Better to over-filter potential BS and miss out a little, than under-filter and contaminate your mind. Filtering BS is sadly needed for maintaining sanity amidst so much noise and the same goes for avoiding time wasters.
The idea behind over-filtering as a heuristic is that there is an asymmetry at play. Missing out on some knowledge or wisdom is far less harmful than being exposed to even a tiny bit of toxic BS.
Think of it like avoiding radiation or keeping a drop of ink out of clear water. You may miss adding more fresh water because of your strict BS filter, but at least you keep out the many drops of ink that could pollute everything.
Avoiding time wasters
The same goes for people who are potential time-wasters. And, I really like the skeptical empiricist, Nassim Taleb’s observation here:
“There have been many situations where I thought someone was solid, then realized I was mistaken as he turned out to be a bullsh**ter..I can’t find the reverse mistake: people I thought were bullsh**ters but turned out to be solid.”
What I personally take from this is the importance of trusting your intuition when it comes to avoiding time-wasters. If you feel someone is a time-waster, trust your gut! You are far more likely to be right than wrong.
Even words attributed to the Buddha, from the Maha-Mangala Sutra warn:
“Do not keep company with fools, but rather associate with the wise — this is a great blessing”
Heuristics are extremely useful for decision making amidst complexity. And, we can take things a step further. What is perhaps more important is not if I let in a drop of ink or not, but rather my awareness of myself and what is happening.
What might make me susceptible to BS or time-wasters?
Are there particularly types of time-wasters or BS that I am more likely to be duped by?
What attracts me to them?
There is no such thing as a perfect filter. And, the more you enquire into how you react to and engage with ideas and people, the more you empower yourself with real choice. You may even choose to engage with something even though you intuit that it is most likely BS.
In the end, it is deeper awareness of self and the choice that comes with it that really matter!
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.