Being absolutely right and being spectacularly wrong feel exactly the same.

Scott Adams, Loserthink

My father taught me many valuable lessons.

One of the most valuable was that I should be cautious when I’m convinced that what I’m saying is 100% correct.

Just because I am confident that is no guarantee of accuracy.

He based this advice on his own experience.

He had found it much easier to correct his mistakes if he didn’t initially insist again and again that he was right.

This warning has served me well.

Many times, I was tempted to arrogantly proclaim my correctness and the other person’s error.

Fortunately, I was usually able to resist the trap, which made it much easier to admit my blunder later when I found out I got my facts wrong.

And the times I foolishly embarrassed myself gave me added incentive next time to add the disclaimer “But I could be wrong.”

Just in case.

I now know that memories are unreliable and that the human mind is easily tricked.

As a result, we are frequently wrong.

When we make an assertion and find out that we were wrong, it triggers a reaction in our brains that enhances memory.

My brain hates being embarrassed even more than I do.

My brain says, “Let’s not do that again.”

So the correction gets embedded deeply in my long-term memory.

I still remember the answers to questions I got wrong in high school—and that was a little while ago.

What started as embarrassment insurance in the unlikely event that I was wrong has slowly become an awareness in the moment that, while I feel quite confident, I could still be mistaken.

This is how a wise person thinks.

Several years ago, I attended a lecture by a well-known writer.

The only thing I remember distinctly is what he said at the beginning: “Twenty percent of what I say today is completely wrong. The trouble is that I don’t know which 20%.”

It is quite possible the only mistake he made that day was overestimating his error rate, but that intellectual humility served him and his audience well.

When I discover I made a mistake, my natural reaction is to be embarrassed.

But I try to remember that every time I discover a mistake and correct it I am becoming wiser.

There is something much worse than being wrong. It is being wrong and not knowing that I am wrong.

I am convinced that is 100% correct—but I could be wrong.

Rod Pickett

Now available at Amazon: The Courageous Heart: Wisdom for Difficult Times in paperback and eBook.

Rod Pickett is a writer, pastor, teacher, photographer, real estate broker, certified personal trainer, consultant, woodworker, and life-long learner.

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Rod Pickett

Rod Pickett is a writer, pastor, teacher, photographer, real estate broker, certified personal trainer, consultant, woodworker, and life-long learner.