Discomfort of Thought

It’s a system of electability over credibility, affirmation over information, the comfort of opinion over the discomfort of thought. 

Seven of the 32 NFL teams are in the process of hiring new coaches, while college football programs have turned over their staffs as well. When a workforce is reduced by one-third every season, it’s an indication of bad hiring processes.   

In June of 1962, President John F. Kennedy, a Harvard graduate, gave the commencement address at Yale University, claiming in the beginning that he had “the best of both worlds, a Harvard education, and a Yale degree.” Kennedy urged us in the speech to “disenthrall” ourselves from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, to confront reality.

“For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic,” he said. “Too often, we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

What Kennedy was urging the graduates of Yale to do was to not accept something because it’s easy, to not fall in love with affirmation, before information. We all have a tendency to want to affirm something we love before we have all the information. We are quick to rush to judgment before we have all the data, particularly all the reliable data. 

Because the NFL is in the entertainment business, myths can become reality. Instead of hiring the best people for the jobs, those who are electable get the first offers. It’s a system of electability over credibility, affirmation over information, the comfort of opinion over the discomfort of thought. 

For the past 20 years, the system has not changed. Each year, six or seven coaches are fired, and more hired. Then, three years later, the cycle begins again. Until we all take Kennedy’s advice, until decision-makers choose to seek information before affirmation, before they refuse opinions, before they think, this will continue to occur— in the NFL and most other high-level industries. 

Don’t get comfortable with other’s opinions. Instead, fall in love with discomfort in thought.


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