The Bitch Slap: Why I Love Telling You That You’re Wrong

bitch slap you're wrongYou’re wrong.

There. I said it. And you know what? I simply adore telling you that you’re wrong. It gets me giddy like an Apple fan boy on the eve of a new iWhatever release. I salivate as if a waitress is walking towards me with a plate full of grilled cheese sammiches. My heart palpitates in a fashion much like I imagine it would if Clive Owen would get his shit together and propose marriage.

I love telling you that YOU’RE WRONG.

Having recently wrote a book about how, as a society, we have a distorted view of the true meaning and inherent power in the word “unpopular,” I’ll concede that nary the soul wakes up each morning excited about the prospect of being wrong.

But you should — because you’re thinking about the word in the wrong way. It’s time to flip that bitch right round, so today — we slap. Because the reason we’re collectively sucking and shying away from every piece of awesome pie is because we’re afraid of being wrong…and all for the wrong reasons.

Let’s start with the a-holes

You know her (or him). She’s at the ready with a smug I told you so with even the hint of a not-so-stiff breeze. She knows exactly what you did wrong and can’t wait to hold it over your head because, quite frankly, she knows everything. What’s best for you, what’s not, where you should buy your groceries, why you simply must eat organic tomatoes, why you’re not finding the man of your dreams, exactly which car you should buy next — I told you. She knows everything.

But she’s an asshole about it. And she makes you feel like an asshole if you deign to make a decision that doesn’t agree 103.7% with her mystical source of expertise. She speaks as if her life itself were ordained and blessed by a veritable cornucopia of unicorns, wood sprites, unicorns, and gnomes (along with a few beings of ethereal power).

These people are assholes and I’ll venture to guess that they want to impale you on their pointy fingers as a source of offense. If they tell you you’re wrong (all the %^*&ing time), then how much energy do you have left to point a finger back at them or even tell them to put a muzzle on it? The assholes beat us down and take a strange sense of joy in our defeat. And they’ll always be assholes. File them away. Because the reason I love telling you that you’re wrong isn’t because I’m an asshole.

It’s because I see, plain as day, the opportunity for you to kick ass.

It’s not about failure or risk

I could run down a list of situations in my life where I hit the *abort* key before starting anything, purely because I was afraid to be wrong. And it wasn’t about my tolerance for failure or risk.

I just didn’t want that pointy finger (from wherever) wagging in my face.

Risk is about ups and downs – what we concede in order to get to the other side and the chance of losing something in our pursuit of advancement.

Failure is about…well, failing. Hitting a wall because we were wrong. About something.

But what we’re missing is so very simple (so simple that I didn’t figure it out 17 years ago, right?) — the realization that something we’ve done or believe is wrong is an instant ticket to kicking ass.

So let’s get to the ass kicking!

I don’t enjoy seeing people hurt or in pain. I hate seeing businesses struggle when they could be soaring. So no, I’m not an asshole and I don’t just get off on being the definitive source for All Things Right.

I like telling you that you’re wrong because it’s a hot ass piece of opportunity, standing naked in front of you screaming, “RAVAGE ME!”

That’s why I simply adore telling you that you’re wrong. Wait – no, not because of the whole naked/ravaging thing.

It’s the opportunity thing.

You can only kick ass when you take yourself out from under the fear of being wrong. Wrong is a window. You can either stare through it and let it get dirty and cloud over, allowing it to keep you from the wildflower-drenched meadow of awesome on the other side.

Or you can open it. Or make it a door. Whatever you do, you need to crawl/walk/hang glide through the fucker and get to the other side.

Were you wrong about the person you went into business with? Fan-fucking-tastic. YOU TRIED. And now you can try something even better.

Were you wrong about taking a left about 3 miles back? Fan-fucking-tastic. Turn around. Pull up Google Maps. Get there.

Were you wrong about the person you fell in love or mad, crazy like with? Fan-fucking-tastic. Now that person will no longer waste your time or your heart and you can find someone worthy…someone who makes you giggle. You deserve someone who makes you giggle, goddammit.

Don’t be afraid of wrong. I see it as a gift I can give my clients every day when I see the chance to tell them that something they’ve tried turned out to be wrong. I get to place opportunity on the table, neatly wrapped in a box with some bitchin’ wrapping paper and a bow and say, “Hey! I got you something! OPEN IT!”

And inside, they find the chance to leave things behind that don’t serve them and embrace being kickass.

And it’s super hard to be kickass when a pile of shit is weighing your foot down

The assholes and your fear of being wrong both pile the shit on your shoe equally. How are you going to get the knee action required to hit it out of the park when you can’t even lift your leg? Scrape the shit off your shoes. Kick. Tell me how good that feels.

