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Monday, March 04, 2013

You Can Never be Right without being Wrong

We're born with the innate capacity to be drastically wrong and still be okay with it. Babies eat dirt and, most of them, learn that dirt doesn't taste very good. Toddlers touch something hot and learn that it's a bad idea. Children crash their bikes and learn that the jump was too high.

But somewhere on into the teenage and early adult years we start making the switch. We have, somewhere, gotten the idea that to be an adult is to be right. I wonder where children could have ever gotten the impression that adulthood is the equivalent of always being right...

But it's the very people who eschew the idea that we're right who are our greatest innovators and heroes. The dirt-eating baby who grows up continuing to try new and daring combinations of flavors might be a famous chef or a prize-winning chemist. The toddler who burned her hand might grow up to develop new technology to keep us safe in our cars. The child who crashed his bike might grow up to be a test pilot and get to crash even bigger things.

We have this dual-personality issue in our society where we laud those who embrace being wrong only once they've been wrong enough times to be right. We focus on the end rather than the means that got them to that end. We don't praise Edison for his failed bulbs, but for his success. We don't praise Asimov for his terrible writing, but for his breakout works. We don't praise Steve Jobs for NeXT, but for OS X and iOS.

What if we started praising people for failing? What if we started encouraging people to be wrong?

How would that change our schools? Our jobs? Our government? Our churches?

Most of the major breakthroughs in history would have been impossible without people being wrong. Why then, are we so averse to it?

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