Monday, April 28, 2014

The Conundrum

We have all met them - either in real life or via the interwebs - the people whose behaviour the Dunning Kruger hypothesis was postulated to explain - the supremely confident, mostly incompetent adventurer whose own incompetence remains outside their own recognition. I've often found myself - almost - envying these folks. Semi-epics, minor failures, hasty and repeated retreats, and simple paralysis never seem to faze these folks. They can back down a hundred times and still be convinced they "live outside their comfort zone." 

Conversely, I find myself haunted by indecision, the spectres of past failures and retreats, the continual titration of my own level of competence against the expected challenges. At these times I wonder if it would be less angst provoking to simply stride (paddle) forth oblivious to the challenges ahead or at least completely convinced of my own ability to overcome any difficulties. And yet, I am not sure that the blindly oblivious achieve any more, and perhaps, in the long run, achieve significantly less, than those of us who make more prosaic assessments of our abilities. Ignorance may be bliss, but it seldom seems to result in unqualified success.

Embarking on, planning, mountain adventures, I always felt so much more confident and competent. I could tell from the map, the time of year, the conditions, where travel would be easy, where difficult and where, for me, impossible and was seldom surprised. Negative feedback got recycled back into my own assessment loop and informed future decisions. 

I rarely feel the same way planning sea kayak trips unless conditions are uniformly benign. I have no firm benchmark of my own competence to gauge what is and what is not within my level of skill and thus am unsure what combination of conditions and marine geography will prove too much. 

Planning our Whitsundays trip I am all too aware of the deficiencies in my own knowledge both of myself and of conditions. I have some grasp of the effect of wind, tide and geography and can make intelligent extrapolations as to how they will all interact, but, the crucial element, my ability to judge if my skill is sufficient to match the difficulty is missing. I simply do not know. I am stuck in the conundrum of not being incompetent enough to be completely unaware, and not being competent enough to be fully confident.

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