Discovering the art of telling others that they’re wrong

Believe me – I’ve had my moments of less-than-stellar fingerpointing technique. I’ve been one of the assholes. But here’s what I’ve found works wonderfully when the need arises to tell someone — friend or client — that they are in no uncertain terms dead bloody wrong.

  • Laugh – Is this life so heavy that we can’t laugh about a mistake? We make them every day. You. The person sitting across from you. The guy or gal sitting next to you. Laugh, for fuck’s sake.
  • Pick up the pieces – There is always a piece of awesome in every wrong decision, without fail. Find what’s worth saving and treat it with reverence. The pieces worth saving are discoveries. Gems. Jalapeno poppers –whatever your definition of platinum might be.
  • Look forward to being wrong again – Yeah, I said it. Because every time (you included) someone helps you discover that you were wrong, something beautiful happens — you have the chance to get back to where you need to be. Turn left at Albuquerque. Right at Pismo Beach. Park your ass in a mall lot in Peoria, Illinois. Call That Guy. Send an email to That Girl. Pay your fine and move on.

Do you love it?

People who are superb at telling you that you’re wrong aren’t assholes. In fact, they’re anything but. They’re incredible people in our lives who help us get to where we want to be instead of where we are.

Sometimes they tell us what we did wrong.

Others, they’re beacons, showing us what we’ve done right…and just happen to say nothing at all about us having been wrong.

But in both cases, we were all still wrong. We’ll be wrong again. So ask yourself — are you afraid of being wrong and why? Are you afraid of making a decision and finding out what’s on the other side or does the prospect excite you?

There are few decisions in life that have finite consequences, which is why I love having a career where I can tell businesses that they’re wrong. With life being short, why not endeavor to live one that lets you thrive instead of wallow. One that opens windows instead of forces you to stand behind them, separated from the opportunity on the other side.

This morning, I’m thinking about a decision my parents made many years ago — divorce. How they each were wrong in their ability to create a life and family together that would stand the test of time. And yes, they were both wrong. But last night, my father bid farewell to his wife of nearly 16 years and companion for closer to 20. In the past 16 years, I’d never seen my father happier. Coincidentally, I’ve also never seen my mother happier with the life she’s discovered since their divorce.

So being wrong? It’s nothing to fear. It gave Dad the gift of love and happiness — one he never would have known if he and Mom had trudged along. Mom and Dad told one another that they were wrong.

And now, my father’s heart breaks because he made a choice — one to love. I can’t thank Agnes, his wife, enough for making the choice to go along with him for the ride. Because the only thing wrong about any of this is that I’m ending this blog post to pick up the phone to call my Dad and find words where none, as I well know, suffice. Word that would have inevitably come one day, but aren’t the ones I should be searching for with Dad today.

Wrong is good. See it as a gift. Because when you open up the neatly gift-wrapped box, opportunity is inside. My Dad found it. My Mom found it. I’m still finding it every day and helping others find it. That’s why I love telling you that you’re wrong.

You’ve been slapped. And believe me — so have I.

This is for Dad and Agnes, just outside of Austin, Texas.

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23 replies
  1. Claire Wagner
    Claire Wagner says:

    Thanks to you, I can review some “mistakes” I’ve been avoiding thinking about. But they require reflection and with this new attitude, I can do it without judgement. This slap hit home but didn’t sting. 

  2. Amelia Hipps
    Amelia Hipps says:

    I agree with everything you said. Life isn’t life unless we make mistakes, admit we were wrong about the choices we made and learn from them.

    That said, though, please know you, your Dad and entire family are in my thoughts. I empathize with the loss you all are experiencing.

  3. Tim Lewis
    Tim Lewis says:

    What Erika is speaking to here, but in a Marketing and Business and Life sense, is the equivalent of why our body has a central nervous system, so that we don’t go leaving our hands on hot stoves for extended periods of time… 😉

  4. Todd Schnick
    Todd Schnick says:

    nothing to add here, other than you are a damn fool if you are afraid to tell people they are wrong. but, anyway, just a quick note to thank you for the SRV video… and see you next week!

  5. JasonFonceca
    JasonFonceca says:

    I was born and raised a genius, with an off-the-charts IQ, and a super-loving supported childhood…

    …and I’ve been more wrong, more struggling, more silently discouraged than  most people I can name.

    It was 7 years of failed businesses and being ‘wrong’, and it felt oh-so-right to me.

    I wear it like a badge of honor, and I’m beyond proud of it 🙂

    Fantastic post, Erika. Absolutely. Love. It.

  6. MadMax
    MadMax says:

    I have been following your blog for a few months now and I have to say, this Slap was one of the best, most appropriate ones I have needed for awhile. I love your perspective and your delivery. I love your insight and your candid nature. I might have an word-crush on you (just sayin’). 

    The only thing I would suggest is giving this Bitch Slap a secondary, alternative title:

    How being wrong saved my life.

