Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Success in one area does not mean success everywhere

I read this article about Bill Gates remarks to Harvard graduates and was stunned by the mans ignorance of economics. But, I really shouldn't be. Just because people are successful in one area of their lives does not mean they know anything about other aspects of life.

I work with PhD's all day long and at first I gave their opinions high weight because of their expertise in one field. But after a few years I came to learn that though they may be brilliant Chemists or Physicists, that doesn't mean they know anything in unrelated fields. In fact, I am convinced that the more specialized a person is in one field of knowledge, often the less they seem to know in other fields. Bill Gates may have been brilliant in building a business, but only recently learned that he better get his company involved in politics and lobby's if they are going to be successful. His ideas to save the world sound great to a Marxist, but someone has to make the money first - you just can't print the stuff.

People can become millionaires but have trouble their whole lives controlling their weight (Oprah and Rush Limbaugh). Many of us can keep our weight under control but screw up our finances. Very successful athletes routinely blow millions that they earn and many die poor. How many CEO's do you hear about that can't stay married?

Most of the population gives too much credence to people with no credibility in the field they are speaking of just because they are successful in other fields. Movie stars routinely get accorded great respect for their views on global warming, yet most are barely intelligent in matters of science (ditto to Al Gore).

So, the lesson to learn is that you should not feel like a failure if you are not successful in every aspect of your life. And second, don't give too much credence to the opinions of people if they have no direct experience in the field they are proselytising on.

Update: After I wrote this post I read a post by Steve Pavlina How Your Mind Really Works. I was struck by what he said about how to become dumber. This fits my view exactly that people that specialize seem to be stupid in so many other areas. The routine of being focused on one area seems to decrease intelligence. A very insightful post by Steve.

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