Blissful Incompetence

Posted on January 23, 2018 by Robert Ringer


As Barack Hussein Obama, the king of arrogance and incompetence, increasingly rears his Marxist tentacles in what will surely turn out to be an embarrassing effort to prop up Dirty Dems seeking reelection in the 2018 midterms, it’s a reminder of how many people I’ve observed over the years who are inexplicably overconfident in spite of their proven ineptitude.

It’s a phenomenon that is rampant in the dumbed-down, feel-good 21st century Western world, and especially in the world of politics.  In fairness to Barack Obama, his boundless arrogance has been made possible by an adoring media that continues to applaud him in spite of his never-ending failures.

I’m talking about the same media that insists on lauding Obama’s “soaring oratorical skills, notwithstanding the fact that he fumbles and stumbles his way through speeches, interviews, and press conferences to an extreme that causes even a detractor like me to wince in pain as he frantically grasps for words.

In addition, the media has been complicit in helping him believe that he’s “the smartest guy in the room,” never bothering to ask why, among scores of other boneheaded gaffes, he does not know how to pronounce “corpsman” and claims to have visited 57 states.  Not only is he not the smartest guy in the room, a politically incorrect person might go so far as to say he’s a complete fraud.

The question is, how do dufuses like Obama manage to maintain their breathtaking arrogance in the face of their obvious stupidity?  The answer, I believe, is to be found in the work of two Cornell University psychology professors, Justin Kruger and David Dunning, who have done extensive research on the topic of incompetence masked by overconfidence.

The result of their work is what has become known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.  Oversimplified, it is their contention that incompetent people often suffer from delusions of superiority that result in their vastly overrating their own abilities.

Interestingly, it is the very fact that these people have such a low level of competence that they lack the awareness to accurately assess their own skills.  Further, they tend not to recognize the higher skill level in others.

Worst of all, because they do not recognize their lack of skills, they are extremely difficult to teach.  Over the years, I’ve run into this phenomenon with many job applicants and new employees.

When I was a real estate broker in my late twenties, I became conscious of the fact that I was surrounded by human blasts of hot air from every direction — buyers, sellers, real estate agents, and, above all, attorneys.  With just a handful of exceptions, I found that most of the people I dealt with seemed to have an abundance of self-confidence but, to put it mildly, had no idea what they were talking about.

In today’s Internet age, I find the Dunning-Kruger effect to be more rampant than ever.  Incompetence has become a pandemic, as has its bedfellow, overconfidence.  There’s something about the Internet that makes the most inept people believe they can make a fortune sitting at the kitchen table in their underwear while hatching get-rich-quick marketing schemes on their laptops.

Having said all this, I should point out that there’s another aspect of the Dunning-Kruger effect that you should to be aware of if you are fortunate enough to be among those who are blessed with a high degree of competency, and it is this:  Many people who are highly competent tend to overrate the competency of those with whom they come in contact and underrate their own competency.  For lack of a better name, let’s call it the Reverse Dunning-Kruger effect.

When I was a wet-behind-the-ears entrepreneur in my mid-twenties, I tended to be intimidated — even awed — by the hotshots who had all the answers.  I couldn’t understand why I was so dumb when everyone around me seemed to be so smart.  Little did I know that my feelings of inferiority were a good sign of things to come.

Why?  Because I now understand that people who suffer from the Kruger-Dunning effect have no such worries.  They really believe their flattering opinions of themselves, and their false self-assessment blinds them from seeing the depth of their own incompetency.  In other words, they do not have enough knowledge to know what they do not know.

I recall, some years back, one of the smartest, most competent people I’ve ever worked with telling me that he fears making decisions because he worries about being wrong and looking bad in the eyes of his employees.  He said he didn’t trust his own judgment because he felt his opinions were biased and he therefore needed the perspective of people smarter than him.

This is dangerous thinking.  When you’re good at something, it’s a big mistake to assume that other people are good at it as well.  Worse, it tends to cause you to underestimate your own ability.  To paraphrase a conclusion of Dunning and Kruger, the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error in judging the abilities of others.

Thus, as strange as it may seem, a high level of competence may actually weaken one’s self-confidence, as the competent individual may falsely assume that others have an understanding of the subject at hand that is equivalent to his own.  Trust me, they usually don’t.

