Being An Outsider
Being an Outsider does not mean being a loner. It doesn’t mean being alone. It’s not about being disinterested in things because you’re not directly involved, or apathetic because your subject is much bigger than you. Being an Outsider is more about the way you think about your world, with regards to the issues you interact with and how you interpret and process the world.
The Outsider Is Not:
The Outsider isn’t intimidated by the notion of this great and complex problem in Central Asia.
The Outsider isn’t necessarily concerned by the amount of reading and history they are ‘supposed’ to cover and understand and to know and apply to the problem.
The Outsider Is:
The Outsider is a person who is, in fact, in a charmed and privileged position.
The Outsider is a person who&emdash;with Black Swan, non-predicting, Mediocristan/Extremeistan dichotomy in mind at all times&emdash;looks at problems dispassionately and non-judgementally, precisely because they lack the full story and can only guess at the full complexity.
The Outsider Is Blessed
Rather than considering oneself at a disadvantage as an Outsider, there is another way to view your situation. Instead, consider it the Outsider’s Luck that he is somewhat removed from the problem. Thinking beyond Central Asia for a moment, to something that is perhaps more ubiquitous and relevant, consider being an Outsider in a friend’s relationship. From the Outside, you can see how you think things should be happening. You can tell your friend different things to advise and encourage her; you can offer advice based on your understanding of the situation. What you can’t do, however, is know the full facts. You can’t know how they interact when they are alone. You can’t even know how they interact when you’re not there.
The same is true for politics and global affairs. Despite what Bruce Bueno de Mesquita might think, we can’t really predict how two entities, leaders, countries, supra-national blocs, will interact. Day to day, maybe, but there will always be events that are completely unpredictable; events like 9/11 (however you want to interpret it), that don’t have a massive effect on the ‘average man’ but will dramatically change things up for short periods.
Sometimes things will happen in your world which fundamentally change the way you behave. This is not necessarily something that you have control over. What you do have control over, however, is the way you respond to these changes. That is the skill of the Outsider. To be able to be flexible enough with your thinking to accommodate events and circumstances which would throw off those more deeply involved in a situation.
An Outsider Knows His Limits
To succeed as an Outsider, it is important to maintain a knowledge of situations. It is also important not to become too wrapped up in a situation. It is easy to get frustrated when you can how things ‘should’ be done; don’t succumb to the “I could do a better job” mindset. It’s more important in that situation to look at the way the job is being done, and then lead by example. Offer suggestions, without attaching any of yourself to them; make your point and move on. Adapt to the new information you will accrue and be flexible with your understanding of the world.
You should be sure to understand that you will never fully understand a situation. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Black Swan, makes plain throughout that book, it is not possible to know everything, and it takes a lot for a person to stand up and say “I don’t know.” But, for the Outsider, this is just the sort of thing to do on a regular basis. To succeed and thrive on the Outside of a situation, you must find out as much as you can, but always be willing to admit (and more importantly, embrace and relish) your ignorance.
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