One of the most important moments in the first Matrix movie is probably the moment where Neo decides to leave his home after being invited by a guy and a girl. A girl with a white rabbit tatoo on the shoulder.
Why ? Because earlier on in the movie, he had received the message above : "Follow the white rabbit". I've always wondered why he did this. Obviously the realization of something unexpected and deemed unlikely encourages us to go out of our comfort zone. As if it was : a Sign. Paulo Coelho, the spiritual writer talks about the universe conspiring to get you to your goal when you want something hard enough. The universe will guide you using : signs. Coelho calls them : the signs of god.
The belief that clues exist to guide us through our lives is of the metaphysical order of course. But the underlying truth to it all is, once again, of the evolutionary kind. We are a species that evolved, probably like many others, to chose. To chose. No tot know but to chose.
You might have heard Jean Buridan, the medieval theologian who tells the story of a donkey at equal distance from two haystacks. Unable to chose any of the two, he starves for several days, then dies. Out of indecisiveness. Now, first of all, this is a story, I can bet you no donkey is that dumb. But more to the point, Buridan uses this example to illustrate humans indecisiveness. Buridan has been proven wrong.
Doctor Antonio Damasio, who spoke at TED 2011, gave an original tour of the human mind: We are impulsive machines. More importantly, our reason, which we think is a tool that allows to decide, is not. It is a egg-timer that'll set off action once time runs out. I haven't read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell yet but I bet there's something about that kind of mecanism in it. Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein, which I ordered, takes this concept into account.
It is no coincidence that we follow leaders that seem doubtless. Leaders throughout history, or at least the ones I can think of right now, have rarely given the impression of being thoughtful persons. People know they need someone to lead them even in the midst of uncertainty. In other terms, someone who will take action in though completely ignorant of what is happening. These are the presidents we elect : Not the ones that will ponder and evaluate, but the ones who will chose with no hesitation. Our evolved selves detect patterns of impulsiveness. They appreciate and value them.
Confidence, courage, are all marks of action in the midst of ignorance. It is as if knowledge and action are opposed in our minds. We evolved to chose however not to know. The most confident and courageous are the ones that can shut their brain up when they need to take action. These are the ones who will take initiatives, who will voice their opinion in the midst of a crowd. They didn't think the consequences through. They simply did what their impulse dictated. They may fail, but they tried. And trial and error is what got us here.