To be blind is bad, but worse it is to have eyes and not to see.
Can you handle being wrong? The compulsion to be right prevents breakthrough insights, discoveries and other creative possibilities. When you think or know you are always right, your awareness is like a flickering light bulb and you have trouble seeing what is happening and have less sensitivity to changing circumstances. These are the times in life that you can really be blindsided. Failure often occurs not because you don’t know something, but because you spend time and energy defending a premise that is no longer true or clinging to rules and practices that are irrelevant, outdated and ineffectual. Knowledge and understanding needs to be viewed as dynamic and constantly changing.
Information has a short shelf life. In 10 years, at least 1/4 of all current “knowledge” will be obsolete. In some areas of the computer industry, 1/2 of the knowledge is obsolete in 6 months. Charlie Rose asked a panel of experts what makes highly successful people in the Silicon Valley. The answer wasn’t smarts; you can buy that. It was the ability to trust one’s intuition and to acknowledge to yourself that you thought you knew something but didn’t and immediately change course. Always be evaluating what works and what doesn’t and immediately let go of that which doesn’t work.
Males seem to have a problem asking for help. Ask any women whose mate refuses to stop and ask for directions. These women might feel great empathy for Rebecca Boone whose husband, Daniel Boone, once said, “I have never been lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.”
Because I have a background in marketing and writing promotional copy, I write all the advertising and descriptive literature for my seminars. I once submitted a class description for a catalogue and without my permission the description was revised. My first thought was “How dare they Don’t they know what a talented writer I am?” The seminar sold out; it was standing room only. Based on that experience, I revised the description that would be published in other catalogues. I was willing to learn and let go of the necessity of being right.
I use to believe that exchanging business cards was a meaningless ritual and a waste of time. I was wrong. What I failed to realize was that though it may be a waste of time in certain situations, it’s a social convention and not exchanging business cards is like not shaking hands. It’s a slight rebuff and is a subtle way of offending people. It never makes sense to needlessly offend people either in a business or a social setting.
If you don’t permit yourself to be wrong, you may feel that you are eliminating risk and avoiding mistakes. You aren’t. Rain falls equally on the just and the unjust and bad things happen to good people. What you are eliminating is the aliveness and excitement of new adventures. Mistakes are the greatest teachers in life. Churchill said, “ If you want to double your rate of success, double your rate of failure.” If you aren’t making mistakes and you are always right, it simply means that you aren’t doing anything new. If you aren’t doing anything new, how can you grow? If you aren’t growing, how can life be exciting? You are stuck!
People who pride themselves on always being right cease to investigate alternatives or even think about alternatives. Creativity is founded upon the ability to consider alternatives. If you do not allow yourself to constantly ask “what if” questions, you will lead a limited life. A powerful question is “What if I’m wrong?” If you cannot consider that question, you allow yourself no wriggle room in life. Rigidity (mental rigor mortis) sets in and with this limited flexibility, you lose touch with reality and believe that you have greater control over events than really exists. No amount of blindly following rules will eliminate the randomness of life.
The secret to success and growth isn’t being always right. Nobody is always right. It’s acknowledging and responding to changing circumstances. It’s living in the present in which you are constantly evaluating your life and making the necessary daily adjustments to the changing reality. A sailboat can be off course 99% of the time, but it constantly tacks back and forth and arrives at the planned destination. It’s not bad decisions that do us in, it is the unwillingness to let go of bad decisions. Always be considering your choices and options in life and have the courage to make the necessary adjustments.
If you can never be wrong, you will never allow yourself to be a beginner and that prohibits you from trying new things and pursuing new ventures. This requires unlearning the way you were conditioned in school. In school the emphasis is on being right. We are taught the right way to do things, the correct facts, and the correct deductions to make. So the real lesson we were learning was how to conform, how to always obey and automatically follow the rules of rightness. When we blindly and automatically do what’s right, our ability to ask “Is this the best way?” or “Why are we doing this?” diminishes and our ability to continuously question the status quo atrophies. We cease to challenge assumptions.
You have probably heard the story of the housewife who would cut off both end of the roast before placing it in a pan for cooking. When asked why, she said that’s the way her mother did it. When the mother was asked why, she said that the way her mother cooked roasts. When the grandmother was asked why, she said that her pan wasn’t big enough and she had to cut off both ends of the roast to make it fit.
If you think you are always right, you are cheating yourself out of considering possibilities that could add so much meaning and joy to your life.