Benefits of Being Too Busy to Have an Opinion

I’ve worked in the Bitcoin world for nearly three years, and these days I have fewer opinions (and far weaker ones) about the technology now than I did when I began. This is not an accident. When you move from theorizing about something to working on something, you find that you really don’t have much time to theorize, or you find that you’re just not as interested in theorizing.

This has some negative drawbacks. For one, I’m finding that I can’t bring much of an educated opinion to discussions on the state of projects besides Bitcoin, or on proposals for improvements to Bitcoin. I’m not satisfied with this.

However, I’ve found something of a bright side to my relative ignorance and my tight-lipped approach to public hot topics. Several things change for the better when you trade opinions for direct practice:

  1. You cope better with change. Part of why I’ve stopped following the Bitcoin and blockchain technology debates with as much intensity is that I know their ephemerality. A proposal or innovation everyone is excited about one month may go up in smoke the next. By focusing on what’s in front of you rather than every flashy new project that comes along, you conserve your brain power for the ideas and work that you can directly control. You also form the less-than-conscious meta-theories you need to navigate a field or industry that’s in flux.
  2. You realize that things are much more complicated than they seem. When you spend your time practicing instead of preaching, you eventually learn that your preaching was mostly full of its own hot air. “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy,” and no opinion about an industry or practice or skill survives first contact with the reality of that industry or practice or skill. It’s a humbling thing that helps you see the world more clearly.
  3. You gain more informed experiences than informed opinions. When you spend your time looking at the “trees” of a problem, you do limit your vision. But you also really get to know the trees: how they work, how you can help them grow, etc. Since there’s no forest without them, you actually become much more valuable to an ecosystem of value as a specialist. Have I gone too far with the tree/forest thing? Is Smokey the Bear going to pop up any second and warn us about preventing forest fires?
  4. People stop asking you for your opinion. Let’s be honest. When they asked you before, you didn’t really have the knowledge you needed to give them a good answer. Now you and they both know that you’re not the person to ask. You can focus on getting better without stroking your own ego, and they can get good answers. When the time comes for you to reveal what knowledge and wisdom you’ve gained from your work, you and they will know where to go.
  5. You avoid the interminable political conflicts. Beyond just my work, my own chosen pursuits have made me much too busy to pay attention to most online squabbles beyond using them for passing entertainment. My life has improved dramatically by not engaging in the culture wars, or the Bitcoin wars, or the Hillary vs. Trump wars. I’ve become a better person than I was when I cared about politics or even followed it for entertainment. I’m lucky enough that I get to change the world for the better while largely ignoring the deeply unrewarding and vicious things I’m “supposed” to do to change.

Doing is entirely different than spouting opinions. It’s a different level of relating to the reality of a thing.

All of these dynamics are applicable whether you are a marketer or a soccer player or a Shakespearean actor. I’ll let you decide which are worthwhile tradeoffs for you. I will say this: choose informed experience over informed opinion every time you can. If you can have both, even better, but experiential knowledge will always do more for you at less cost.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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