Okay, so maybe you’re not a true genius and maybe not even in the same ballpark with the greatest minds of the 20th century, but that certainly does not mean that you’re dumb either. In fact, you just may be more knowledgeable than the “experts” since there are times when expert advice can be just plain wrong.
Just ask Christopher Columbus. His naysayer “experts” told him he’d fall off the edge of the earth by sailing too far West. Instead Columbus did his own research, trusted his own judgment and instincts, did sail West and discovered the New World.
While the idea of a round world was not entirely the invention of Columbus, nevertheless he was determined to prove what others only suspected.
The doomsayer “experts” opposing Columbus failed to understand that Columbus’ greatness was his determination to risk everything – even his own life – that brought fame and greatness to his name.
Perception is everything
A well-documented instance of failing to perceive greatness happened when famed violinist Joshua Bell, winner of four Grammy awards, the coveted Avery Fisher Prize (the highest honor an American musician can receive) plus numerous other prestigious honors, played his 1713 Stradivarius in a Washington DC subway station during morning rush hour.
At the request of Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten, who was curious to see how people would respond to hearing a world class musician play in a completely unexpected setting, Bell agreed to busk for commuters. So Bell, who plays more than 200 concerts a year, often at admission fees of more than $100, strode into the metro station wearing a tee shirt and jeans instead of his concert garb of white tie and tails and he played.
Did those commuters recognize the quality of the musician serenading them on a Stradivarius? Most walked by as if Bell were not even present, though there are reports that several small children were so enchanted by the quality of the music that they refused to budge, forcing their parents to pick them up and carry them away.
Sometimes even experts can’t tell the difference
While we’re on the topic of violins, this will shock you. It seems that most musicians consider violins made by Stradivarius to be the best ever. But in a recent impartial experiment, the aged, priceless Stradivarius came in second best to a modern, relatively inexpensive violin.
A study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences asked 21 experienced violinists to compare violins by Stradivarius and another revered master, Guarneri del Gesu with high-quality, recently made instruments. The study produced a surprising outcome.
The study was conducted under double-blind conditions in a room with relatively dry acoustics. Researchers found that violin least-preferred by the violinists was a Stradivarius, while the most-preferred model was a new violin.
In other words, there was scant correlation between what “experts“ had been telling us for decades and what we saw when “expert opinion“ was put to the test. In fact, most of the violin players seemed unable to tell whether their most-preferred instrument was new or old.
“These results present a striking challenge to conventional wisdom,” the study says.
The relatively inexpensive, modern instrument was preferred to the million-dollar Stradivarius.
Rather than searching for the “secret” of Stradivarius, future researchers might best focus on how violinists evaluate instruments, on which specific playing qualities are most important to them, and on how these qualities relate to measurable attributes of the instruments, whether old or new.
“Discernment” is often based on advertising
Did you know that vodka—invented by humble Russian peasants hundreds of years ago—is now the most popular hard liquor in America, easily outselling rum, gin, whiskey and tequila.
Unfortunately, along with that popularity has come the usual advertising competitiveness of “our vodka tastes best.” The upshot has been that people are now paying perfectly outrageous prices for a bottle of what is, after all, only the runoff from fermented potatoes.
Now, a well known commercial for one of the most expensive vodkas claims it is “rated the best-tasting vodka in the world,” which is odd given that the U.S. government defines vodka as “tasteless, odorless and colorless.”
Moreover, in blindfolded taste tests, most of the testers thought they would be able to recognize their favorite brands. None of them did. And when one taste test involved comparing the most expensive vodka to the least expensive one, the testers subjects said they liked the most expensive brand the least!
The moral here is that if you’re looking to save some money the next time you throw a party, buy cheap vodka instead of the more expensive heavily advertised, super premium brands.
Why you should trust yourself instead of relying on “experts”
You are the only person who can experience your feelings, see what you see, hear what you hear and feel what you feel. When you’re in the midst of almost any given situation, the sights, sounds, feelings—even the smells—contribute valuable information. These are what give you your “gut” feelings, and those feelings are never to be ignored.
So listen to yourself, trust yourself and move forward confidently. Expert advice is fine, but ultimately, you are the one who knows best!
By Julie Crawshaw