The Daily Stoic for April 9th. “Test your impressions”.

“From the very beginning, make it your practice to say to every harsh impression, ‘you are an impression and not at all what you appear to be.’ Next, examine and test it by the rules you possess, the first and greatest of which is this—whether it belongs to the things in our control or not in our control, and if the latter, be prepared to respond, ‘It is nothing to me.’”
—EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 1.5

Today’s stoic meditation goes along the lines of Don’t Trust Your Senses. Hence, my opinion is largely the same I expressed at that post. Of course, we shouldn’t blindly follow our instincts. On the contrary, I think we should always apply some healthy level of rational skepticism. However, if your gut is telling you something, listen to it.

Can We Trust Our Senses?

We’re the result of thousands of years of evolution. Our instincts have allowed us to survive for generations. Relatively speaking, we left the jungle a second ago.

Ryan Holiday affirms in today’s stoic:

“These approaches to decision making contradict voluminous case studies in which people’s instincts have led them right into trouble. Our senses are wrong all the time!”

Nonetheless, he does not cite any source for those case studies. And actually, being interested in psychology, the ones I’ve read for years appear to say otherwise. [1], [2], [3] and [4].

All those studies seem to emphasize that, contrary to what we could imagine, intuition works best in scenarios where you have experience. Our unconscious mind and our senses capture so much information that goes unnoticed by our conscious mind.

Trust Your Gut, But Test Your Impressions

Does that mean that we should follow our impulses and trust only our instincts? Of course not.

Business is a classical example where you need to apply both approaches. In my experience, all theory about starting a business simply does not work. This “find a market and then look for a problem that needs a solution” is just not enough anymore.

But don’t believe me, try it yourself. Choose a market, like pool cleaning, and interview 1000 pool cleaners. Ask them about their problems, find their pain point, and develop a problem for them.

In my experience, you’ll probably find out that none of those 1000 pool cleaners that swore they absolutely needed your product will pay for it once you present it to them. That’s not how things work.

In my humble opinion, what works is knowing a market by spending a lot of time on it. In the previous example, that would mean working with pool cleaners, or offering them non-scalable services, maybe being a pool cleaner yourself.

Then, after some time of being exposed to it, that’s when your intuition starts working. Then, you will start having business ideas. That’s the moment to conduct the appropriate analysis of the situation, and let your reasoning confirm or disregard what your gut is telling you. Probably then, and only probably, you will find a market that has a real need, something that will allow you to grow a thriving business.

But reasoning along won’t get your there.

Conclusion

Today’s Daily Stoic, “Test your impressions”, continue the reflection of “Don’t trust the senses“. My opinion, hence, is quite similar from that other stoic meditation. We need to trust our senses.

Of course, before acting blindly, you should always do a conscious analysis of the situation, and let your reason confirm or disregard what your impressions are telling you. But in today’s world, where almost everything’s been already done, the rational mind alone is not enough anymore.

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