    Thanks for being you, and for slapping all of us awake.

  7. Lauryn Doll
    Lauryn Doll says:

    Rest in peace Agnes.

    Re: accepting the ability to be wrong. That’s such an ego leveler. People usually are not ready to accept that they’ve made a mistake, took a wrong turn or failed. Harvard Business Review even has an article on the fallacies of product development that specifically outline companies believing their plans are great as a top myth that keeps product development from being everything that it could – and damn well should – be.

    Even in my personal life, I still need to shake my need to “save face” in so many areas and accept the power that comes from being wrong – “fuckin’ up” – at times. When you can ease up off the need to appear perfect and infallible, you stand to drop kick your ego and become better than you are. 

  8. Kristine Shreve
    Kristine Shreve says:

    I adore this post,  absolutely adore it.   I’m sorry for your father’s loss, and I know, from watching my own stepfather when my mother died, how heartbreaking losing a much loved spouse with whom you found a second chance can be.   Still,  both of them took a chance,  and it paid off big time,  and the loss now does not negate the love and happiness that went before.

    This is the message I really needed to see right now.  I’ve been standing on the edge of so many things for so long, and I’ve been fearful of taking the next step.  This is a reminder that it’s time. 

  9. Greater Hamilton Musician
    Greater Hamilton Musician says:

    Good call.  Fanfuckingtastic. I love the sound of those words. Thanks for a thoughtful and personal post.

  10. Peter
    Peter says:

    I am sorry to hear about your family’s loss this week. Agnes sounds like a special person. *Hats off* ——
    *   *   *You have doubtless hit a very important nail on the head. It seems to me, however, as if you treat all mistakes as being of the same kind: viz., as if they all comprise a humorous, pedagogical moment, whose repetition in the future can/should (i) cause pleasure and (ii) make good business sense. While this view covers some very important cases, it does not do justice to the plethora of complexities and realities on the ground.I am an in-house legal translator: I translate documents and review/proofread (good and bad) translations of documents constituting parts of cross-border transactions and tort proceedings (admittedly, my favorite). Translation, like most businesses, is by its very nature cooperative. If other people were not doing international/global work, most translators like me would be out of a job. It is that simple. And this earnest fact obligates all professionals whose work is subject to it to become acquainted with the nuances of accuracy, falsities, and tact.What experience has taught me and confirmed time and again is that there are various kinds of mistake, and most of them are no laughing matter, the pedagogical moment amounts to “never do that shit again,” and repeating it can lead to losing lots of business. It hardly ever makes good or any business sense to jeopardize one’s professional livelihood for any amount of time to such a severe extent. 

    Just recently, for instance, I had to review a very bad translation that was done by a certified translator (sadly, bad translations by certified translators are not a rarity in the translation industry). One mistake that particularly stood out: the translator mistranslated a word, and certain liability was transferred from the actual liable parties (in this case: the members of an LLC) to certain employees of theirs. If a dispute ever erupted, this mistranslation could have potentially cost all parties involved (both the legal and the natural persons) thousands of dollars, it could have cost the courts numerous hours in taxpayers money. ——This is the kind of mistake that only a satirist is permitted to find funny; the rest of us must make due with despair and attempts at tactfully diffusing a potentially explosive situation, in which (i) the messenger’s livelihood is in danger (me and my company), (ii) the message threatens the livelihood of a fellow professional (the other translator, regardless of what one may think of him or her), and (iii) a client’s reputation stands to become the epicenter of the blast.

  11. Ralph Dopping
    Ralph Dopping says:

    Erika. Ahem. I absolutely LOVE the SRV.

    On being wrong. That’s what is so awesome about pressing the publish button……just wait for the onslaught.

    abort…..abort, holy F**K abort already.

  12. jenlouden
    jenlouden says:

    the end of this post made me cry. as someone who is divorced and now getting remarried, I sometimes felt so much guilt about the divorce it was hard to accept this new love – but not anymore. really – thanks.

  13. stevenmhall
    stevenmhall says:

    my .02 = although there is no excuse, for we all should take personal responsibility for our actions and how we live, I do think society has primed us to be dishonest to ourselves — and therefore to others. Redhead bitchslappin’ is correct — people are frequently a-holes munching on the misfortune of others. I’ll bet many of them became that way as they, too, were the meal for some previous a-hole. While it can be difficult to take a chance, knowing failure may be around the corner, we cannot allow our paranoia/fear of others responses to be thing that keeps us from taking the chance. Btw the way, this is @stevenhaal — not sure why it linked me to the account it shows above. See? failure aint *that* bad!

  14. Lisa Carter
    Lisa Carter says:

    Crap. I’m an asshole. I just didn’t realize it until I finished the first paragraph of the asshole section. You’re right. I have officially been slapped. Now, I must subscribe.


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