Overcoming the Dunning-Kruger peak of Mount Ignorance

I once took a class with Craig Douglas, ECQC, and he opined that “every ‘action man’ thinks he’s inherently good at fighting, driving, and f*cking.” And he’s right, at least in my experience every action guy (cop, soldier, spy, etc) believes they are good to go at those activities. If you believe you are good, why should you train? That’s the question that brings up this post.

It is my experience, that people who say they can shoot, really mean that they can safely handle a firearm on a range or while hunting. They don’t mean they are veterans of a two way live fire event, or well versed in small unit tactics. They mean that they can shoot well enough for what they think they need a firearm for.

It is also my experience that in the prepper community, there are people with a lot of stockpiles, who’ve never tested their prep plans. Thankfully most of us have never experienced a disruption to civilization worse than a bad ice storm or hurricane. But if your prep plan is never tested, is it really just a “preparation hope?”

This comes down to our belief in our own competence, whether that be fighting or surviving. And it is very, very easy to assume that because we’ve read a bunch of books on bushcraft and prepping that we are good to go. Except reading a book on how to start a fire with a bow drill is much, much easier than actually starting a fire with a bow drill….

So, the first truth here is that knowledge does not equal skill. But, skills do equal knowledge. Skills are what makes someone “competent” in a situation, which is why you want your surgeon to be very experienced rather than on their first attempt at surgery.

Today in jiu jitsu class I was working a new technique with my eldest son, who was getting frustrated that the “outside single leg takedown” had a different set of things to be concerned about than the “inside single leg takedown” he already knows. “Why do I need to learn another technique that does the same thing as what I already know?” he asked, rather frustrated because the technique wasn’t coming naturally to him. I tried to explain that he won’t always be in a position to do just the takedowns he already knows, so he needs to add more tools to his toolbox. You can guess how well my explanation went over to a teenager, who also said he didn’t need to participate in the belt test coming up at the end of next month…and I just asked him, “How else are you going to map the edges of your knowledge?” He looked at me like, “what the hell are you talking about Dad? What do you mean map the edges of my knowledge?”

But that’s how you beat the Dunning-Kruger effect and stop overestimating your competence, you test your knowledge and skills against reality. If you really can shoot, you can start timing your pistol or rifle drills to see how accurate you can be when fast, and how fast you can shoot accurately (competition is good for this). In “fighting” you can spar or compete or even “belt test” to find out how the application of your skills are working against a resisting opponent (competition is also good for this). In prepping, schedule a two week period where you live off your preps. My wife and I try to do this regularly, although it is much harder now that the kids are teens (and eat way more than they used to).

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1 Response to Overcoming the Dunning-Kruger peak of Mount Ignorance

  1. Dick Baker says:

    Thanks; needed reminding.


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