Finally figuring out that you’re abnormal is akin to coming home from work and realizing that your shirt was on backwards the entire day, you wonder how many other people noticed it and didn’t say anything. I get that same feeling when I figure out that something I thought was totally normal and that everyone did was actually something that only a very few people possessed.

When I was small, I always imagined there was another me, floating roughly 3 feet behind me and above my head, looking down on me. This wasn’t an imaginary friend or an out of body experience or anything like that, it was just the part of me that lived outside of my body and could observe the world from a different perspective. The inside me would be worried about how I was feeling and my own emotional reactions but the outside me was completely indifferent to my well being and was the hyper-logical, hyper-rational being who would crunch the numbers and present the truth in an impersonal manner. Inside me and outside me would argue a lot and outside me would never win but I would at least respect his opinions. It took me until I was maybe 17 or 18 before I realized that the reason why my appeals to the outside them was not working for most people was because their outside them didn’t exist and they were unable to consider an argument from anything but a personal perspective. Because I had an outside me, I thought everyone else must have an outside them as well.

One recent skill I finally figured out not many people had is the ability to learn about a subject without subscribing to the orthodox view and it took me the recent financial crisis to hammer that home to me. When I first learned economics, I came into it enthusiastic but well aware of it’s limitations and simplifications. Surely, if I could see how economics was limiting from a high school class, these professionals with their fancy educations must be very well versed in just what the flaws and deficiencies in their subject was. It wasn’t until this crisis hit that it finally hit home to me the level of intellectual shallowness and mindlessness most economic professionals were operating under. Sure, they knew the theory and how to apply it but they also believed that, because they knew it, it was true.

Knowing that you have a skill is useful but finding out that other people don’t have that skill is infinitely more powerful because it makes you unique. However, finding such things out generally requires a jolt out of your normal circumstances. I’m really curious to see if any other people have stories about discovering unusual abilities?

  • http://michaelkeenan.blogspot.com Michael

    >the level of intellectual shallowness and mindlessness most economic professionals were operating under. Sure, they knew the theory and how to apply it but they also believed that, because they knew it, it was true.

    This is an interesting and controversial claim. This post would be more persuasive if this part was explored further. Maybe you could write a post all about that? I found you from Hacker News, so I’m sure you’re aware of Paul Graham’s Disagreement Hierarchy. I hope you find some quotes from some economists to refute, and it would especially useful if you could differentiate by each school of macroeconomics.

  • http://www.bumblebeelabs.com Hang

    Michael, I spent quite some time trying to generate a response to this until I realized I already wrote one: http://blog.figuringshitout.com/nov-10th-day-28-the-crisis-in-economics

    I’m going to devote a couple of future articles to “things I had to unlearn about economics” but that post is a good summary of my position.

  • Cory Bridwell

    Wow. I don’t comment on anything, ever. But, I had to reply to this. So you’re trying to convince me other people don’t actually think like that? I’ve tried really hard to convince myself what you’re saying isn’t true… but.. Does that mean no one will ever understand what I’m trying to tell them? We must discuss..

  • travis

    I feel the same EXACT way. My question is through what occupations can I apply this to the real world?