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Are You Curious About Your Competence?

The other day a potential future rock-star, 6-year old drummer girl asked me a great question.

“How do I know whether I’m good enough yet?”

It also wasn’t an easy question to answer because we all wonder, from time to time, whether we question our competence too much or not enough. Are we not yet good enough or are we so good that, comparatively, others suck?


Sexy mind science can be embarrassing when it comes to humans and our competence. For example, it’s cringe-worthy to learn that the majority of Americans think we are smarter than the average American. Science rudely (and consistently) slams us by showing that we tend to mis-calibrate  (overrate) our knowledge and competence in the opposite direction that we mis-calibrate (underrate) the knowledge and competence of others. More specifically, our over-estimation of our own competence and under-estimation of others’ competence is amplified the less we actually know about something. The more unskilled we are, the more skilled we think we are…relatively. Yikes. This cognitive bias is called illusory superiority or the Dunning-Kruger effect (not entirely unrelated to the Freddie Kruger effect when you really think about it).

Does knowing about this Dunning-Kruger effect, influence your self-confidence?

Let’s assess.

  • In work and in life, are you good at finding solutions to problems?
  • Are you a good puzzle solver?
  • Rate yourself on an official scale of Dimwit…to Dazzling.

How about testing yourself on this olde timey riddle: 

A man was looking at a portrait. Someone asked him, “Whose picture are you looking at?” He replied, “Brothers and sister I have none, but this man’s father is my father’s son.” (“This man’s father” means the father of the man in the picture.)
Whose picture was the man looking at?

  • Feel free to write your answer in the comment section. 
  • How sure of your answer are you?

I’m not sure if the six-year old drummer girl’s question was easier or harder than ye olde timey riddle because before I could answer her, a teenager drummer guy, who had overheard her question, turned to her and answered,

“Ya always gotta wonder.”

Preach. Ya always gotta wonder. Being curious, about our success and failures and the successes and failures of others, may be better than knowing if we’re really good enough yet. This curiosity may be the reason that eventually we’re good enough to more accurately calibrate just how good we are.


Subscribing to this blog (over there, out of your way, & hiding on the side–>) will keep you informed of the  amazing Living Curiously Project in deep development. Also, it won’t bother you, but it does have a good chance of making all of your wildest dreams come true-ish…and giving you the answer to that riddle.

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