The blunt object of limited information

Last week, I read the greater part of How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, a gift from a friend. It confirmed a couple of things I’ve suspected for a while:

  1. Intuition is simply a subconscious processing of information we’ve been gathering all the while, not some magic to fear.
  2. Far from the conventional wisdom that decision-making becomes more and more reliable the better able we are to remove emotion, emotion is actually a critical – an absolutely essential – component of the decision making process.

And then my mom found articles about Lehrer getting busted fabricating quotes in his next book, Imagine.

As you might imagine, that kind of journalistic fail has led me to doubt what I’m reading in How We Decide. And yet my doubt reminds me of a hike my sweetheart and I took back in December.

We walked along a creek bank until we found a stout tree that had fallen across the water. We scootched out onto it to eat the clementines we carried in our pockets, enjoying the sound and view of the water flowing under us. At some point, she looked up and noticed another stout branch, this one broken from its tree of origin and dangling over us, held only in the cradle of a couple of other branches.

We were in no more danger after realizing we were sitting under a large, blunt object than we were before. And yet our sense of danger increased significantly.

We are consistently working from incomplete information, whether the chinks in the informational armor come from purposefully incomplete or altered sharing or because so much information simply hasn’t been discovered yet.

Any sense of certainty that we have of owning full, inerrant Truth is, well, arrogant.

And yet if we focus on the imperfection of our available information – if we focus on the branch dangling over us – then we risk becoming paralyzed; we miss the opportunity to do our best with what we have.

We scootched back off the log and kept hiking, leaving the clementine peels for the critters.

Each day our greatest opportunities lie in taking steps, looking around, evaluating, adjusting, and then taking more steps. One imperfect step after another.

Happy trails to you.