In this follow up to our article on Dunning-Kruger’s effect, we discuss how training properly creates a web of competence that counteracts incompetence.
In our previous entry, “Don’t wear the Juice“, we discussed the Dunning-Kruger effect and how people who are insufficiently prepared to comment on a topic are the loudest, most confident voices. In this entry, we’re going to discuss how to avoid letting that be you… but more than that, we’re going to give a positive approach to the question of how to overcome the Dunning Kruger phenomenon, starting with framing our mental boundaries, and working from the ground up to build experience and skill.
Why it Matters to You
When people decide they’re professionals or experts, whether or not they have relevant experience, a rigid intellectual template, and a well-checked ego, they begin the process of self-validation.
They become invested in their learning, view it as sufficient too soon, and fail to view the problem from the outside. When they should be opening their eyes to other possibilities, they actually start shutting down. Even if challenged very politely, it’s common to hear “I’ve got 25 years of experience teaching this so I think I know what I’m talking about”, or something similar.
We encountered this a couple weeks ago when a law enforcement instructor insisted that ‘hip shooting’ was a retention technique. Sparing the painful details, it doesn’t take much more than a casual session of force on force to know that’s not true, so what we see isn’t that this person has 25 years of retention based fighting under their belt.
In all honesty, they probably have 1 year 25 times… and within that year, seconds to minutes of actual relevant experience, almost none of which is applicable to the day to day challenges faced by the armed citizen.
This is the basic premise for Spheres of Violence; we try and recognize that not every experience with violence is the same, follows the same path, or occurs for the same reason. If we accept that as true, we have to stop ourselves from becoming confidently wrong and acknowledge that what we know about violence is just a drop in the bucket.
Have you experienced mass persecution like the Bosnian Serbs? Have you been mugged? Have you been involved in Street level violence? Have you been involved in a gunfight while in uniform? Have you been targeted at random for a beatdown? How about involved in domestic violence?
Those are all very different scenarios, and *all* could happen. Why then, do we receive some instructor or take a few classes on how to fight with a pistol or carbine, or take some martial arts… why do we feel like we’ve got it covered?
Well, we just don’t know what we don’t know, and as per Dunning-Kruger, the most confident, loudest voices are those who simply are unaware of how ignorant they are.
How can we have an accurate view?
Defeating Dunning Kruger’s Effect
The Firearms and Martial Industry survive on isolating what they can control and omitting what they can’t. We’re not heaping blame on them, that’s really all you can do, and that’s actually good. It means that they’re likely teaching from their experience, and not wandering too far into imaginary places. So even if you’re getting information that’s not directly relevant to you, you can at least parse some useful material from the anecdote.
However, it does leave some gaps; very few people are involved in gunfights in the U.S. at the time of this writing. That means a couple things have to be considered:
- There aren’t that many data points to really consider.
- There’s a wide margin of situations that could unfold.
That means there’s a lack of useful consensus in the martial industry on what’s required. In the median, we have case studies spanning everything from “Jiu Jitsu helps woman fight off attacker” to “man uses AR15 to shoot 4 home invaders“.
On the fringes, we have weirder and more terrifying prospects that the martial community simply can’t address, and worse, tend to shut people down intellectually (due to their fortunate rarity), even though further examination of these situations could yield preventative strategies and reasoning.
Acts of extreme violence like the Mandalay bay shooting illustrate an example of a very rare, high impact situation. On the other side, David Parker Ray (the Toy Box Killer), is a sickening, out-of-bounds example of abduction, torture, and rape who’s modus operandi allowed him to escape persecution for years. To hear him in his own words, you can do so here, but serious warning: not only NSFW, but extremely disturbing.
As you know, we’re not big on using shock to illustrate points… but if you’ve ever asked yourself “Why would ISG talk about picking locks, escaping handcuffs, flex cuffs, zip ties, or duct tape?” look no further. If we were to be honest about it, every ‘Woman’s self-defense course’ should have a block of instruction on anti-abduction and escaping illegal restraint.
Back to the topic, we mention it for two reasons:
- To establish extreme outliers in our threat profile
- To spur thought on how these situations could be prevented.
