Not an Expert? You Know Nothing: The Ricky Bobby Tactic

by Jason Wisdom

“If you ain’t first you’re last.” Famous words from Ricky Bobby’s father. Of course, later in the movie, when Ricky quotes it back to him, Reese says, “That doesn’t make any sense at all, you can be second, third, fourth… you can even be fifth.” At that point, we all laugh because we realize how ridiculous it is to say “If you ain’t first you’re last.” But I wonder how many people even thought twice about it the first time they heard it. I would wager that for almost everyone, it went in one ear and out the other because, at the end of the day, we all know the sentiment–if you don’t win, you lose. But the fact remains, first and last are not your only options (unless there are only two people in the race). The guy who comes in second is still a heck of a driver and walks away with a huge paycheck.

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It is all fun and games when it is in the movies, but it becomes problematic when equally ridiculous ideas gain traction in the real world. One such concept that gets thrown around a lot nowadays–in the halls of congress, by radio talk show hosts, on internet discussion boards, and everywhere else–can be summarized as follows: “Are you an expert? I didn’t think so. You know nothing.” Are those really the only two options; you are either an expert on the topic at hand, or you know nothing about it and should be ignored? Of course not…

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