Intellectual Humility - Deepstash

Intellectual Humility

During Jeff Bezos's tenure as CEO of Amazon, what was the number one quality he looked for when hiring people? Hard work and past accomplishments certainly mattered. But when the then-Amazon boss spoke at Basecamp he stressed another quality as most important: intellectual humility .

Bezos has "observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they'd already solved. They're open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking”.

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Both EQ and IQ are important for success. This skill underpins both, research shows.

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So how can we temper our natural human tendency toward overconfidence and nudge ourselves to be a little more humble about the limits of our knowledge? Leary uses logic to try to talk people around to a little more humility.

"People must see that approaching the world in a more intellectually humble fashion is both rational and beneficial," he writes. "Intellectual humility is rational in the sense that we can't all be right in most of our disagreements, we are often irrationally overconfident, and the evidence on which our beliefs and viewpoints are based is often rather flimsy.”

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To reach your maximum potential you need to be willing to learn and improve, and that necessarily entails admitting you don't already have all the answers.

However, it's a well-established fact in psychology that humans in general are actually pretty bad at intellectual humility. As Duke University psychology professor Mark Leary recently explained on UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center , this makes intellectual humility a powerful advantage in reaching your goals in life.

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In the course of this deep dive into the subject, Leary outlines a heap of research on the benefits of intellectual humility. "One of our studies showed that people high in intellectual humility were more attentive to the quality of the evidence in an article about the value of dental flossing, more clearly distinguishing good from bad reasons to floss," he writes.

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Intellectual humility therefore makes sense and is beneficial. And of course, Intellectual pride doesn't make sense and is detrimental. If we are rational beings, we should naturally pursue what’s beneficial. So, why would rational people be as sure of themselves as most of us are?

It's a pretty compelling argument for taking a long, hard look at whether you're as open to new information and ideas as you should be. And if it helps you can also remind yourself that this quality will certainly help you get a job with Jeff Bezos too.

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Other studies show the intellectually humble give more careful consideration to evidence that contradicts their views and end up with a better understanding of those they disagree with (which can't hurt when it comes to empathy, persuasion, and negotiating compromises ). They're also better at eliciting creative and varied ideas from others.

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"Intellectual humility is also associated with the desire to learn new information. People who are high in intellectual humility score higher in epistemic curiosity , which is the motivation to pursue new knowledge and ideas," Leary adds. "People higher in intellectual humility like to think more than people low in intellectual humility do."

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Intellectual humility might not be the most discussed trait, but research shows it's an essential precursor to almost any kind of excellence.

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On the flip side, those low in intellectual humility are more likely to get emotional with those who disagree with them and are rated as likable by others. They are less likely to compromise and even less likely to end up in satisfying relationships.

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Many motivational speakers have mentioned the three to four hour biological limit of creative work that can be accomplished in a day.

Great polymaths and thinkers highlight this short amount of working hours when the creative juices flow.

Manual labour, which is mostly assembly line work, or mindless administrative chores like creating reports can be done for far longer.

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Action Beats Deliberation
  • Careers are long. There's no need for a mad rush to find the ideal job. The first part of your career is about testing multiple jobs and understanding what you like/dislike and are good and bad at.
  • Don't spend so much time planning and researching the perfect career path -- you don't know what 'work' is yet anyway. Aggressively explore all options that seem interesting, learn, iterate, and you'll arrive to the 'perfect path' much faster.
  • Simply start. Don't wait to 'know more', don't wait for the perfect job, don't wait to know what you want to do before you even start.

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"What ties did you break this week?"

What this means is you can't convince every single person so in order to achieve the goal you need to achieve to convince the target people instead of trying to convince every single person.

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