So let’s ask a question: Does your concealed carry, Intermediate Carbine for Disruptive Dynamic Environments II, or Jiu Jitsu class prepare you for this?
If you answered yes, we have one request: please attend a course that incorporates full contact force-on-force.
If you answered “to some degree” or “no”, congratulations. You know what you don’t know. If these examples helped push the boundaries of the situations you consider – thank you.
Thank you for sticking with us and reading through uncomfortable material that will ultimately make you a more aware, stronger, and more detail oriented student of skill integration.
What comes next?
Once we’ve started to understand that often our efforts are dangerously narrow in focus, we can start looking at a few elements we can use to guide how we train and live.
- What skills provide the best base over the widest spectrum of situations?
- What skills require the greatest investment in time and maintenance?
- What skills could you develop for specific, low-probability situations? Generic, high-probability situations?
We love the Punnet square, so let’s take a look at a sample:
These were taken as a sample and give a decent cross-section of the types of emergencies typically faced by the citizen. Statistics, like anything, should be taken with a grain of salt, but we can see that our chances of being victims of petty crime are the largest.
As the severity of the incident goes up, the frequency typically goes down. So, our higher impact events really don’t happen all that often. Conversely, our high probability events are largely low impact. You might recognize that this is a truth we recognize in Understanding Emergencies and we hope you appreciate how these things consistently resurface.
So where do we start? Those high probability, high impact events; assault, abduction, rape, auto fatalities, and murder. You’ve probably noticed that we emphaize a few things at ISG:
- Judgment and Awareness
- Driving skill
- Martial Skill
- Rescue Medicine
- Environmental survival skills, both primitive and urban
This isn’t by accident; if you look at our high probability, high impact events, these are the skills we need to beat them. They’re our “most likely” threats. While we can break them down even further, we’ve done something here:
- We’ve created a spectrum of “worst case” to “common inconvenience”
- We’ve acknowledged we can’t know everything and there are things we can’t know or predict
When we say “OK, I’m not well versed in this”, we’re doing something rare. First and foremost, we’re opting *not* to succumb to Dunning-Kruger’s Effect and nod our head like we already know everything, making ourselves impervious to learning.
We’re expressing confidence in ‘not knowing’. Guys, that’s fine. If you can do that in your peer group, you’ve got something special. If you can stop someone and ask them to unpack something so you can understand it better, you’re expressing that you’re comfortable with that group and that opens the door to shared knowledge. It requires an ego check for the student and humility on behalf of the teacher – things we should all cultivate.
It also requires some self-awareness. It requires admitting that your experiences might not be the whole.
When you train, make plans, or consider threats, look at the details of the curriculum the instructor offers; do they address our high threat, high probability box, or do they appeal to our ‘high impact, low probability” scenarios?
Guys, here’s the truth: if you get down to it, the high impact, low probability stuff is flashy. It’s newsworthy.
Everyone wants to think they’ll stop an active shooter and save lives.
Far fewer people are committed to keeping an eye on the road when driving, or an eye on their kid at the park. These are the details we should demand of ourselves.
We should approach our skills as if they were a web.
When a spider spins silk, they first bind the outer edges and define the area in which they’re going to trap their prey. Once they’ve completed the outer limits, they work on supporting the core by creating the web’s main structure; they attach the the web so it supports itself and forms a core that is likely to trap prey.
That’s what we do: we trap problems.
Think of this like having a well-rounded skill profile to trap problems:
- Are you safe and attentive behind the wheel?
- Do you pay attention when you’re out and about?
- Do you understand that violence can take many shapes and you should be prepared for a fight as well as a shooting?
- Do you then know how to treat injuries?
These skills form our web.
Just like the spider we set the outer bounds of what’s possible then set to work building a strong center… one that efficiently traps the most common problems. Once we have a strong core, we can spiral out towards the fringes to address the areas less likely to catch less likely problems, after we’ve covered the more likely problems. Best of all?
The fringe problems largely require the skills needed to support the core.
Once this is done, we can team up with others who have similar webs to form layers that are difficult for problems to pass through.
This, ladies and gentlemen is true resilience. It requires work, and no amount of lemon juice will hide it if you don’t.
Do the work.
Special Thanks to Maruice A.