Saturday, May 9, 2020

Being Wrong

I've heard it occasionally joked that the hardest words for people to say are "I was wrong". This makes for humorous anecdotes such as Clark having the hubcaps stolen off of the Griswold family truckster from being too stubborn to ask for directions or pretty much anything Homer does in The Simpsons.

I even have a couple memorable moments where my confidence got the best of me. For example, when my kids, the ex and I lived in Maryland we rented a nice three-level townhome in Gaithersburg. There was extra family room space in the basement, but the stairs had a rather tight turn to get into the stairwell. Still, we decided a couch would be nice down there so I took out my tape measure and did a little geometry. Unfortunately, I did this math a little more like back of the envelope physics than engineering, i.e. I pretty much assumed a 2D couch.

Much to the dismay of my ex-wife and the delivery guys, the couch did not fit! I was at work and even tried to tell them on the phone how to fit the couch into the stairwell. Well, the last of it was their comment to my wife of, "Ma'am, couches don't bend". They left the couch wrapped in the living room.

Upon returning home from work my ex and I tried again. This time I took the door to the basement off of its hinges and argued that they weren't angling it right. One sweaty hour later, with nothing but dented sheet-rock and a pinched finger to show, I threw in the towel and admitted calculational defeat. 

Fortunately, the love seat fit down the stairs as did the love seat from our older furniture set, so we had some comfort in the basement space; albeit it was not the best napping space. Also, our move to Minnesota allowed for the joyous reunion of each couch to their matching love seat as there was a favorable stairwell geometry. 

My reason in relating this tale is that I think there is great wisdom in learning to admit when you don't know something and definitely when you're wrong. For me, a big part in my decision making process is taking time. Time to ask the question "What if I'm wrong?" and time to do the thinking and research to make a decision.  I'm not perfect and I can get amp'd up and make those "jump to" decisions. While such knee jerk reactions are part and parcel of me, I work to admit that even my core-believing self doesn't have all the things figured out. 

This has been a process for me in all aspects of modern life; particularly on that silly place known as Camelot...I mean Facebook. There's a lot of information out there. There's a lot of things I want to believe and there are a lot of things I want to call BS on in a knee jerk sort of way. It's easy to get lost in those belligerent thoughts and easy to overreact. I have a gut feeling there's a non-zero blood alcohol level that correlates with how people interact online. Digital courage as opposed to the liquid variety.  

With so much information, mis-information, hearsay, etc. out there it is understandably difficult to determine what's real and true and how to respond; if response is warranted at all. It feels worth having a set of principles for engaging with the interwebs, something along the lines of:
  • Assume you are going to change zero people's mind on most things.
  • Give things at least an hour if you're fired up. In fact, I'd like to find/build an add-on that would delay my posts at least an hour before they're posted and then ask if I still want to post them.
  • If commenting is decidedly worthwhile, be respectful and fact based.
  • Envision you're talking with people face-to-face. How would the conversation go? Most times there's some common ground, just with different perspective.
  • Skepticism is totally okay and encouraged, but be willing to dig deeper and get to the bottom of things. Challenge others to do the same.
  • Don't accept "because so and so (insert pastor, activist, politician, my mom, your mom, Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen (I can't stress that one enough) here) said so". Most things in this world have objective answers and data. Some are matters of ethics, and a few are matters of belief.
  • Listen to all sides.  I had a particularly hard time with the "Plandemic" movie because it was way highly produced and only presented one side of the story, i.e. extreme media bias. It's important to hear all sides in a factual, non-rhetorical manner. I still tend to prefer print journalism for this manner, but being visual beings, images and high production quality media seem to win out for most.
  • If something hasn't be scrutinized, peer reviewed, etc. don't trust it, or take it as opinion only. Even then, it could still be not the entire picture. 
  • If facts aren't going your way, while it may be emotionally convenient to claim levels of secrecy, conspiracies etc. hold back and work some logic. Ask more questions. 
  • While wrongness happens, call out personal insults and put-downs for what they are: laziness of people to check themselves. Leave if it starts digressing.
  • Be grateful. If you are wrong and you see it, take it as learning, not shame. For example, early in the YouTube days I saw some physically impressive stuff. I think it was jumping a sled of bike and hitting some obscure target. I was impressed that that could be done so I shared it.  A fellow Hamline Physics friend pointed out that what was in the video was unphysical and showed the debunking of the video. I was a little embarrassed, but also learned something about my willingness to believe stuff. To this day I remember that and am grateful for the lesson
Again, these are just a few of my thoughts on conducting myself, making decisions and even trying to innovate at work. We call ideas that seem really good, but don't pan out at work "nice ideas". 

We like to dream of miracle solutions and answers, but it seems worthwhile solutions only tend to come from hard work, trial and error with the occasional tiniest bit of luck. The only magic is our ability to sift through until we find and prove those rare great ideas that make the world better. Then again, I could be wrong.

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