Why You Need to Be an Idiot (Sometimes)


Okay, maybe “idiot” isn’t the right word.

Maybe “naïve” is the word I should use.

Actually, what I really mean is: you need to practice using what I call “targeted naivety.”

Why? Because it will help you be open minded and innovative. Targeted naivety is what open minded and innovative people already do.

Targeted naivety means you leave your assumptions, insecurities, and other mental/emotional baggage at the door. It means meeting situations with a mindset fueled by positivity, cooperation, and confidence. Whether it’s having an important conversation or trying to solve a problem, you should meet challenges open to possibilities and willing to set your imagination free.

Targeted naivety is a choice to turn off your preconceived notions
for a specific purpose, for a specific period of time, when you need to be at your most creative and at peak problem-solving performance. It’s a “psychic muscle” to flex, a heroic power you can learn to use.

Targeted naivety can be turned on and off as needed. After all, we don’t want you walking around naïve all the time. You might assume a mugger is trying to make friends, for instance.

No, don’t be naïve all the time. Be naïve when you need to have a flexible mind, so you can do all that “out of the box” thinking business coaches are always talking about.

Sounds easy and obvious, right? Perhaps not as easy or obvious as you might think, thanks to pesky societal and interpersonal pressures.

Idiots and Innovation

There’s been much hand-wringing and pontificating about how innovation is declining.

Why could this be?

Maybe it’s because we’re becoming too risk-averse. If you don’t take risks, how can you innovate? Risk is inherent in innovation: by trying something new, you’re going beyond what has been tried before. That’s risky.

Idiots, uh, I mean those who use targeted naivety don’t fall prey to risk aversion. They’re naïve. They don’t know what they’re doing is risky.

Therefore, be an idiot if you want to innovate.

Idiots and Failure

Have you heard of this thing called “fail shaming”? It’s a phenomenon stemming from insecure people making fun of people who don’t succeed at something.

Many of us have forgotten that failure is one side of a coin that has success on the other side. You need to keep flipping that coin if you want to eventually land on the success side.

When we forget that failure is the path to success and develop low self-esteem, we can easily become critical of others to make ourselves feel better.

Idiots, er, I mean those who use targeted naivety don’t know they’re “failing.” They’re naïve. They just do things they’re passionate about, and if it doesn’t work then they try something else. They don’t waste time worrying who is watching, what other people are thinking, or listen to the inner critic.

So, be an idiot and don’t worry about failure.

Who’s Really the Idiot?

Unfortunately, if you use targeted naivety, some people will think you’re an idiot.

Sometimes they’ll think (or tell you directly) that your questions are stupid.

Sometimes they’ll tell you “that’s already been tried,” as if you can only try a solution once and never again.

You will be judged. Mocked. Heck, you may even be vilified.

But you won’t get the joke, or that they’re making fun of you. Because you’re an idiot. I mean, you’re using your targeted naivety. That means you’re too busy being creative and open-minded to let them get under your skin.

Not to mention that people will be jealous of your idiot freedom. Because idiots, like court jesters, can say and do what others can’t or won’t due to fear.

Idiots have a growth mindset. They’re still able to learn. They know their self-worth comes from within, not from the approval of others.

So, when you think about it, who’s really the idiot? Maybe, just maybe, it’s not you after all.

If you enjoyed this post, please comment and share stories of how you use targeted naivety. If you think someone might benefit from this post, share it with them!

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Author: Anthony Simeone

I'm a writer, speaker, and an advocate for everyday heroism. I have over two decades of experience in the practical application of literature, philosophy, psychology, and other disciplines. The culmination of my work is the Live the Hero program, a life philosophy that promotes personal development combined with service to others. Live the Hero combines the wisdom found in the arts and humanities with the latest discoveries related to research in heroism science and positive psychology. You can learn more at livethehero.com.

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