Frequently Wrong, But Never in Doubt
I am going to walk through two basic elements to ensure that is not you.
What you learn and then how you relate. How you listen and how you process.
Dylan has lyrics that have to do with not criticizing what you can’t understand. I like don’t understand better. Can’t understand sounds so superior and judgmental. What you don’t understand is under your control. You can control what you do not understand.
It is hard to learn about a subject without reading about it. I need to read more. You probably should too. Smart people in the past read so much. With Harriet Tubman in the news for her image on the $20 bill I saw a letter Frederick Douglas wrote her. It was so erudite. Obviously the guy read a lot. And to read Jefferson or Madison is to see the inputs of Locke, Hobbes, Montesquieu and many others.
Who can write with that sort of background now? Maybe not one person in your orbit. It is stunning to me what past generations were able to accomplish. Many had a more literate background by the age of 18 than most of us will in our lifetimes.
Beware folks who know much, yet read little. A singular perspective on any issue allows for little depth, and no breadth of knowledge. It is hard to get different perspectives without reading. If there is any filter on what you learn, then whomever controls that filter controls what you believe. Don’t get all your water from one well.
We will believe anything, no matter how ridiculous, if told often enough. Reading expands your perspective.
Reading allows you to take advantage of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. You read an editorial- there is the thesis.
You read competing views. You now have been presented the various antitheses.
And now you can synthesize. You can have your own opinion and back it up.
One should strive to know the counterarguments ahead of time. You already weighed the issues. There can be valid arguments against your positon, there just should not be valid arguments with which you were unfamiliar. That’s the goal at least. In fact, when advocating a position, it is best to reference the strongest counterarguments in a manner relegating them as necessary secondary considerations. Take away the strongest armament. A lion with no teeth or claws would not be too scary. You can take folks down if you have the better preparation.
Reading lets you understand what the loyal opposition thinks.
Reading also animates statistics and the use of statistics for all types of nuisance. Bear in mind that 63% of statistics are made up. Reading helps protect against that one stat that seemingly proves you are wrong. Some statistics illuminate; others obscure.
I’ll throw a landmine of a topic out as an example of how statistics can shape and frame. Anthropogenic global warming. The concept that an increase in CO2 is warming the earth rapidly. I will guess that you have specific opinions on this and its significance.
Now let me throw out a couple of things to think about. First, do you know how much CO2 is in our atmosphere?
The room you are sitting in- pretend that is our atmosphere. The air around us. Almost 80% of the room would be filled with nitrogen and almost all the rest would be oxygen. At the very very most, there would be a couple percent argon. You’ll have just small fractions of the last percent to spread around among many inert gases, one of which is CO2. Yes, CO2 is almost none of our air as measured by percentage. It would not even take the space of the coat of paint on the wall.
What do plants breathe? You know how we breathe in the air, keep some of the oxygen and let the rest out? Through photosynthesis trees and plants bring in air and keep the CO2. I guess they need CO2 like we need oxygen.
The next time you hear someone discuss this topic, imagine if they know those basics, which of course I cherry-picked and are two of many. I am no more legitimate as a single source than any other. (I don’t believe that, but writing standards dictate certain signs of humility). But if you’ve read the loyal opposition on this topic, you will be familiar with such unassailable facts. The conclusions you make may differ from what you’ve been told.
Marley had lyrics like “emancipate your mind from slavery. Only you can free yourself.”
It’s a little esoteric for my taste but I do like the thought that you control your thoughts. How you process what you learn. If you cannot relate what you’ve learned in a productive and positive way, what is the point?
So to the second and final element on not being the Frequently Wrong, But Never in Doubt type.
Understand the complexity of Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit.
People’s beliefs, like yours, are products of many inputs. Who they have learned from, who they have heard repeat things, where they have lived, where they have been schooled, etc. You only know what you are exposed to. They will only now what they’ve been exposed to.
Walking a mile in someone shoes is a whole lot different than putting yourself in someone else else’s shoes. Two similar saying but far different outcomes.
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes, nothing changes. Same opinion. Just different optics. But walk a mile in their shoes? Learn what they learn and hear what they hear,……now you get toward understanding.
Perhaps an example again is in order. Assume you work at the world famous Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue in New York City. An untouchable standing in the context of what has occurred there.
That hotel is one of the 4400 or so hotels Hilton Worldwide has in its family of brands.
One who is responsible for the public relations storefront of that icon will have little interest in highlighting the fact it is part of Hilton Worldwide. A great company, but it does not escalate the Waldorf.
Meanwhile, those in the corporate office want EVERYONE to know the Waldorf Astoria is in their stable of hotels. The Waldorf elevates Hilton.
Note: stockholders will agree with the corporate office. Unlocking value, so to speak.
Who is right? I think everyone. Where you stand depends on where you sit. Consider the goals of that chair the background of that person, the approach. Is this a cautious person or a thrill-seeker? Is this person trying to establish competence or is this person past that, angling to move to the next level soon?
Think it through.
In the Waldorf analogy there were legitimate reasons to mute the brand component. Planners would want to trigger the loyalty program (on property expense) or were looking for unique in-room experiences. Corporate folks had a myriad of great reasons themselves, not least of which was the support it provided cascading through the enterprise.
To wrap up, resist the urge to pontificate if you are not well-read on a subject. Know what you are talking about AND what the other person is talking about before getting dogmatic. Don’t let your enthusiasm surpass your knowledge. Read lots.
And factor in where others perspectives are coming from. Where were they developed, what would their goals be? Where do they sit? If you do these things, you’ll be doing better than I am!!!
I am Frequently Wrong, But Never in Doubt.
By the way, I made up that 63% statistic.