I used to think being wrong was the worst thing ever.
In fact, I used to try so hard not to be wrong, that I stopped making decisions. I stopped having opinions for fear of being considered “wrong”. I wanted to be right so much, that I would only make decisions, or have opinions, about things which I could almost guarantee myself of being right.
Worrying about being wrong prevented me from making choices. Choices that may (or may not have) led to great opportunities. I procrastinated about changing my own life, because “what if I’m wrong?” Now, I understand that maybe I will be wrong, but I will accept it immediately, reassess and make the next decision.
Changing the way I think, and forcing myself to make choices, didn’t magically transform me into someone who is now always right. I just care more now about making the decision than I do about the answer.
Then there’s the other side. We all know someone who is always right, or more accurately, never admits to be wrong. When we cannot accept that we can be wrong, we spend too much time defending ourselves and not enough on considering other options.
I used to work with someone who would not accept that he was wrong. Ever. He was able to progress to a management level. He eventually found it difficult to work with other managers, and did not have the support of his staff. He didn't last too long after that.
Just think about some of the big things that people have been wrong about in the past; the world is flat, the Earth is the centre of our solar system, wrestling is real, The Dress is white and gold, Star Trek is better than Star Wars.
If a large portion of humanity can be so fundamentally wrong about these things, think about the little things that you could be wrong about every single day.
Kathryn Schulz give a great TED talk about being wrong and why we need to start admitting it. She has even written a book on it (I have yet to read this book but I plan on doing so shortly).
In business, the rule for start-ups these days is to fail and fail fast. It is actually encouraged, not to be wrong, but challenge yourself to recognise when you are wrong and move on.
Here’s what being wrong does for you: -
Being wrong allows you to grow. It allows you to accept new ideas and concepts. To learn and expand your knowledge.
Being wrong allows you to accept criticism and make adjustments to your thinking. It makes you a better team member. It helps you understand how to take, and to give, constructive feedback.
Being wrong makes you more human. We can relate more with those who can admit to being fallible. “Fallor ergo sum (I err therefore I am)” - St Augustine
Being wrong allows you to become better and better at whatever your passion is. If you are right in everything you do, then you a limiting yourself to where you are right now.
We are often too fixated on the polarisation of right and wrong, especially for things that mean too little in the whole scheme of things. Over the years my wife and I have had arguments over many things, but the great majority, perhaps 99.9%, have been over something trivial. Does this sound like you?
I am wrong. About a lot of things. I am so often wrong, that it’s surprising that I am ever right about anything, but that’s OK. Every time I learn that I am wrong, I give myself a chance to become better, more knowledgeable, more useful. But even more than that, I give myself the opportunity to test my belief system. The more I can test my own method of thinking, the better I can become at things like problem solving, which is crucial to living and working in today’s world. It is definitely essential when starting a new business.
How can you embrace your own wrongness?
- Start off by considering the possibility that you might be wrong. If you have read this article and you still think you’re right about everything, go back to the start and read it again.
- If you realise you are wrong about something, don’t be embarrassed, be proud. You have now learned something and expanded your knowledge.
- Use your new knowledge to challenge other things that you might be wrong about. Do this over and over and you will be one of the greatest thinkers of all time.
Start admitting you’re wrong and see the world how it really might be. But then again, I could be wrong...