In case you’re confused or worried about whether you are afflicted by the Dunning-Kruger effect or the Reverse Dunning-Kruger effect, allow me to sum it up simply:  Just ask yourself how close your mind-set is to that of a pretty competent guy by the name of Albert Einstein, who once said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

If you can relate to Einstein’s words, you are almost certainly not afflicted with the Dunning-Kruger effect.  That being the case, you should concentrate your efforts on (1) not allowing yourself to become a Reverse Dunning-Kruger victim and (2) steering clear of the Dunning-Kruger types who saturate the world around you, especially those in your work life.

As to those who are not directly involved in your business or personal life — e.g., politicians and Radical Left media types — the easiest workaround is to literally tune them out.  I can tell you it works, because I do it every day of my life by utilizing the fast-forward button on my trusty remote.

Hannity can give malevolent clowns like Mika and Joe free publicity every night of the week if he so desires, but, thank goodness, he does not control my remote.  As Milton Friedman put it, I am free to choose.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

55 responses to “Blissful Incompetence”

  1. Tom says:

    Is there a pill I can take to reverse the effects of KDE, after all, as incompetent as I feel, I still want to take care of #1. Thanks much for setting me straight many years ago. Best regards

    • Jean says:

      Tom – the best "pill" is to look at the results of your efforts. If they've hit the mark that you intended, then you aren't anywhere near incompetent. If they are close to the target, try to figure out why they missed. Talk to someone – or read books by those – who have achieved what you want. They may not spell out exactly what went wrong, but it will give you more insight into how to make things go your way.

    • gopcongress says:

      Start by giving everyone you know the book "Winning through Intimidation." It was spot-on the best book I've ever read on human nature. The fact that people are put off by the title is itself indicative of how the reversal of the current zeitgeist must change.

  2. Andrew F. says:

    “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” I've been telling people that for years. Yes, I am a genius, or as my late father used to say, a geni-ASS.

  3. LLLL says:

    Another excellent article.
    When Fox News hosts show anti-Trump segments from the MSM, I turn them off, PRONTO! Giving them free publicity annoys the heck out of me, but I can't seem to get through to them. Just like RR says, "he (meaning Hannity) does not control my remote".

    • Harry says:

      Not yet, anyway. However, just because the date 1984 came and went, the concept itself is, as someone remarked, lurking at the back door reaching for the handle.

    • lee says:

      Donald trump is certainly afflicted with dunning kruger effect.

  4. Tony Lauria says:

    BHO frantically grasps for words because he is constantly struggling to camouflage his Marxist message in such a way as to make it sound not as damaging as it is. He is worse than any of us imagined.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      ABSOLUTELY! He may have some knowledge, but NO competence, except when it comes to deceiving gullible people about his Marxist anti American ideology. He never had a real job in his life, so he is the very definition of a parasite, the kinds of people found in abundance in the District of Criminals!

      • Robert Ringer RJR says:

        With all due respect, BHO is not worse than I imagined. I knew he was a Marxist bent on taking down America long before he took office.

  5. Larry says:

    I have never viewed Obama as a good orator. At best, he may, by some, be viewed a good public reader

    • notpropagandized says:

      It was obvious early on that BO was getting "drama lessons" from Celebrity Leftists (redundant terminology). his gestures were taking on the dramatic effect of an actor that practiced their bearing in a mirror. He learned to raise his nose and face in a slightly upward tilt to be imperious and draw-in the gullible snowflake puppy Marxists and wounded women who saw him as the male benefactor to crush their man-hate causing failed relationships.
      The role that leftist Hollywood celebrities play in our politics is so laughable and dangerous at the same time. They are empty intellects and over-regard themselves much as RR describes.

  6. Marco says:

    " flattering opinions of themselves, "

    Every time Donald Trump talks about himself -which is pretty often- he does that. In your opinion, Mr. Ringer, does he suffer of the Dunning-Kruger effect?

    I am serious. I deeply admire you, Mr. Ringer, and it is still beyond my comprehension why you think he's an intelligent person, just by comparing your magnificient writings with impeccably structured ideas to his, well, rantings when he talks.

