Sweeping judgments can be breathtakingly accurate, and sweeping methods – patterns of those judgments drawn from intuitions over time – are unfailingly so. Bethany, for instance, who reads without ceasing, has always enjoyed books with great covers. The sorry reading she has discovered in books with sorry covers established the obverse of this theory for her as well, so that now she simply judges a book by its cover.
Harnessing your intuition can help you see things so-called experts overlook. Years ago I remembered that the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had just beaten the Dallas Cowboys in a Super Bowl, had been the looser team along the sidelines before the game’s kickoff, jumping and cavorting like idiots. I made a point of looking for the looser team before the following year’s Super Bowl kickoff, and I was rewarded by picking the game’s winner. I have since applied my “Loose-ometer” on at least twelve occasions, and it has always pointed to the Super Bowl winner, including a couple of notable underdogs.
You must befriend your sixth sense and slowly learn from experience how it whispers to you. It’s all Malcolm Gladwell stuff. Read Blink and rediscover your intuition for fun and profit.
My final example of intuitive method may become more profitable than betting on Super Bowls. I stumbled on it two years ago after helping Bethany pick colleges. I had wasted a lot of time reading through several thick college guides from U.S. News, College Board, and the like. Bethany finally settled on a great school, and one that I later realized I could have picked for her by going with my first impression gained from simply speaking the college’s name.
Now I’m putting this intuitive system to use by helping several teens of my relation pick colleges during their junior and senior years. I simply ask them to say the college’s name over and over and to describe the impression it gives. At our extended family’s annual beach trip last summer, I gargled the names of six schools a relation had chosen and urged her to give her highest consideration to Bucknell. I knew (and still know) nothing about Bucknell, but the name conjures a buck – I see large antlers – and the sound of a knell. Strong imagery. The letter k – the word’s center, assertive in buck but silent and reserved in knell – seems to endow Bucknell with both yin and yang and to spin the word on the k’s axis into a kind of spiritually enlightened chocolate-and-vanilla swirl. (Armed with these insights, who would waste time reading about the colleges’ more prosaic endowments described in those fat, overweening guides, or listening to those same colleges’ own self-serving spin?)
And Bucknell’s physiognomy? (I believe our words possess us, and that a word’s pneuma animates our faces as we speak it.) If you say Bucknell slowly, repeatedly, your mouth begins to assert itself and your entire face feels fierce: the first syllable fires out your lips with an air blast, and then the second syllable thrusts out your jaw as your mouth widens slowly, menacingly. Say it three times: you’ll lower your antlers and charge.
I mean, Bucknell’s so Anglo-Saxon that you want to chase it with “Excuse my French.”
Bucknell since fell by the wayside, alas – I may have discounted the knell connotation in my enthusiasm – but I received some good news today about my relation’s prospects concerning a college that wasn’t in our sights last summer. I responded with this email:
Dear C___: Congratulations! Worcester sounds even better than Bucknell, you know. Worcester is like Leicester and forecastle – words only the British know how to pronounce, words that remain mysterious, beguiling, and befuddling to your country-bumpkin American more used to rorcesters. Shibboleths, in fact, of culture and high standing. You can graduate from there and roll your eyes when people mispronounce it. Best of all, I’m not paying the tuition. Go there!
She’ll probably also get into a few public schools with which I’m more familiar – schools with excellent reputations and low, in-state tuitions but also cursed with ominously pedestrian names. I hope to steer her away from these, and I trust her parents will see fit to remunerate me when the financial spigot twists open full bore this fall. Affirmation along those lines would encourage me to share my intuitive gift as a consultant to anxious high school upperclassmen and their families outside of my limited sphere.