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Being Wrong

“Being wrong is what teaches us all the things we didn’t even know we could know.”

Being Wrong

The need to be right is so intrinsic to humanity that we seek it out at any cost.

We loathe colleagues who won’t admit it, but we often can’t admit it as well.

Being wrong feels terrible, as we all know.

Being Wrong is a Blessing

Being wrong is actually a blessing in disguise, and it’s particularly transformative for those in positions of power: CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs, and managers.

You learn something new every time you are wrong; acknowledging it gives you a leg up on your egotistic peers.  Admitting it out loud gets you extra credit.  Your direct reports and stakeholders won’t expect it, but their respect will increase with each act of humility.

Our Instinct Is To Need To Be Right

Evolution has designed us to be in control.  Society has told us to be perfect, and our peers have taught us to feel shameful and inadequate when we aren’t.  It takes hard work to unwire a lifetime of rightness.

The wires are tangled up in what psychologists call confirmation bias.  According to an article by Raymond S. Nickerson, confirmation bias is

“the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or a hypothesis in hand.”

We are intentional about arriving at rightness.

The tragedy lies in the fact that we’d rather operate blindly with the wrong answers than search for our humility and admit we are wrong.  Being wrong does not come naturally — but then again, most good things don’t come easy.

Counterintuitively, Being Right Is Terrible For Us

When we are right, we merely confirm what we already thought we knew; we don’t grow or get any smarter.

Each time you triumph in your rightness, you miss an opportunity to evolve.  Each time you embrace your wrongness, you earn knowledge.  Being wrong moves you forward; being right keeps you at a standstill.

The marginal inch you move forward when you are wrong is often imperceptible in the moment.  It falls under the purview of incremental growth: small gains that add up to major improvements over time.

Techniques To Embrace Wrongness

Being wrong creates cognitive dissonance.

This is the negative feeling you have when your behavior and your beliefs don’t line up.

Keeping your beliefs and behaviors lined up is how you protect your ego, but changing your beliefs about your behavior is how you evolve.  There are multiple ways to get better at being wrong, but understanding this concept and having the guts to change your behavior is the best place to start.

Getting Better at Being Wrong

  1. Hire people who are much smarter than you. This creates a high probability of being wrong on a regular basis, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice.
  2. Always attempt to disconfirm a strongly held belief before tooting your horn. This shows humility, arms you with more information, and helps you prepare for wrongness.
  3. Practicing servant leadership is also a great way to disassociate from the need to be right, emphasizing the empowerment of your employees and your trust in their decisions.

The Bible

We are made new in Jesus and ought to live in that newness.

We learn from our failures and make an effort to break undesirable habits.  We learn that our nature of pride prevents us from submitting to God and causes us to delay acknowledging our errors when we commit them.

But when we do something wrong to someone else, we should apologize.  When we admit our errors, it demonstrates our humility.  If we do not become humble, it indicates that we are still far from the Lord.

We must be modest in front of God if we want to win his favor.  When we acknowledge our errors, God loves us, and other people are more likely to like us as a result.

Proverbs 28:13 says,

A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful.  But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.

1 John 1:8-9 says,

 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Practice being wrong.  And let the guidance of the Lord lead you into humility — and let that humility become your business model.