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The Courage to Be Wrong

Before delving into the topic of being wrong, I want every reader to first partake in an exercise. Try to think of the last time you said to yourself or another human being “I’m wrong.” I’m willing to guess it wasn’t today, it probably wasn’t yesterday, and if you can remember the last time at all, it was very long ago. Despite what you’ve been raised to believe, despite the value system promoted by society, being wrong is not only a fact of life, but it is a privilege. When you embrace how often you are wrong and recognize your ego is impeding your ability to learn from these mistakes, you will find an opportunity to grow far more as a person.

How Does Society View Wrong-ness?

The dichotomy between “right” and “wrong” is evident in almost every important aspect of our lives. Standardized tests from an early age distinguish the “right” answer versus the “wrong” one. We learn that making mistakes is bad and the pathway to success is paved by being right. This understanding of right and wrong is a fundamental part of growing up for most people, which can be clearly seen in our reactions and emotions involved with being wrong.

From a personal perspective, being wrong about something has no feeling. The dread and embarrassment you feel is actually descriptive of how you feel when you realize you are wrong. In a brilliant discussion on the topic of being wrong, Kathryn Schulz describes our perceptions of being wrong and how they impact these emotions.

When we realize we are wrong about an event or a fact we tend to fear that something might be wrong with us. Being wrong is a defect that is not only ignored, but often vehemently denied. Some of the most evident examples come from politics and big business. Politicians will try to avoid being wrong by any means necessary even if it negatively affects their own constituents. Perhaps questioning financial methods could have prevented the economic turmoil that started in 2008.

While society plays a large part in preventing us from admitting that we are wrong and learning from this, our own ego does too. Most people have an idealized self-perception of themselves and the flaw of being wrong does not fit. In combination with societal pressure, ego can be crippling for anyone who wants to develop themselves.

As a child, I used to play with Lego’s during all the free time that I had. I built castles, fortresses, and had epic battles. When my parents used to buy me Lego sets, I would follow the instructions, put it together, and relish the final product. On some occasions, I made mistakes while following the instructions. After spending frustrating minutes on a particular step, I would conclude that the Lego company must have accidentally left out a piece or printed the wrong instructions. I could not accept the fact that I made the mistake. Inevitably, I always realized it was my inability to follow instructions, but the mentality is evidence of my own ego and unwillingness to accept that I was wrong.

You Are Wrong And You Will Like It

Despite how little people want to admit their own failings, as humans, being wrong is probably the most important way for us to grow. When we close our minds to alternative perspectives / facts and try to incorporate convenient information into our own reality, we are halting our learning process. Here are a few examples that being wrong can be greatly beneficial for your personal growth:

• Young children are particularly prone to making mistakes when they are younger, but they have few inhibitions about accepting what is wrong in order to learn.

• An entrepreneur can be infinitely more successful when they learn quickly from their mistakes and innovate their products. Entrepreneurs who are afraid to fail quickly and reiterate a new product will not survive long.

• Musicians like Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart made thousands of mistakes in playing and composing their works. Every mistake brought them closer to their masterpieces of music that have remained popular for generations.

To Err Is Human

Not only is being wrong beneficial for our learning, but it is a part of our everyday life. In a Freakanomics blog post, Schulz provides the use of inductive reasoning as an example of this. If someone asked the question “A giraffe has a long ___?” one might reasonably assume “neck”. Still, the smartest computers would be incapable of finding the right answer. Humans can guess what is probably true based on statistic inference. When learning languages, we see patterns, which lead us to make some errors with the caveat that we learn much quicker. Therefore, without realizing it, we use our wrong-ness to our advantage.

Perhaps I am wrong. I do not know for sure, but if I keep an open mind I will learn a lot more. I challenge you to make ten mistakes every day, notice that you make them, accept you are incorrect, and learn from them.

“Life isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being better.” – Kathryn Schulz

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by Mans Denton

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my article. I'm Austin, TX based and I love the Paleo diet, meditation, proper fitness, and entrepreneurship. If you want to know more, check out the About THM Page

4 comments… add one

  1. I love that quote “Life isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being better.” YouTube video was awesome too.

    Reply
    1. Yeah, I wish Kathryn Shulz would see this and comment! As much as she believes that being wrong can be helpful, she was spot-on this time!

      Reply
  2. Oh yeah, what a great idea! Let’s all be wrong all the time…

    / sarcasm

    Reply
    1. I don’t think you have fully recognized the meaning of the message. It isn’t about being wrong all the time. It is about embracing our mistakes to learn from them and ultimately be right.

      Reply

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