You know that saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Lets be honest, we do that all the time. I know I did it the first time I ever heard of the TED Conferences. When I was introduced to them I was only told it is pretty much a conference of geniuses! My instant thought was, “Conference of geniuses eh? Who is this Ted? I went to elementary school with a kid named Ted… and it better not be him because used to eat glue as a child.” As I have read speeches and watched videos from the conferences over the years I have learned that there are some wonderfully brilliant people who speak at these things, and I have learned a lot from their wisdom. In fact, I even learned from one speaker that I have been tying my shoes wrong for about 30 years! If you are laughing at me then watch this to see if your timetable for shoe tying wrongness is longer:
While not everything that I have read or watched from these conferences has been applicable or noteworthy, one thing I recently watched piqued a great deal of my interest. It was a speech given by Kathryn Schulz on being wrong. I found the subject very intriguing because after being around academic communities for a very long time I have encountered numerous people who will go to verbal war with you in an attempt to defend why they are completely right and your adverse opinion is wrong. For further evidence of this phenomenon just hop on Twitter and watch people go back and forth arguing with each other. You have to admit, if you have spent any time around people then you have noticed there is something about us that really does like being wrong. The argument Miss Schulz gives is that being wrong is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, being able to admit we are wrong propels us on the right path to greater success.
During her speech, she validates the feelings we get when we discover we’re wrong in that we feel embarrassed or dreadful. However, she also points out that realizing we are wrong can also be revelatory. She goes on to say that we have been trained since grade school to interpret being wrong with making mistakes, which lead to bad grades, which lead to failure. The truth of the matter is, being wrong helps to realize that we are not perfect; that we are prone to make mistakes, and because of this there is room for improvement. Think about it… if we (all of us) were genuinely right all the time then we would all think the same, there would be no diversity of thought, and we would all be perfect (thus rendering this entire topic moot).
I think we all can assent to the reality that everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. However, for many us to admit that is true about ourselves in given circumstances is nearly impossible. The reality of the matter is this… every mistake is an opportunity for growth. Every time we are wrong we are given a chance to learn. Being wrong is not a curse, it is an opportunity for improvement. I challenge us all (including myself) to admit – to ourselves, spouses, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, and God – that we are wrong, and then seize our opportunity and grow from it!
Kathryn Schulz’s speech can be seen here: