I learned to fly an airplane when I was 18 years old. Everyday I make use of a lesson I learned while practicing instrument flight. I use the lesson even though I’ve not in over 20 years. The lesson is that when you fly by the seat of your pants, by what your senses tell you, you can quickly get into a lot of trouble. You only get out of trouble when you look at your instruments, trust them, and distrust your feelings. In a cloud, for example, your feelings will tell you that everything is fine, that you are flying straight and level. Your instruments will tell you that you are in a slow spiral down. The inertia on the seat of your pants gives you a false sense of steady gravity. The spiral is slow so your inner ear doesn’t detect it.

Mandell Creighton once said, “All true knowledge contradicts common sense.” My experience with instrument flight helped in graduate school. When we are learning statistics we were frequently given problems in which our intuitions were led one way while the theory and data led another. Many, possibly most, of my classmates were led to the wrong conclusion again and again, because they didn’t trust their ability to solve the problem in the step-by-step way we’d be taught. As soon as they began down the correct path, they would take an unexpected turn and assume that they’d done something wrong. Then they’d change directions or give up.

Bottom line: Trust your training, not your gut. Use information that is more reliable than your intuition.

Author's Bio: 

Tad Waddington says he achieved literacy while getting his MA from the University of Chicago’s Divinity School where he focused on the history of Chinese religions. He achieved numeracy while getting his PhD from the University of Chicago in measurement, evaluation and statistical analysis. He achieved efficacy as Director of Performance Measurement for Accenture. He is currently seeking to achieve a legacy with such books as Return on Learning and Lasting Contribution. To find out more, go to www.lastingcontribution.com.