Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!
Last week I wrote about how to “get to no.” Basically, how to find out if you’re wrong, who to ignore, and who to listen to. This week I’ll give you some tips on what to do once you come to terms with being wrong.
Steve Jobs was famous for being extraordinarily determined, but also being able to change his mind on the fly. Curiously enough, he would fight someone to prove point A, and not listen to any arguments for point B.
But the next day, he might come in and argue for point B as if he had come up with the idea. It drove people crazy and has often been explained as a case of extreme arrogance and idea-appropriation. And it probably was.
What I like though and find inspiring was his ability to just “switch.” He could take one position and almost seamlessly switch to another position, without a deflated ego, loss of enthusiasm, or a sense of shame that he was once wrong.
Now, I’m not arguing you should adopt Steve Jobs’ way of stealing people’s ideas — but I think it can be tweaked for the better. So here’s my perspective on ‘being wrong.’
Stop dreading being wrong
The overwhelming emotion I feel when I first find out I’m wrong (trust me, it happens often) is a feeling of shame and inadequacy. I wish I was smarter, knew more, and that I had come better prepared. But then I have to concede failure on my part, that I was on the wrong side of the argument.
All of that goes through my mind, in just a few milliseconds (sometimes hours).
This feeling of shame does fade away in the end though, and then it’s time for celebration. Fitness fans like to say that pain is just weakness leaving the body. Well, being wrong, and finding out what’s right is misinformation and ignorance leaving your body.
Is that a pleasant experience? Hell no. It hurts and can be humiliating, and I’d rather avoid it. But… like fitness, you do feel better after a while. Actually, you ARE better after a while. You’ve improved something about yourself. You’ve gained knowledge!
The trick now is to minimize the awkward transition period between being wrong, finding out you were wrong, and becoming right. The shorter, the better.
Ideally, in the middle of a discussion, you just blurt out, “Oh shit, I was wrong!” — and then celebrate immediately. Give people a hug, open the champagne, high five like a madman. Feel free to become ecstatic in the knowledge that the world is now a better place, and you’re a better person.
There’s no need to endlessly mull over the fact you were wrong, and in what way, and about how stupid that was.
You’re still free to analyze how you came to the wrong conclusion. That’s actually useful as it’ll help you recognize mistakes faster in the future.
But the main thing you can train yourself in is to wonder what else you’re wrong about and look forward to being proven wrong in more areas. Not to dread it.
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