The wisdom of taking a Second Look

In our instant-gratification world, wisdom can reward a citizen with a better outcome if we slow down and pay closer attention, Kevin Shinn writes.


I don’t have any scientific data to support my personal observation, but it appears that our culture is becoming more and more impulsive in decision making. And I see no end in sight.

Impulsivity is a conditioned response. It is easily taught by example and readily rewarded, especially when the drive is catered toward. With our expanding technology, there is no apparent reason to wait for anything.  Choices of purchase are weighed by how fast it can arrive over whether or not it is a quality acquisition or if it is even necessary at all. With how the pandemic has disrupted the national supply chain, I found myself deliberating this week over buying a piece of furniture. My dilemma was between settling for something of lesser quality that was in stock versus one that would not arrive for six to eight weeks, possibly longer.

I personally like the speed at which things arrive at my doorstep these days. I can’t complain about clicking an order on my phone and having it in my hands the very next day. I reckon there will come a time when even waiting 24 hours will seem archaic and backwoods.

It’s the broader effect of this speed that concerns me.

If I don’t have to wait for my food, if I can get new shoes delivered overnight, and any information I demand is instantaneously available on the device in my pocket, this immediacy is going to condition me when it comes to forming an opinion.

This is why I believe in the value of the Second Look.

Nothing is ever as it seems. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it sounds outrageous and horrifying, it probably isn’t.  Either situation merits a second look.

The Quakers were credited with the term “sleep on it.” They had a practice to reinforce a belief that there is value in removing oneself from the immediacy of a decision and allowing the mind to rest overnight before returning to the situation.

A wise citizen will do well by taking a second look at everything, especially in political matters. Before reacting to the latest claim that the government is going to take away all our guns or Roe v Wade is about to be overturned, step away from it. Taking note is not the same as compromising your convictions. Waiting to speak doesn’t mean a missed opportunity. It simply means there might be something absent from the information that is stimulating the impulsive reaction. Slow down and take a second look.

Recently, I stopped my car at an intersection to allow a pedestrian to finish through the crosswalk. My light was green and I assume that’s all the driver behind me could see. He began honking, and I could see his middle finger in my rearview mirror. He would have saved himself some stress by taking a second look and getting the fuller picture.

Growing in the act of taking a second look takes practice and conditioning and it will take time. As the smartphone has conditioned an entire culture toward the expectation of immediacy, in the same way, wisdom can reward a citizen with a better outcome by slowing down and paying closer attention.

Wisdom will never get the attention of the marketer, or the culture at large because wisdom does not immediately affect the bottom line. There is no fast track to becoming wise. It takes time to develop. But once it becomes firmly rooted in a citizen’s heart, that wisdom can change everything.

A chef, writer, and entrepreneur, Kevin is a thought leader in Lincoln’s cultural, economic, and civic life. No matter the endeavor, Kevin finds he comes back to the same main pursuits: setting the table, having important conversations, and seeing new ideas become reality. 

For more Civic Nebraska Writers Group columns, click here.

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