It is okay to be wrong


“An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field.” - Niels Bohr.

When I was a young engineer I had this really annoying habit of saying:

“That’s so easy to fix. I can’t believe you couldn’t. . .”

Some time later. . .

“Bloody hell and damnation!”

“Trickier than it looked eh?”

/me fumes.

I was so not good at being wrong. I hated it. I also hated looking stupid and/or sheepish. I was almost pathological about not being wrong. And grumpy. And defensive.

Over the last few years I’ve worked really hard, with varying levels of success, at overcoming this. I think I’ve gotten a lot better (I am probably hideously mistaken about that… Oh wait. :)). Mainly by accepting that it is okay to make mistakes, forgiving myself and trying to have a good laugh at my own expense. That may seem a little glib but this is harder than it looks.

Oh don’t get me wrong. I am still not awesome at it yet. I still curse myself occasionally like I’ve stubbed my toe and tend to want to go sulk in my room but I’ve gotten a lot better at saying: “Okay I made a mistake there. deep breath. Now let’s see what we can do about it.”

Even more awesome is that I do laugh at myself a lot more now. Let me tell you how much I giggled (and shared my clumsiness with Twitter) after I fell off a treadmill in front of a gym full of people this week. But again not perfect yet. Indeed, my storm cloud face when I have made myself look like an idiot, makes my partner laugh heartily:

“It’s not funny!”

“Oh yes it is.”

/me fumes.

So instead of treating every mistake as a reason to punish myself, get angry or criticize, I am trying to see it instead as an opportunity. Throw in some self-deprecation and the cherry on top of all this is that I, and more importantly the people around me, feel better.