In New York, when I was in the 6th grade, I was walking toward the bus stop with my younger sister and a classmate. On the way, a man asked us to do him a favor and keep a lookout to make sure no one saw him changing clothes. We stayed at the front door of a brownstone while he went upstairs to ‘change.’ In the process he exposed himself to me and my classmate. This man was lying in wait near an elementary school, looking to sexually abuse children. This could have been so much worse for us.

Instinct said don’t do it, but 11 year old me thought his request was ‘reasonable.’ My classmate told her parents and alerted the school. I didn’t say anything to my parents or the school. The next day, my parents were alerted and I had to give a description of the man to the police in the principal’s office but as far as I know, nothing happened to him. Shame silenced me.

That was one of many times I ignored what my instinct told me.

Instinct is crucial. It can keep you safe. It can help you avoid mistakes. It can save you time. It can let you know who to trust (or not.) But we are often pushed to ignore our instinct and follow the ‘experts.’ (This medication’s side effects are worse than the issue I am taking it for, but the doctor said…)

There is great pressure to outsource our instinct to the marketplace. All that does is lessen our ability to hone your instinct and make someone else wealthier. I don’t need to buy another magazine. I need to do the things I know to do, consistently, like exercise, cut out simple carbs and stay off Twitter.

The more you learn to listen to and trust your instincts, the easier it becomes.