Unearned wisdom (don't turn off the lights)

2023-07-14|⌛️2 min

Our team did an escape room together recently.

Before entering the room, the host prepped us. You could tell he was trying to help us avoid common cul-de-sacs. He gave us pointers that would ensure we wouldn't get stuck in situations that would often consume a team's time.

His last piece of advice was also the most cryptic: "You're going to get to a part of the game where you're going to be tempted to turn off the lights. Don't do it. It's a waste of time."

We nodded, perplexed – easy enough.

He continued: "In fact, even though I've told you not to turn off the lights, you're still going to do it. Everyone still does it. Again, you shouldn't - it's a waste of time."

Pffft! So silly that no one follows this simple advice. We won't be the foolish team that fumbles around in the dark. Advice received.

About 30 minutes into the escape room, we found ourselves at a juncture. Without getting into too much detail, we were stuck, and had just unlocked an arsenal of black lights. We began painting the room with the lights, looking for clues. All of a sudden, it felt very relevant to turn the lights off.

The team debated:

"...should we turn off the lights?"

"No, he specifically said we shouldn't do that."

"Are we sure he was referring to this room and situation? He could have been referring to the room we just came from."

"He said not to turn off the lights."

"Maybe there's another upcoming situation where that advice applies? We just got black lights!"

"It couldn't hurt to turn them off for a little and just see. We're stuck."

So, we turned the lights off, and fumbled around in the dark for 5 minutes. Twice.

And, of course, as the host warned, turning off the lights got us nowhere.

Carl Jung advised to be weary of unearned wisdom. You can receive all the advice in the world, but so often you have to reinforce that advice with your own experiences.

Advice can't help you avoid all the pitfalls – you have to go through it and see for yourself. Only then, with experience and first-hand anecdotes, does the advice transition into wisdom. Only then can you spot situations and appreciate that the wisdom applies (vs fooling yourself into thinking "this situation is special").

While advice can't always help us avoid hazards, at least it can shorten our time fumbling around in the dark.