    It's so confusing for me, that almost hurts.

    • Jana Doak says:

      I judge him by his works. Not all I agree with, but his scope of accomplishments is breathtaking especially against the hurricane force gales resisting him all the time.

      • Marco says:

        His advances and actions on what he stands for, are laudable, specially with all the hate he gets, fueled by leftist media and comedians with an agenda (Stephen Colbert and other Obama worshipers) who make fun of anything he does or says*

        *- unfortunately, he gives them a lot of material to make fun of him which is a great opportunity for them to turn people's attention to irrelevant issues

        • Steven Lidkea says:

          Ah, but is that part of the plan? The left is so distracted by his tweets that they ignore the things he's actually doing: reducing the federal government by over 16,000 people; stacking the judiciary with constitutionalists at an unprecedented rate; realigning the world's power structures. He is achieving WAAAAY more than the media would admit, largely because they aren't paying attention.

    • Scott theczech says:

      He stands in the breach on our behalf and pokes his finger in the eye of the corrupt establishment. Everyone who has ever worked for him or with him has nothing bad to say about him. He likes and promotes win-win deals. He understands the distinction between the person and the persona…the brand if you will. I’ve never seen him punch first. If others stay on task and policy, so does he. If however they resort to personal attacts, heresay, innuendo, insults etc. he will accommodate them with reciprocity. I suggest we enjoy the show.

    • Jean says:

      Marco – looks and speech can be deceiving. I worked for a self-made multimillionaire who could knock the socks off any so-called financial guru with his solid analytical skills with regard to company valuations. I had to write all of his business correspondence, because English grammar and spelling were not his forte (to be kind). In fact, he once drafted a note he wanted me to write and spelled some of the verbiage out phonetically.

      Trump isn't one who spends nights worrying about public presentations. My guess is that during business meetings, he has bullet points and pretty much speaks in truncated vernacular. He's a doer, not a speaker. Judge him by his initiatives and their results.

      • lee says:

        Judge him by his lies and their results.

        • Jean says:

          ;y that same standard to Obama "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor," or better yet, "Your health care costs will go down after the ACA is passed…" And what were the results of Obama's initiatives? Negative GDP during many months of his term, and a "new normal" of 2.0 percent GDP growth at best.

          Apply the same standard to Hillary Clinton – "Benghazi resulted from a YouTube video that insulted the prophet Mohammed." Hillary lied, Ambassador Stevens died.

          Trumps lies have to do with his personal behavior around the time he married Melania. And if my memory serves, it was the democrats who stated that as long as a leader does his job, his personal life shouldn't be a factor (Bill Clinton's defense for 8 years of sexual harassment and rape). So far, not ONE shred of evidence of "collusion" (which, by the way, is NOT criminal!! Unlike Obama, he didn't take 500K in foreign donations and try to hide it) and every left leaning analyst, reporter or editorialist has stated that there is nothing that indicates any foreign entity changed election results.

          For the record, when did leftist become anathema to Russia anyway? Ted Kennedy colluded with Andropov to thwart every initiative that President Reagan tried to introduce. And the famous lines from Barack Hussein Obama to Putin, "I'll have more flexibility after the election….." Exactly what was that all about?? Of course, let's not forget that Bernie Sanders traveled extensively throughout Soviet Russia during the height of the Cold War.

          So for now, I'm quote happy with the results – lots of money and time spent chasing rabbits, a midterm that is likely to swing red in a big way, and an economy that is chugging along on full steam. Such a nice contrast to that "no hint of scandal" Obama administration that the majority of Americans suffered through.

    • lee says:

      Dont be confuse robert ringer is doing what he teaches.looking out for number going against.everything he used to teach. And conning the he won't go bankrupt again.

  7. Richard Lee Van Der says:

    Because of the two elections of O'hole, I feared for America. There were those of us who saw through him from the beginning, but, apparently, there were just too many GULLIBLE voters AND those who PROJECTED ONTO O'HOLE what he did not have or own. Too many were and are Ignorant Sentimentalists who don't understand Realism. Of the IS and the OUGHT, the IS is always the better choice! And worse, O'hole is STILL influencing too many people in America!

