Ray Dalio and his idea meritocracy — ‘Have you earned the right to have an opinion on this topic?’
Within his idea meritocracy, Ray Dalio talks about asking whether you have earned the right to have an opinion on a topic. You should ask yourself this — have you earned it? Have you put in the research miles? Have you done the reps? Have you gathered the data sets? Have you expressed intellectual honesty with yourself on this topic and then expressed your ideas to others (or otherwise remained silent)?
Before you go expressing an opinion on a topic, ask yourself whether you have earned the right to have an opinion on it. One of the things that blows my mind is when people express strong opinions on things which they have zero experience and no expertise in. Why would you do this? What makes you do this?
Why would anyone listen to you on this topic?
When we state we haven’t earned the right to have an opinion on a topic, we’re expressing humility and thusly allowing others — preferably something of value to offer — to have their say. Strong opinions are fine if you can back them up with evidence or data or experience, not necessarily with emotion (but sometimes). Today, we find people expressing strong, vociferous opinions on topics which they have no expertise in. This is the Empty Suit problem as Taleb has discussed and called it throughout the years, and it is only getting worse. They can be young; they can be old. They can be 8 or 88. Unfortunately, there isn’t a good, viable solution. We could pitch humility as a potential cure, but the Empty Suit wants nothing to do with humility. Its value is anathema to him, a sort of allergy. It is against everything he stands for. Besides, even if you provided him a full treatise on humility, he doesn’t have the emotional equipment necessary to understand it.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
— Upton Sinclair
Just to kick things off, here is a list of topics on which I haven’t earned the right — and may never earn the right — to have an opinion on: hockey, soccer, tennis, rugby, crew, What Olympic athletes have to go through to make it, the diets and behaviors of powerlifters and long-distance runners, and anything having to do with automotive repair. I’m simply not there yet, and may never be. Note that I don’t feel slighted at all by admitting these are not strong areas of interest for me. Since they’re not currently strong areas of interest for me, does it not make sense that I should not have strong opinions about them?
I haven’t earned the right to have an opinion on this.
There’s something you don’t hear every day.