We all know what common sense is, right? It’s something that’s been on my mind quite a bit as of late. I’ve had conversations about it, I’ve read about it, I’ve perhaps alluded to it in previous posts.
Two points I’ve come across on the topic have struck me harder than most. In a conversation I had with a friend, where I was laughingly telling him about my sister asking if I could help her to work out an eating and exercise plan, and when we discussed exercise and not eating ice cream, drinking beer and having desserts for dinner every day said she’d rather not bother, and he told me that people don’t want to hear the common sense approach, that they want to hear that there is an instant action pill that does the work for them or something faddish they can participate in or a product to buy to make things more entertaining or up the cool factor.
The second was when reading a blog post advising newcomers about errors they were making and things to avoid. It was said that one of the ‘errors’ the newcomers were making that was contributing to low viewer rates was writing about common sense things and providing common sense advice to reader’s issues. Bloggers were advised to avoid the ‘common sense’ trap at all cost, because the writer wouldn’t (along with other readers) be inspired to read it. Part of the blame credited to this came from a ‘been there, done that’ feel, citing it as boring, plus the same explanation my friend gave me for why my sister had no interest in exercising and eating healthy at that time.
Yet through all of this, society and people still have the same problems as we did back when common sense was valued. And we’re still searching for solutions to those same problems. We’re looking for hacks for the same life situations. Tips for achieving certain goals. And yet, we’re writing off common sense as being passe, bypassing it for the latest entertainment advice, looking for miracle solutions that have to be easier and better and more sensational. We want to run that 100 mile ultramarathon. We’ve heard about how we need to train properly, eat properly, train, train, train, train, train some more and work at mental preparation and earn our Masters in the study of hydration. We honestly believe we will get there one day, because even though we don’t want to hear any of that and refuse to do it, and bypass it as being tired old news, we believe that one day we are going to come across that one product or that one blogger’s advice telling us how we can do it with no preparation and no effort – whether it’s by learning to breathe a special way, or taking an expensive pill for a week beforehand.
But common sense is more than just about exercise and eating. it is about employing your power of analytical reasoning to any situation, problem, task, conversation at hand, and coming up with a reasonable and realistic solution, response or reaction, which will lead you to the proper conclusion or next course of action to get you to the most desired result.
Common sense is if you have work and you are paid to do that work, that you are expected to show up and do that work, or wind up unemployed. If you are choosing to not show up because you get paid for sick time, but you’re one of those people that do this as a way to play hooky, then common sense would dictate that you come up with some reasonable excuse to explain why you were away, while getting paid for that time (I know way too many people doing this) – or wind up unemployed. You wouldn’t try to find a different way to get around these things that’s newer and more innovative. You show up to work. Or in the other event, you provide a reason for not being at work. That’s it. No new approach is required for these things. No alternative approach, no fun twist or fad, no pill would work. You don’t want to be unemployed. You’re utilizing common sense.
Common sense is going in to write an important test and knowing that you either have to know already the subject matter inside and out or that you have to study the s*** out of it beforehand if you want to pass. If cheating is your thing, then common sense tells you that you need to prearrange how you are going to do it if you are to be successful at it. Again, no new approach is required or would work in this scenario. You need to have knowledge, study that knowledge or acquire that knowledge. No fad or pill or crazy newfangled scheme is going to affect that. The end goal is to pass that test, so you employ common sense.
Common sense is also reading a shocking, sensational piece of news on a social media or tabloidesque platform and before sharing that piece of newfound information, investigating the source or doing some fact checking to ensure it is correct. You don’t want to look bad or gullible, so common sense tells you that you should investigate a little bit further into whether Elvis really has been spotted alive in Arizona or not.
Every day we use common sense. In how we respond in a conversation after hearing what the other has said (common sense tells us that we should be responsive to what they have just said, and tells us to be appropriate in the context of the situation at hand with our reply). In choosing our meals (common sense tells us that if we are allergic to something we do not eat it). In choosing our attire (common sense tells us that offensive or provocative shirt is not appropriate in many settings). In choosing the route we take on our drive (common sense tells us to avoid the highway that is under construction and to take the secondary highway that leads to the same place).
So why are we so dismissive of it? Why has common sense gotten such a bad rap? I want to hear about the latest harebrained crazy fun get rich quick scheme and entertaining hacks to get you there the same as everyone else (they’re fun reads, what can I say), but I want to know more about and really dig into the ones that tell you the proven, effective no bulls*** approach to get there – the common sense way. And while I just used ‘get rich quick’ as an example (I had lost my interest in that over a decade ago), this really applies to a ‘get (anything) quick’ scheme – how to make him/her fall in love with you on the first date, how to get skinny in just 7 days, how to gain 10 pounds of muscle overnight, how to run a marathon tomorrow no experience required… if you’ve never heard of anyone these things have worked for, if all of your experience and knowledge tells you something is too good to be true or tells you something completely contrary to that which you are hearing or being sold, or if you’re being told you can learn and become proficient in something overnight that it took your acquaintance a lifetime of practice and dedication to master, common sense should be telling you that it isn’t going to work. The only benefit from any of this is the profit the sellers (corporations or sponsored web/social media pages) are making off of you.
And the worst part is, many of us are deliberately pushing aside our common sense, because we hope that this time we’ve found the easy way out, we hope that this time will be the exception to the rule, because getting things done right takes more time and energy, because we have shorter attention spans and get bored too easily and are on the search for bigger, better, more out there. Which is fine, if that’s what you choose. But it doesn’t get results. And what’s the reason, our driving factor, for doing anything – and I mean anything – at all? To attain a specific result. Which means – that’s right – we get tired of failing and we’re finally ready to succeed, so we turn back to common sense to get us there.
It isn’t always pretty. Sometimes it’s hard work. It can slow things down. It’s like the brown bread of the lifestyle writing world; It’s drab, a little tasteless, boring to look at, nobody really wants it and it’s no fun – but it gets results. It improves your life.
So let’s encourage those beginner writers to keep going on dispensing that common sense advice. We obviously still need it. Let’s start bringing common sense back into vogue. Stop discouraging it, before it gets lost to time altogether.
But who am I to tell anyone about what common sense is and isn’t? My mother still insists I have none.