“My Advantage Was Ignorance”

While both of us were waiting for a bus at the Oakland Airport, Andrew Sutherland asked me where I was going. He was from New Zealand, on a two-week visit to America. I asked him what he did. “I’m working on retirement,” he said. He’s in his mid-forties.

When he was 18 years old, he bought his first house for $1000. It was in terrible shape but he was good at making things so he was able to fix it up. Later he owned a bunch of houses in Denedin, where the University of Otago is located, and rented them to students.

“What advantage did you have over your competitors?” I asked.

“The main advantage I had was ignorance,” he said. He didn’t know all the things that could go wrong. “I wasn’t afraid.” Someone who knew more would have been. Geoffrey Bateson said something similar: If I’d known how hard everything was going to be, I would never have done anything. This is the upside of the ignorance that Nassim Taleb talks about.

One Response to ““My Advantage Was Ignorance””

  1. Ben Hyde Says:

    Sometimes it bothers me that we give so much respect to the oportunistic fools that survive. The exuberance and confidence of creatures in r-selected contexts belies the hundred of their kind that tried and died. But then, if you hang for a while in a K-selected community it’s stoggy residents come to drive you bonkers too. Not to hot, not to cold I guess. But is it a strategy?