2012/05/16

Why It's Good To Be Wrong

Most people don't like to be proven wrong. It seems like a basic instinct: we want to be right all the time. Being wrong is a sign of weakness, and we may be looked down upon by our peers for that weakness. Even when there are no peers involved and the realization of being wrong dawns upon us by way of self discovery, we admonish ourselves.

Perhaps it has something to do with the survival of the fittest as we evolved - if you were right about where the predators were, you could take steps to avoid them. If you were wrong, you died. If you were right about how to find food and shelter, you survived. If you were wrong, you died. Today, if you are right about what decisions to make to earn a good living for yourself and provide for your family, your family does better than if you get it wrong. Whatever the reasons, it seems an almost universal human trait that we do not like being wrong.

And yet, not so much on a life changing level, but more on a day-to-day basis, I look forward to being proven that I was wrong. And my humble opinion is that we all should feel this way. Here is why.

When I find that I have been wrong about something, I have just learned something new, and I have just been corrected. It makes me a better professional, a better practitioner of whatever art I am practicing. For instance, I recently said at my workplace that a database backup created on one version of SQL Server could not be restored onto a different version of SQL Server. A good friend (thanks D2) pointed out the error, and I looked it up, and sure enough I was wrong. Knowing this makes me a better database developer. There is no shame or ego that stands in the way of admitting that I was wrong today, because it makes me right going forward. Every time somebody shows you that you were wrong, and you accept it, you have just made yourself a little bit better educated.

Please do not take this to mean that you should want to be wrong. No, the goal still is to be right. Rather, this is about your attitude when faced with the possibility that you just may have been wrong. Hence, crazy as it sounds, I look forward to being proven wrong. When that happens, I accept it and embrace it, and I am better off for it. If you show me I am wrong, I will thank you for it.

So, have you been wrong today?

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