Reliability and Intuitive Information

SunsetThe sun comes up and the sun goes down and we trust it. Even when the scientists tell us that the sunlight we are seeing today was sent out from our past, is not even today’s sun, and we cannot even be certain that the sun has not already become extinct in real time…it just hasn’t betrayed us yet! While what I just said may not exactly be accurate or sophisticated physics, hopefully you get my point.

Reliability with regard to intuitive information has three principal areas of focus: the reliability of the source of the information; the reliability of the information itself; and the assurance that any subsequent information received will be as reliable as the first. While there is overlap among these considerations, credibility of source has much greater importance with regard to operating on gut feeling than the source, say, of numerical data that are considered to be relatively free from personality tampering.

If I tell you that my intuitive information derives from an insight I had while reading a book on management, it is likely that you will at least pay some attention to what I say. If I tell you that my information – the exact same information – derives from a space being inhabiting the twelfth dimension, it is unlikely you will give me a moment’s notice. In this case the issue is not the reliability of the information itself, which might sound quite reasonable, but the source of that information, which may or may not appear to be credible, and will most likely appear to be completely unreasonable. How can I consider a space being from a twelfth dimension to be a reliable source of intuitive data for the success of my very practical business, when I know of only three dimensions and do not believe in extraterrestrial intelligence? Even if the information could make the company rich, I would resist any attempt to risk the well-being of my company on such an apparently unreliable source.

As distinct from source, there must be some way to determine the reliability of the content of intuitive information received. How can such information be credible in a business environment? How does the information rise above the label of “fortune telling?”

Belief in the source makes people believe in the data. The violation of trust felt when a trusted source is found to be either corrupt or just plain faulty can be quite intense, and can incur not only appropriate wrath, but hefty fines as well. It took years of cumulative data to make investors aware that perhaps their trusted sources of financial data were faulty at best and absolutely wrong at the height of the significant downturn in financial  markets. There were countless clues from intuitive sources that something fairly fundamental to the structuring of global financial instruments was afoot, but because the intuitive sources were considered unreliable and traditional sources had not yet discerned new patterns emerging, many people lost their livelihood as businesses failed or were greatly devalued.

When is that magic moment when the source of information must be questioned deeply, even if it has been reliable in the past? How do we recognize fundamental structural changes on the  horizon before they wipe out investments and savings? In truth, the source and content of information should be questioned at every moment and at every level. One can never be lulled to sleep by past patterns, whether mainstream or intuitive. The issue, then, is how to question without becoming immobilized or unable to trust at all; how to establish reliability when both the playing field and the rules are changing.

Intuition helps trigger an internal awareness that it is time to pay closer attention; it is an individualized alarm clock that allows for routine or continuing action, pending some personal signal that the information received is no longer reliable. It says simply, “Be aware and pay attention.”

There need be no specific content requirement to activate this alarm clock; it is simply an emotional or energetic trigger for increased awareness which may or may not be linked to specific investments, say, or stock performance, or even the news headlines. It is likely to be an internal trigger that lets you know whether the area of concern is professional, financial, or personal. This trigger can be expressed as a pattern of sensation in the body, the appearance of “signs” such as arrows or repeating numbers in the environment, or many other highly individualized clues. You might see the face of your broker in a flash moment with his or her head hanging or tucked into the overcoat; this would be a good moment for a phone call to ask, “How are things going?” During the next few weeks you might pay special attention to the market until you feel you can coast again and things have settled down…or erupted openly.

Business intuition, while often considered unreliable, can be of great service when traditional sources of data fail. Once investors have already taken significant financial losses, the presumably greater risk of seeking out intuitive data when rational analysis has failed now seems not so great at all. This is the moment for thinking outside the box, for discovering whether, and if so, how, information from an intuitive source can make a difference in current performance and future earnings. Such content, even if from a questionable source, can save the day.

From my perspective a fundamental requirement for insuring the reliability of intuitive information is detachment from the outcome, from the content of the data and how this content plays out in the real world. How, when so much money and reputation and lives are on the line, is detachment possible? It is precisely because so much is on the line that detachment becomes critical to achieving reliable results. One has to become a “disinterested party,” so that as little bias as possible enters into the intuitive information. I have made a practice of not being invested financially or emotionally in any business I advise, regardless of the headlines, personal relationships, or known “facts” to the contrary. It is hard enough to be detached; add investment in the outcome and reliability all but bites the dust!

That is why for me, one important clue to the reliability of intuitive information is the extent to which the information comes in a rush, and is a complete surprise to my rational mind; it may even seem outrageous. I know in that moment that the information is not derived from my reading the news, or my professional education, but from some other mysterious, but amazingly more reliable source… my gut feeling, my knowing without knowing how I know. I look for that nanosecond rush, that deep and instantaneous clarity, and I consider such information reliable. That is the information I would pass on to clients and friends; that is what I would use to guide my life. In return, they are responsible, as am I, for what they do with that information, and with how they interpret that information as they apply it to business and life decisions.

The other thing that enhances reliability for me is a fundamental commitment not to edit the rush of intuitive information I receive. When what comes is surprising and may sound totally impractical or impracticable, it is so easy to try to “fix it up” a bit, or edit and temper it. With years of practice, perhaps the most important practice after all, I have learned that reliability is enhanced when I commit to not editing, to taking that very first thought that comes to mind in seven seconds or less – in a nanosecond – and use that, act on that, communicate that. Anything else become increasingly unreliable as the filters of the rational mind take over and make over that gut felt hunch. It is amazing how quickly the rational mind tries to get a hold on that hunch, too! Sometimes a slight alteration changes meaning and timing immensely, just as veering a single degree off course for an airplane could mean ending up in an ocean rather than on a landing strip.

The reliability of subsequent information depends in large measure on demonstrations of reliability in the present or past. This is again why detachment from the outcome is so important. If my ego gets in the way, reliability goes downhill fast. Nothing breeds reliability in the future more than successive demonstrations of reliability in the present and past. I relax and trust myself; clients relax and trust themselves in trusting us both. Then success breeds more success, the “proof” of reliability.

Eventually “all is revealed,” as my father used to say. The remaining question is how much time it takes for reliability to be borne out: 1 week, 1 year, 5 years, a lifetime? This depends on the framing of the question, the framework of the issue, the nature of the business or industry, and a myriad of multivariate expected and unexpected impacts on possible outcomes. That is why, once again, detachment is key. The possibilities are quite literally mind-boggling. At some point we will all know whether the information was reliable or not ex post facto. But then who needs precognitive and predictive information? It will already have become too late. In the meantime, trust in surprise and trust in that rush of knowing without knowing how you know. That’s what I do.

I have a hunch widespread reliability is brewing… Now if we could only get out of the way and let it!

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