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On Confidence

January 31, 2017

There is such a thing as KNOWING you are right. This is not to be confused with BELIEVING you are right.

This seems to beg the question, “Right about what?” but I do not.

In every aspect of life that has some consequence, we are bound to consider the various paths of action, and having done so, choose one. In private life, in private decisions, the result of having chosen this path or that will have limited consequence. You gamble and win, you win; you gamble and lose, YOU lose. You risk your family’s fortunes and lose, you ALL lose.

It’s a different order of risk for generals and heads of state to rush forward on ill-considered paths, courses set by political obligations set in motion by the promises of an earlier campaign. A wrong decision dooms not the individual, but the nation, sometimes the world.

This is where KNOWING and BELIEVING part ways.

Mark Twain has a little parable about this, at the end of Chapter XIII of “Life on the Mississippi.” It’s about the responsibility that shipping pilots have, to the boats they are guiding, and everyone and everything on them. About not allowing yourself to be led astray from the path that you know is the right path by the voices all around you telling you to go this way or that.

It’s about knowing the right thing to do.

Not everyone seems to understand the distinction.

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