“The ‘Greater Fool’ is actually an economic term. It’s a patsy. For the rest of us to profit, we need a greater fool, someone who will buy long and sell short. Most people spend their lives trying not to be the greater fool. We toss him the hot potato. We dive for his seat when the music stops. The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed.This whole country was made by greater fools.” -Sloan Sabbith, on "The Newsroom"
This quote in Aaron Sorkin’s "The Newsroom" inspired me to evaluate paramount importance of self-delusion in our society as well as our individual lives. As the quote analyzes, the greater fool is an individual with a mixture of self-delusion of ego, someone who is “deluded enough” to imagine that he can succeed where others have failed. Conventional wisdom views self-delusion as a flaw. But is it really a negative characteristic?
Let me establish that I am a skeptic. No, not a cynic, a skeptic. Skeptic René Descartes said that one thing was certain: Cogito ergo sum— I think therefore I am. Descartes’ quote highlights the importance of critical thinking in life. Contrary to popular perception that skeptics are stubborn disbelievers and cynics, skeptics are critical thinkers and strongly believe in the evidence-based approach to determine validity. However, let alone an optimist or realist, even a skeptic should try to analyze how self-delusion and ego could be lucrative. You need a lot of the "blend of self-delusion and ego" to think that you can change the world. To think that you can overcome the challenges, that individuals across decades have struggled to cope with. Most decision-making processes come down to a payoff. In this case, would you rather be a cynic and doubt your abilities or have the blend of self-delusion and ego with a shot at leaving an indelible imprint on the world?
How can delusion be advantageous for an individual if it makes you inaccurately judge your intelligence, conscientiousness, or even how attractive you look? Therefore, self-delusion is potentially beneficial in minimal amounts. Just enough, to make you keep going. Just enough, to make you persevere. Just enough, to make you think the risk is worth the reward. Most stories that inspire as well as intrigue us are stories that talk about individuals who acted against all odds. Individuals who persevered when all hope was lost and when defeat seemed inevitable. "Star Wars," "The Lord of the Rings," "The Wolf of Wall Street," and myriad others are all stories of people who believed in themselves and persevered even when all hope was lost.
Self-delusion assists you into thinking that you are tough enough to go through your Herculean task. It helps you to think that you are bright enough to take on this piece of technology that appears challenging to comprehend to you. It helps you to think that all your hard work will result in success. And sometimes, the perseverance, that results from self-delusion, leads to success. So, do you want to be the Greater Fool?