Falling In Love With Being Wrong

by Zach Briggs

I aspire to being wrong.

I prefer to state my wrong uttering as questions or suggestions. These types of wrongnesses (I hope) cause people to think. They drive the team to write better software because they needed to consider my flavor of wrong before shooting it down. Maybe my incorrect statements interact and co-mingle with their almost-correct ideas and produce better ones. Maybe they even adopt my wrong ideas wholesale and we're all surprised together at me being slightly less wrong than expected.

This isn't irony or reverse psychology but my best ideas held with the conviction that I'm wrong. But I must consistently share my wrong ideas freely and without shame. Keeping the ideas to myself will ensure that I walk meekly into a life of mediocrity. 

Sometimes I still slip up and assert loudly that I am right and my rightness should be listened to and that, by extension, others are wrong. This is awful for me and everybody else because it means that either

  • I'm right and I'm an asshole, or
  • I'm full of crap and I'm an asshole. 

In both cases I'm not learning anything and the project becomes worst because other people feel bulldozed and disengaged. They'll shut down a very little bit as they loose a little bit of autonomy and become every so slightly less invested, if not entirely disconnected.

But approaching a technical discussion from the stance that I'm wrong empowers other people. It increases others' investment in the success of the project as they watch their own ideas take flight instead of just being tasked to implement my own.

What if the other idea is truly disastrous and my own is the only one that can save us from ruination? This is a hallucination of mine that reoccurs every once-in-a-while. I must simply remind myself that everybody else working on the project is as smart as me and as invested in success just as much as myself. If that isn't the case then me throwing my weight around and being right very loudly is going to make the situation for-reals worst.

If the project environment is safe for short term failure with non-judgmental, quick feedback then I will have an opportunity to reintroduce my own wrong idea later where it can be re-evaluated and perhaps adopted after all. By taking the stance that I'm wrong and defaulting to the other decision, either

  • I was actually wrong and I learn something, or
  • I was actually right and somebody else learns something

So please accept my apologies as I'm still right every once-in-a-while. I'm only human.