What is a belief worth?

February 9, 2011 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog

Continuing this post that our access to reality is limited by our senses and our minds can’t comprehend it all, what then do we have in our minds?

We form beliefs or mental models. What is a model? A model is a simplified representation of reality for a purpose. That previous post dealt with the ramifications of models being simplified — that they are all flawed.

If they are all flawed, what use are they? How do we evaluate them? That’s where their being for a purpose comes in.

The only meaningful measure for a model or belief is in how well it serves its purpose. If believing men are from Mars and women are from Venus leads you to have better relationships and a better life, it has value for you. You don’t have to believe it absolutely and you can interpret things as you like.

One of my business school professors told me Jack Welch had a leadership model that said leaders were like gardeners. A gardener doesn’t grow vegetables — he or she chooses fertile ground with good sunshine and rain, chooses seeds, plants them, protects them from pests, and keeps weeds out. The plants grow the vegetables. Likewise a leader doesn’t produce products and services, a leader chooses a good market, finds people, hires them, protects them from bureaucracy and such. They produce the products and services.

This model is patently false — people aren’t plants! — but it’s unarguably successful by any measure relevant to Jack Welch. I suspect Jack Welch believed he was gardening while he was leading. That doesn’t mean he tried to pour water on people during droughts. It means he believed it when it helped and he didn’t when he didn’t.

Most people evaluate beliefs based on how consistent they are with their version of reality. By that measure Jack Welch’s model failed. Far better to achieve your goals than to be right all the time. If you don’t know your goals, learn your values and figure them out (more about that in a later post) — otherwise you can easily work hard and achieve nothing or worse.

Again, the only meaningful measure of a model or belief is how well it achieves its goal.

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1 response to “What is a belief worth?

  1. Pingback: » Goodbye guilt and blame, III Joshua Spodek

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