And why that’s a problem
How often do you get things wrong?
Probably not enough.
We love to be right.
We love to know what we’re talking about.
We shy away from getting it wrong.
It makes us feel vulnerable — and weak — to get things wrong.
We don’t want to ask the wrong questions. We don’t want to make the wrong decisions. We don’t want to have the wrong opinions, sing the wrong lyrics, or incorrectly state the wrong facts.
It’s okay. We all hate being wrong.
I hate being wrong.
But what are we missing by being afraid to be wrong?
What questions are we not asking for fear of being ridiculed?
What perspectives are we not acknowledging because we fear others will put us down?
What books are we not writing for fear of critics mocking us?
It’s human nature to want to avoid being wrong. But avoiding being wrong can be detrimental to our growth.
I’ve had many professors and teachers over the years. Most were good, some were not, and a handful were great.
But my favorite professor — and the one who probably taught me the most — was a professor who invited his students to be wrong.
“Ask the hard questions,” he would tell us.
“It’s okay if you can’t formulate the question correctly. It’s better to ask the hard questions and risk being wrong than to ask easy questions that you already know the answer to.”
“Write papers on difficult subjects,” he would always say.
“I’d rather you try to write about a hard subject and explain it inadequately then just waste time writing about something simple and below your intellect.”
“Talk to people with different beliefs,” he would remind us.
“When you interact with people who think differently than you, you might just discover that you’re wrong and they’re right. Or, even if you still disagree, at least you now have a better understanding of their perspective.”
As time goes on, I find myself realizing more and more that the professor was right.
We need to be willing to be wrong.
We need to have the self-confidence to know that being wrong doesn’t mean we’re stupid — it just means we’re willing to take risks.
And it will benefit us in the end.
So what about you? How are you avoiding being wrong?