Why offer an opinion without the experience or expertise to back it up?
Why offer an opinion without the expertise or experience to back it up?
Many of us lack the humility to not offer a strong opinion without first having expertise or experience to back it up. I’m no math whiz. I make no bones about it. I do not have a strong opinion about calculus. I’m also not strong in art critiquing. While I could have strong opinions about specific works of art, I withhold them, for what is that opinion worth?
Perhaps it is because we’re attention starved; maybe it is because we seek to get our two cents in as often as possible despite potentially looking silly; or, we just cannot help but tell people what we think we know, even if it is 100% wrong. Everyone has political opinions. Most of us have opinions on football. All of us have opinions and advice for high school and college graduates. Few of us withhold these for fear of looking bad or uninformed. This is ironic considering that those who consider themselves the most “informed” may be the more uninformed or misinformed. This exacerbates if we’re insecure about our intelligence or what we think we know. We cannot help ourselves.
Examples of this opinion-leaving behavior are legion. People write 1-star reviews of books on Amazon that they haven’t read. People leave negative comments on YouTube videos that they haven’t watched. Politically active elderly tell those in government to keep their damn government hands off of their Medicare. Regular, inaccurate stock market predictions are the rule instead of the exception yet people still desire to hear them, even from people who should not be giving them. Teenagers, too, make stock market predictions only they have difficultly getting onto CNBC.
We have such a hard time admitting that we don’t know and yet that is exactly what we should do if we’re humble (and honest). Experts, in particular, have this difficulty in admitting the unknown. The years of study and experience skew them to offer an opinion, even if it is outside of their domain. For small matters, this is passable. But for large matters, it isn’t. Further, the trouble is they have no skin in the game. Opinions without backing evidence are worthless. Fine, take a side, but have something that backs it up like evidence, stocks, or money.
Opinions and smack-talking happen on the golf course and in the pro shop. There are plenty of weekend golfers who talk a far better game than they actually possess. Sometimes they are tested in the form of skins or prize money won on each hole. Each skin is worth $x per hole. At the end of the round, the player who won the most holes wins those skins, the skin of the game. The loudmouth player from the beginning may have been humbled this round, but at least he was playing for skins. And he’ll be back next weekend, loudmouthing around the pro shop. Some people cannot shut up, even if they lose publicly. Those with humility take their losses valiantly and prepare for the next battle.
Warren Buffett discusses skin in the game in his annual letters to shareholders. He says all business owners and entrepreneurs must have it in order to be aligned with the company direction. Whenever he acquires companies for Berkshire, he not only makes sure the current management stays put to manage the business unit, but he ensures they are financially incentivized to keep on steering the ship with precision, in the fashion he desires. Warren Buffett understands how important skin in the game is. Warren’s investment acumen exhibits that he does the opposite of what most people do when it comes to stock market opinions. He quietly invests his money first, and then only discloses the position when he must in quarterly filings. He likely wouldn’t disclose it if he were not mandated to. Buffett puts his skin in the stock market and doesn’t say anything about it. If you watch CNBC regularly, you know how rare that is.
Professional consultants understand this concept as well. What is more useless and less acted upon than free advice? Anyone offers free advice. What sets the professional consultant aside from everyone else is expertise, experience, and fees. They get paid to offer professional advice, even if the client doesn’t take it or act on it. Yes or no, they still get paid. You would think that the client is far more likely to act on paid advice, but that is not necessarily the case. This is why smart consultants offer clients advice, the How-To manual, and the Done-for-you service levels. The paid advice is merely the beginning.