The Pursuit of Excellence Practical steps toward happiness

26Mar/120

Go With Your Gut

Malcolm Gladwell drew me into his recent besteller about intuition, Blink, by opening with a story of art forgery.  In 1983, he wrote, a man approached the Getty Museum with a marble statue dating from the sixth century BC, a piece he was willing to part with for $10 million.

Greek Statue

What a phony!

Naturally the museum did its homework, and recruited a renowned geologist to scrutinize the statue with electron microscopes and X-rays.  Everything, including the paperwork, seemed to check out.  The excitement at the Getty, however, faded quickly.

One by one, experts of Greek sculpture cried, ‘fake.’  Nervous museum lawyers began to dig deeper, and slowly uncovered evidence of a skillful forgery.  The investigation was inconclusive despite the experts’ unanimity: the Getty bought a fake.

In almost every case, the observers made up their minds seconds after laying eyes on the piece.  Their reason for doubt? “Intuitive Repulsion.”  The naked Greek looked too… ‘fresh’.  Gladwell argues that everyone is born with this ‘sixth sense:’ the ability to ‘know’ something without rational thinking.

Intuition (is) perception via the unconscious
– Carl Jung

I’m inspired by the idea that our capacity for decision making–and for understanding the world around us–is much larger than we’re often told.  Do we each possess an enormous, untapped potential?

Sarah Palin
Intuition… not just for crackpots anymore

In a world more comfortable with logic and the scientific method, the idea of “going with your gut” suffers a minor image problem.  Blink has been thoroughly criticized.

Intuition is often portrayed as mysterious and mystical–the domain of prophets and crackpots.  But neuroscience has repeatedly challenged that view, and those who swear by intuition can now cite scientific evidence.  I’ll let you intuit my stance.

Whatever your position, you probably know what intuition feels like.  You may have said, “Something is wrong,” or, “it just felt right, joining the circus.”  It may have helped you to nix a toxic friendship, or to make a smart financial move.

Successful entrepreneurs often cite intuition as their most powerful tool.

Many know that some of the best decisions they make are the deals they pass on.  After traveling across India, Steve Jobs remarked that, “The main thing I’ve learned is intuition.”

Steve Jobs
This is actually Steve’s meditation pose

Why does intuition make good leaders?  In part, because they use it to make good decisions quickly.  They know what needs to be done without a paralyzing study or long scientific analysis.

If, like me, you weren’t born with strong intuition, you probably want to know if it can be nurtured.  Studies says, yes, probably.  Past knowledge and experience boosts intuition.  A Greek art expert can intuitively spot a fake only because she’s looked at more than a few statues.  It follows that intuition can grow over time.  But how?

With all skills, practice helps.  Our intuition is strongest when our minds are free of clutter and we’re relaxed.  Meditation, day dreaming, walking, music; all of these help us hear that inner voice.  Practice mental de-cluttering.  And trust your intuition.  It may not always be right, but often is, and it will develop over time.

As it does, you’ll gain a skill that will help you get more out of this beautiful life.


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