There’s a subject that few people ever talk about. It’s something that has the ability to change the trajectory of your career… and personal life. What is this something I’m talking about…?
It’s the willingness to be wrong.
If you’re like most people who read my work, you were taught to prize being right.
You were taught that the best thing you can do in school is score 100% on the exam.
The best percentile rank is the top 10%, the top 1%, or the top 0.1%.
The best medal to win at the Olympics is the gold one.
This mentality carries over to your personal life too.
It is better to make the right personal decision than the wrong one.
It is better to win an argument with a loved one than to lose.
It is better to prove that you’re right than to prove that you’re wrong.
This all makes sense except for one very important detail.
When you’re always right, you don’t learn very much. I’ve found you learn a lot more when you’re wrong.
Being wrong tends to occur far more often when you’re doing something new.
It happens when you’re learning and growing.
It happens when you take on stretch assignments at work that are a step or two outside your comfort zone.
It happens when you engage in professional development and try new skills you’ve never adopted before.
It happens when you’re working on your personal relationships and trying to improve them by using new skills, perhaps awkwardly and imperfectly at first.
It does not take a special skill, talent, or capability to be wrong.
Anybody can be wrong.
You don’t need to be in a particular part of the org chart to be wrong.
You don’t need a certain level of financial resources to be wrong.
You don’t need a particular set of DNA to be wrong either.
What you do need is a willingness to be wrong… to learn… and to grow.
It also helps a lot to be in environments such as corporate cultures, family cultures, or romantic partnership cultures where it is okay to be wrong.
It is not okay to be wrong in some companies.
It is not okay to be wrong in some families.
It is not okay to be wrong in some romantic partnerships.
Translated, this means…
It is not okay to grow at the fastest rate possible in some companies.
It is not okay to change beyond a predefined way of being in some families.
It is not okay to learn, grow, and evolve as a person in some romantic partnerships.
The willingness to be wrong also involves the willingness to spend less time in cultures where learning and growing are frowned upon and more time in cultures that embrace those notions.
To paraphrase something Elon Musk said recently: If you want employees to innovate, you can’t punish them for failing and making mistakes. If you do, they will only ever make incremental improvements where there’s no chance of failure (and no chance of innovation either).
As my mentor for romantic relationships said to me years ago, “Making mistakes in close relationships is normal and okay. It is how we as human beings learn and grow. It’s a part of the process for having growing, thriving, and satisfying relationships.”
The reason more people aren’t willing to be wrong is that, at best, it’s uncomfortable, and at worst, it’s painful.
Don’t get me wrong. I hate being wrong. It sucks. When I make a mistake, I still go “Ugh…” I feel the mistake in the pit of my stomach.
At the same time, I know this means I’ve learned something and that I’ll grow from it… and I usually do.
They call them “growing pains” for a reason… it’s painful!
The other reason that few people are willing to be wrong is because of something very simple… humility.
In today’s social-media-infused world, in a world that’s increasingly polarized, humility is in short supply… as is personal (and professional) growth.
These ideas are interrelated. The willingness to be wrong, the capacity to grow, and the ability to possess humility are all different sides of the same pyramid. It’s hard to have one without the others.
If you are hesitant to take on stretch projects or feel uncomfortable showing humility, you might consider working on your self-esteem and confidence. For help in those areas, I recommend my program on How to Develop Unshakeable Self-Esteem and Incredible Confidence. In it, I share the tools you need to develop healthy self-esteem and the confidence you need to step into situations that are outside your comfort zone.