Some Uncommon Sense Needed today
Bill Cottringer

“You can see a lot by observing and hear a lot by listening.” ~Yogi Berra

Originally back in the day, common sense was the useful knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA’s) people needed to use to survive the challenges of living day to day. This included catching or raising your own food to eat, making sure you always had water to drink in freezing temperatures, knowing how to get wood and kindling to start a fire when you were too cold, and not running out of kerosene for your nighttime lanterns. These people knew a lot of useful principles that are now boring cliché’s—A penny saved is a penny earned, if something is too good to be true then it probably is, there are no free lunches, and you can catch more flies with an ounce of honey than you can with a gallon of gall.

Most of the people back then had common sense out of necessity because without it, you couldn’t survive, and that alternative wasn’t very popular. Today, common sense has shifted from basic survival know-how that was commonly held, to the common knowledge people have today which is primarily nonsense. The trouble is that with technology, the information explosion has resulted in far too much misinformation that is hiding the good sense from the nonsense. The Internet is the worst choice for trying to sort out truth from fiction. And, everyone wants to skip the survival phase of learning to deal with paucity and go straight to thriving in abundance without skipping a beat. This is tied to the immediate need gratification problem so prevalent today.

So, how can we restore a little common sense that is sorely needed to walk first and then run, along the surviving-thriving continuum of life? The best and quickest way is zero in on learning what matters most. Here are some things that matter most in this endeavor to restore common sense.

1. First, consider the difference between common sense and uncommon sense. Common sense says the universe had a beginning and has an ending; uncommon says otherwise. Common sense also says there is free will that and criminals abuse it for wrong-doing and need to be punished; uncommon sense says free will is a myth because consequences are already arranged for right and wrong choices. And, common sense advises to be certain by embracing a popular half-truth as better than nothing, whereas uncommon sense warns you to look for the other half with an attitude of tentativeness.

2.Learn what makes people tick and how things work. Discover the many commonalities we have with each other and all the differences that make us unique as individuals. Understanding both go a long way in interpersonal relations. All people are motivated, but each in a slightly different way and for a different reward. Be curious and find out how to catch fish and make you own sushi instead of buying it at Safeway or QFC. Or learn carpentry and help build your own house.

3. Don’t accept a half-truth until you find the other half. The popular “Secret” would have everyone just thinking positively to attract what they wanted, when you can’t really do that until you become aware of all the thing you unconsciously do to keep from getting what you think you want, like not knowing the difference between wanting and needing. And if that doesn’t work, consider this generally accepted saying: “The early bird gets the first warm.” But I add, “the first worm gets eaten.

4. Learn to accept the few things in life you can’t do much about and the many that you can have impact with a little thought and effort, like having to grow old but not necessarily without grace. It is not reality that needs changing but rather our incorrect and incomplete perceptions of it. This is like it is not the things in life that bother us, but rather the opinions we have about those things. Making uncommon sense back into common sense is very doable.

5. In going though life, always have a plan B and C, just in case Murphy’s Law turns out to be truer than not. If you put all you eggs in one basic and trip and fall, all you have is a mess. And remember the chicken and pig walking down the street where the chicken was duly impressed about a ham and egg breakfast for only $1.95. The pig was astute enough to remind the chicken that for her it was a mere contribution but for him, a permanent sacrifice.

6. Forget multi-tasking because you cannot carry two watermelons with one hand. Like free will, multi-tasking is some common sense that doesn’t work very well. It is like dogs chasing behind a car because they can. All they get is exhausted like the fox and hedgehog fable where the hedgehog knows how to survive without running by rolling up in a ball of prickly spines. The fox gets caught and eaten from running and getting exhausted.

7. View truth as tentative and evolving. As soon as you make it a certainly you get disappointed. If you add a bit each year to a truth you believe in strongly you will end up with a bigger more useful belief than if you kept believing the same thing for 20 years. Put in another slightly different way, it might be more productive to read the same book ten times then read ten new ones. Of course, there are a few absolutes and it is uncommon sense to know what they are.

8. Embrace ambiguity. While it is true that certainty and familiarity are preferred over ambiguity and unfamiliarity, ambiguity hides some very clever solutions that can go a long way to restore a world addicted to an unproductive win-lose competitive model rather than a more productive win-win cooperative one. Sooner or later the compromise imperative will require this shift, so there goes the choice for us.

9. Get creative, especially how you define the term itself. How you define anything determines how much or how little of it you have, just like where you are looking in time and place to see what you are seeing determines what you see. Uncommon creativity is often just seeing something old and usual and figuring how it can be used in new and unusual ways to get different results.

10. Realize success is not the teacher but rather failure is. Yes, successes can motivate and inspire you, but the lessons on how to succeed are hidden in failures along with the good sense hidden with all the nonsense. Besides that, by exploring any failure you will surely find clues for being successful the next time around. Maybe the common sense grading system used is schools today needs to consider that uncommon sense.

“Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.” ~W.C. Fields.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D., Certified Homeland Security (CHS) level III, is Executive Vice-president for Employee Relations for Cascade Security Corporation in Bellevue, Washington; sport psychologist, photographer and adjunct professor in criminal justice at Northwest University. He is author of several business and self-development books, including You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, ‘P’ Point Management, Reality Repair, Reality Repair RX, Thoughts on Happiness, Pearls of Wisdom: A Smart Dog’s Tale. He can be reached at 425-652-8067 or or