Fooling Yourself

Porto Tracks

Mike Dariano’s The Waiter’s Pad should be more widely read. I’m sure his readership has been growing heaps lately, but we’d all be wiser if more of us read his well-synthesized material. I was delighted as I read one of his year-in-review posts entitled Know Thyself. A nod to the plaque above The Oracle’s door, Temet Nosce?

During the Vipassana course I recently took part in, S. N. Goenka reminded us that we prefer to blame everyone or everything around us. If only my husband wouldn’t do this or that. If only so-and-so would realize she’s wrong. If this person or institution would just change…

We’re allergic to blaming ourselves. However, the reality is we are dealing in the realm of our own perceptions, so would it not be just possible, but probable, that the problem lies within? Or, more accurately, the solution lies within?

We all think we’re better drivers than we actually are. Self-awareness is no different. I wanted to think about how would one go about increasing self-awareness. Curiosity and vulnerability will be required. It is certain to expose your weaknesses. As Mike points out: your soft spots. But you must remain equanimous through the process. Here are some questions I asked myself:

  • How often are you putting yourself in a new or blind situation?
  • Later, are you evaluating your performance? (Non-judgmentally)
  • How honest are these evaluations? (Objectivity)
  • Do you spend any time crystalizing what was learned into a framework that can help change or better your behavior or performance the next time?
  • Do you seek out the help/assessment of others to help further illuminate your blind spots and biases, to ensure your own assessment is correct? A cross-check of your own Observer.


One could argue that we must judge the outcome of each attempt to make a decision about how to proceed, but this is not true. Judgment brings a sense of right or wrong, good or bad with it. What we are doing here is objectively observing and analyzing the outcome of each attempt. – Thomas M. Sterner The Practicing Mind

Mike cites Richard Feynman: “you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

He closes with advice that was abundant in the Goenka’s nightly discourses at Vipassana:

“Equally important is a limited identity footprint. Suffering, said the Buddha, comes from attachment. Or colloquially, disappointment is when reality doesn’t meet your expectations. The idea is the same; don’t be attached to unimportant things.”

Marcus Aurelius urged similarly:

“When you are distressed by an external thing, it’s not the thing itself that troubles you, but only your judgment of it. And you can wipe this out at a moment’s notice.”

Stop the attachment. Stop the aversion. Be objective. Observe yourself not as yourself, but as an Observer.

From this self-awareness can blossom, the ability to walk in another’s shoes (empathy) will strengthen. There will be clarity, wisdom.

Tangentially, only then might we be able to tackle Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds. “Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own.”

Thanks for reading.

Photo: Porto, Portugal

Categorized as Reflections

By Daniel Hatke

The author was born and raised in Indiana. After graduating from Purdue University he worked in the asset management industry in New York City. He holds an MBA from Columbia Business School with concentrations in finance and entrepreneurship. Currently, he is fueling his curiosities through taking time off for extended travel and experiences in Europe and Asia, as chronicled here.