The search for remarkable people

And the search for a remarkable life


I’m a recovering awkward person.

That’s Vanessa Van Edwards’ line and I’m totally stealing it.

Actually, she’s one of my heroes I aspire towards because one of the things I’m trying to improve on right now is getting better at social interactions — something I totally suck at (historically and presently), and something she’s world-class at.

As a current-day by-product, I guess that’s why I enjoy writing — I can deliver myself in a complete, controlled and holistic way, rather than gamble on the combination of awkward body language and poor conversational skills that has plagued the majority of my life.

Vanessa is awesome. I identify with her beginnings as an awkward person and her present lessons today are inspiring. Her journey is aspirational, her approach is scientific which makes her believable, she’s super approachable (even though we’ve never met), and her process has proven to be repeatable. She’s a remarkable person.

Believable people

Ray Dalio in his book “Principles” talks about the idea of ’believable people’. In the search for knowledge and in the process of learning, his idea is to seek people who have proven themselves to be repeatedly successful at the thing you’re trying to learn, and have an articulate way of explaining how they did it.

This believability in the information age has never been more important.

Every family member, friend, acquaintance or stranger has an opinion on something. They read it in an online article, or they Googled it minutes before you said anything. Hell, they might even Google it while you’re talking to make them seem smarter.

In today’s world, everyone is an expert. In psychology, there’s a famous study that’s commonly cited by David Dunning and Justin Kruger on cognitive bias. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a bias where people with low ability believe they have a high level of understanding and superiority and start to identify with a level of cognitive ability that is higher than what it truly is.

In other words, most people who can do a Google search usually think they’re right. People with a few years of experience in a given field shape an idiosyncratic worldview they consider absolute and impose that on you. They can never comprehensively and clearly articulate why it is that way, though, and that’s how you know they’re not worth believing.

There’s many people out there that aren’t worth believing. And it all makes for a lot of noise. It also makes for a lot of illusions to avoid.

The skill gap

When you do eventually find someone worth believing, though, one of the things I’ve found is that the gap between your current knowledge level and your believable person is usually not that wide. A side-effect of being able to Google all the things and decode everything means that your 80/20 gets filled up pretty quickly.

So I started to shift my approach from focusing on the believable, to the remarkable.

Tactically, what this means is to hold yourself to a very high standard when deciding who to believe and who not to believe in the search for knowledge. Choose your aspirations wisely. Your friends won’t cut it any more. Your professors won’t cut it any more. Your CEO won’t cut it either. Chances are you’ve probably reached diminishing returns on what you can learn from them anyway and now there’s little headroom.

Rather, look for the remarkable. The people who are world renowned for what you’re trying to learn. The people who also have a teaching style or a presence that matches the way you consume and process information. The people you can trust to believe every word of advice they provide.

Averages

They say you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Yeah, it’s pretty clichè, but I tend to believe it — mostly. However today, in this age, you can spend more time online being doused in the teachings of someone you’ve never met, spending more time immersing yourself in their world than you could with one of your friends.

What if 1 of your 5 people is a world class photographer? What if 1 of your 5 people is an olympic athlete? What if 1 of your 5 people is the Dalai Lama?

What would your life be like then? What standards would you hold yourself to and where would it take you?

Search for the remarkable. Because in the pursuit of remarkable people, maybe one day someone will find our lives remarkable too.