    • Rick G. says:

      O'hole! I love that! Lols! I wish Mr. Hussein O'hole would stick his ugly head up my a** and fight for air. Damn, I can't stand him! Still don't, never have, and never will!

    • Rick G. says:

      What really cracked me up about Hussein was when while he was in office (while America was being held hostage) that is, he was running around telling everyone that he has ancestors from Ireland and that his last name is really O'bama! As in O'Brien and O'Reilly. They evn has signs with his last name spelled that way and in green with an Irish shamrock beside it! Unbelievable! And the media was yucking it up and the American people were lapping it up as usual. Yeah, right! And I have ancestors from Mars! Really! I'm part-Martian! Lols!

    • Andrew F. says:

      I prefer the form "O-Hole." Your form may insult some Irish folks.

  8. TheLookOut says:

    BHO is one of the biggest frauds perpetrated on America and its citizens.
    We have, and will continue to reap the toxic aftermath from this King of
    frauds for a very long time. The DS establishment installed this fraud to
    divide America, and he succeeded. The stench from this POS will linger
    as the media lives, and loves the leftist muck.

  9. Frank Candy says:

    Robert, Not sure what you ate for breakfast when you wrote this, but I suggest you eat it every day! Man, this was one of your best essays. Well done Sir, very well done. Thank you.

  10. larajf says:

    I relistened to Brave New World (i love audiobooks while I'm walking or washing dishes) and it's shocking how our society has gone for the calm, the easy, have a soma and don't think lifestyle. We do follow whomever is acting like an authority and scream at those who dare to question the perfect life.
    I can only hope enough people wake up who then wake up the under 20 crowd. They're in control of the future.

  11. Jana Doak says:

    Excellent article as usual.

  12. Rick G. says:

    Barack Hussein Nobama!…..aka O'hole!. What a bad, sorry joke! Yes, when will that anti-American, socialist Muslim nutcase ever go away? Anybody know? He's been out of office for over a year now and he keeps crawling out from under his rock and rearing his ugly face again and again. A complete fraud and incompetent to say the least. But don't just put all the blame on him. There is s lot to go around. Like all the brain-dead losers who support and voted for him. These are the same goof balls who will never shut up about President Trump and the fact that Hildabeast did indeed lose the the last election.

    You know, for me anyway, the more I hear other people talk, the less I listen. Plain and simple. There is so much "caca del toro" being tossed about every which way, I find it hard to believe anything out there at all.. In case you are wondering what the Spanish term "caca del toro" means in English, well, if you know what "toro" means, you can pretty well guess what "caca" is! Yep, bull shit! Everything I hear out there is either overstated, understated, overexaggerated, underexaggerated, and/or completely false, no matter if it is from the people you meet and deal with everyday or the MSM or the gang up there in Washington. And most importantly, I keep close tabs on ME, in terms of what I say, because there is enough caca del toro flying around out there alread, who would need more? And the real danger comes from believing your own bullshit! So, I just go about my business each and everyday, assuming everything I hear is a mis-truth until I can conclusively prove to myself that it is indeed the truth.

  13. Rocketman says:

    While I was reading this I thought back to the times of Roman generals who would enter Rome followed by his victorious troops, booty and conquered slaves. A slave would stand next to him and repeat "Remember, thou are mortal." Thoroughly practical people, the Romans.

  14. BryanH says:

    Excellent, sir. Your writing should be required reading in our schools. It is my fervent hope that BHO and company are tried and jailed for their crimes against the American people. #DrainTheSwamp

  15. RagTagRebel says:

    I think one remedy to this Dunning-Kruger effect problem is putting some kind of personal liability on personal claims. If someone claims to have some ability, or makes some prediction, are they should be willing to lose some personal possession or position if they are wrong or lying, or cheating. Like if a global warming scientist claims that the ice caps will melt completely by 2020 if CO2 emissions don't fall by 50%, is he willing to bet $1 million or some prison time if he's wrong? We could have liability checks on resumes too, like have a a job applicant sign a statement that states that if he lied about something on his resume, he would pay the company $1000 and it would go into his permanent job record. I'm sure in many other instances, some sort of personal liability would be very helpful. After all, it works money-back guarantees, and I think most of us would buy a product with a money-back guarantee over one that doesn't, all other things being equal.

