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Nov 30

Willingness to be Wrong

In user group meetings I sometimes ask questions of which I already know the answer. I do this because I know there are a few attendees that are either intimidated by crowds and/or may have a pier/coworker in the audience and they don’t want to appear as stupid. I don’t mind asking those questions on their behalf. However, there are also times when I’m wrong in my understandings or assumptions. Anymore I don’t mind being wrong for the sake of learning. It’s also helpful when I’m wrong that others learn at the same time.

The willingness to be wrong allows us to be humble and thus open to learn. If I continue to fight for my (wrong) assumptions then I’m not learning. I’m only making it harder on myself and anyone willing to help teach me. “Is this the hill you want to die on?” That’s a great question I need to be reminded of often. We grow more and faster when we put aside our misunderstandings, humble ourselves, and listen.

There’s a phrase in martial arts called “Empty the Cup”. In order for us to learn we first must set aside what we know (or think we know) to allow new knowledge to come in. It stops us from making snap judgments and jumping ahead. I know for myself it’s easier to teach a student willing to listen and simply do what is asked of them. I teach programming and also self-defense. I see the different types of students. Regardless of age it’s easy to identify the students who want to learn versus those who are required to attend. I’ve seen young students in self-defense more eager to learn new things. I’ve also seen adult students who couldn’t empty the cup and learn new programming lessons. Age does not mean you are wiser. It means you have had more opportunities to grow.

Though I’m a teacher I’m also a student. I too must be reminded to empty the cup, breathe, and learn. But it starts with a willingness to be wrong. Don’t allow yourself to believe being wrong is a bad thing. Learning from your mistakes and those of others is a great gift.

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1 comment

  1. Bill Holman

    Excellent! “There is one student I cannot teach… the one who already knows.”. OSS!

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