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.