  16. Scott Theczech says:

    I believe the Bible makes several references to humility; one of which relates humility to wisdom.

  17. Robby Bonfire says:

    "Frantically grasping for words" is what most public speakers do, as a way of pretending they are being "spontaneous." It is a worn out, lame tactic anyone can see though, but these people with a public forum continue unabated to spew their "Um," "uhh," and "you know" fake "thinking on my feet" histrionics – when they have a teleprompter, in most cases, right in front of them.

    Good for you, Robert for seeing through and exposing this silly, childish, affected mannerism. Public speaking is a lost art. The more technological we get, the lesser-skilled and the more self-conscious we become.

  18. Scott says:

    Perfectly sums up my experience calling into a radio show with the chairman of the county Democratic party. I pointed out that all they were doing was complaining about Trump and not doing anything constructive. (Even claimed that the Russians funneled money to the NRA to support Trump!). He was extremely confident in all responses, and claimed that the current economic boom is due to President Obummer. He also showed the true colours by saying that people cannot be trusted to spend money wisely, so the gov't should tax it and spend/save it for them. Meanwhile, he sends his own offspring to private school. It's actually good to see such arrogance on full display – President Trump really brought the nastiness and hypocrisy of the Modern Liberal out in full display. THANK YOU PRESIDENT TRUMP AND ROBERT RINGER!!!

    • Robby Bonfire says:

      1. Private schools are now glorified high schools, or haven't you noticed? There is not ONE truly private school remaining in America. Many high school and prep school grads today cannot make change for a dollar bill and think the word "lose" is spelled "loose."

      2. As regards people cannot be trusted to spend their money wisely – damn, you shop at any supermarket and the glut of sugary, HFCS products is over-whelming, so that HOW CAN you shop for value when everything is sugared up, preservative junked up, or denuded, like the bread they tell you is

      There seem to be two worlds we live in, the real world, and the mythical world we live in wherein our best interests are being served at all times by those who furnish our basic foodstuffs and essential services.

  19. Craig says:

    Google “imposter syndrome” to find a possible root cause of the DKE.

  20. Rip Read says:

    Excellent Robert…As Always! Thanks for the clear and succinct rundown of what to look for…and what to run from. Thanks to a guy named Ringer, and a couple of his books I read, over and over, back in the 70's, I don't "suffer" from these pervasive fools. I ONLY take my own counsel when it comes to bottom line decisions, and I RUN from flakes…as fast as I can identify them! Thanks again RR, for the initial education, back in the day…and for your continuing education classes that keep me on track…in my "old age". I believe that the guy, Ringer, had a very solid perspective on REALITY…I remember him saying, among other things related to the topic, that REALITY IS THE WAY THINGS REALLY ARE…" Rings true for me…every day! Thanks Again RR!

    • lee says:

      And the way things really that putin and trump are destroying the united states of america.

  21. Jurgis says:

    “ … never bothering to ask why, among scores of other boneheaded gaffes … “ – I am not a fan of omaba, but have you ever known of a politician who has not made bone-headed gaffes? …

    “With just a handful of exceptions, I found that most of the people I dealt with seemed to have an abundance of self-confidence but, to put it mildly, had no idea what they were talking about.” – I learned a long time ago that 99% of them are totally faking it, and that I could not trust any RE agents or RE attorneys – it was so pervasive that I had to get out of the lying business …

  22. Rock Roach says:

    I thought I heard the other day that the village idiot was considering running for office again.Maybe as a senator? He's already been one of those in Illinois,correct?Maybe a dog catcher in Honalulu might be more appropriate.
    If he does,I bet those dogs would learn how to swim well!
    And btw Robert,The Dunning-Kruger effect sounds a lot like the Chemistry theory in Winning Through Intimidation.

  23. Jean says:

    I have to wonder if there is a correlation between the occurrence of the Dunning-Kruger effect and the 20 year (or so) promotion of "self-esteem" in the classroom. You know, handing out participation trophies and declaring that everyone is a "winner"? Add to that the efforts of public universities to provide "safe spaces" for their allegedly adult students so that they don't have to hear things they don't want to hear, and you have the perfect formula for the incompetent adult who has no idea how to gauge real talent, skill or intellect.

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