The Weakness of Overconfidence

Confidence is a great thing. It allows us to get past our doubts and take action. So why is slightly too much of it so bad?

Well, let’s first take a look at why we get overconfident. Generally, if something requires the full extent of our abilities, we find it challenging and need to use all our resources to overcome the problem. That’s a really hard thing to do, and we generally feel not too confident about it.

When things are at about our ability level but don’t strain it too much, we find it interesting and maybe even a bit relaxing. In this case, we can feel confident about our ability to accomplish the task, but know that we still have to work decently hard. However, when the task is extremely easy or below our abilities, we may often feel that it’s barely worth our time. That is where the danger of overconfidence becomes a menacing threat. Since it’s so simple, why not just put it off? You can just finish it with minimal effort later… right?

The key thing to realize is that the task is only easy assuming you use your resources and ability fully. But by not concentrating on it fully, the chance of making a mistake goes up significantly. It’s like only having half your brain available to you, making the problem harder. Additionally, resources that were available may no longer be available to you later.

Remember that when things are easy, you are expected to win. Logically, working extra hard on the easy tasks is also very important. If you are hired for a job, there are assumptions about what you know or what you need to do. If you demonstrate that you don’t actually have a fundamental grasp of the most basic concepts (even if you actually do), it could have severe negative effects, much more so than being unable to solve the latest hard problem.

Therefore, it is even more important to work hard when the task is easy than when the task is hard!

Summing-up: Just be extra careful when the task is easy to guard against overconfidence. After all, working through an easy problem 6 times probably takes less time than working through the hard problem once. That and they’re generally worth about the same!

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