll be alright, kid.
3. I KNOW YOU’RE BIASED, YOU SAID YOU’RE BIASED, SO WHAT AM I?
I’m biased too!
Look, I’ll keep this short. It’s been a big few minutes and I’m sure everyone is ready to close this email and call it a day. But because I mentioned how bias we all are back there, I’m going to (briefly! okay!) elaborate on it here.
We’re all incredibly biased in our beliefs. This is because when presented with the same piece of information or visual stimulant, we’re all unconsciously paying attention to slightly different details which build our individual interpretations. If I’ve only ever had sexy times with hot blondes in my life and you’ve only had drab conversations with them, we are both going to see the same picture of a pool full of blondes and I’m going to think the blondes look like they’re having (more) fun and you’re going to think the party looks like it would have the dumbest of the dumbest poolside chat.
This is what psychologists call cognitive biases and they stop us from being objective and influence our reasoning without us being aware. Your perceptions of the world, how you see it, what you pay attention to, is all based around the experiences you’ve had and your own self-interest.
And this is why your comfort zone looks very different to the next person’s, what each of us perceive to be a threat to our comfort and safety varies between us because we’re all individually tuned in to different things in any given situation. Cognitive biases create the invisible barriers of each of our comfort zones because we look at every situation that scares us and focus on the scary stuff we’re “pre-programmed” to see. More often than not ignoring the opportunities that the discomfort might present. Self-awareness is key here, but that’s a story for another day.
Alright, I’ve gotta bounce. If you’d like to talk about any of this further, I would too. Hit me back. But for now…
Over and out chicos.
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You can view past monthly write-ups of unseriously sincere ideas here.