The Myth of Common Sense
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about common sense, and why does it seem that no one has it? You see the statement all the time, and as a IT person, I see–and say–it all the time. But I began to wonder if common sense even exists, and I believe I have the answer.
It doesn’t. It’s a myth. Not there, not going to happen, get over it.
Well, clearly, common sense says there’s common sense, right? Damn, just did it again.
My theory is simple, and I’ll label it “Affinity”. Some of you may be familiar with the Myer Briggs personality test? It’s, in a very simple form, a test to see what kind of personality type you are based on overall characteristics. Extroverted/Introverted, Sensing/Intuitive, Thinking/Feeling and Judging/Perceiving. HR departments love this stuff, and it can be kind of facinating. I’m an INTJ for those who are interested. But the Myer Briggs index really deals in architypes, and while it might help you in your interactions with other personality types, I’d like to take a more meat and potato’s approach–which fits, considering my type.
Imagine a wheel, and on this wheel is every skill out there. Accounting, computers, writing, carpentry, you name it. Now, everyone’s wheel is different, so don’t expect me to be publishing the wheel of skill any time soon. But imagine this wheel, and your primary affinity is “Underwater Basket Weaving” (UBW for short). Then the skills around it are all related to that and start diverging the further you get around the wheel. Scrapbooking might be close, but car repair might be far away as you can get on the other side of the wheel.
“Common Sense” is your general knowledge and ability to intuit answers that is close to your affinity. How do I weave a basket in a tree, you ask? That’s pretty close to your affinity so you would be able to “common sense” an answer. Or at least avoid some common mistakes typically to tree born crafts.
How do I replace the o-ring on the booster rocket of the shuttle? That one is pretty far away from your affinity, so you’re libel to look and feel about as stupid as possible. But if your affinity was car repair, you could probably common sense your way through the problem. You might not get it all right, but you wouldn’t look a complete fool.
Affinity and happiness are also closely tied together. I believe that the type of job you have can tie into your happiness. This isn’t news. Most people have known this for a long time. The closer your job is to your affinity, the happier you’re going to be. Let’s talk a little bit about affinity and jobs in general. It is my belief that you can teach most anyone, most any job. But how good they are at it all depends on how closely that job is aligned to their affinity. I can teach you, the uber basket weaver, how to be an IT person. But the job is so far away from your affinity that you’ll never really be any good at it, and you certainly won’t be happy doing it. We’ve all met these people in our workplace. They’re slow, make common mistakes (again and again), arrive late and leave early and are generally unpleasant to be around. How many of these people could turn their lives, and outlooks, around if they just found a job that was closer to their affinity?
It’s important to remember that everyone’s Affinity wheel is different too. Many of the things I’m talking about can break down once you start applying it to the individual. For example, most people who have an affinity for some kind of sales job typically have a very low affinity towards computers. But not always. I work with a person who is a Director of Sales and used to be an IT guy, and is probably a bigger gadget guy then I am! An unusual combination.
To bring it back to common sense, the closer a problem is to your affinity, the better you are equipped to figure out situations and make the appropriate decision. Common sense. But the further the problem is from your affinity, the less you are able to deal with it, and the more likely you are to make a mistake. Lack of common sense.
So I argue, there is no common sense, just things your good at, and things you aren’t. Now, I have to drive home from work and hopefully none of these idiots will get me killed! Is driving really all that hard?!