On being wrong…

I am wrong. A lot. I am ready to admit it.

Case in point, this past week, my husband and son decided to take some time and enjoy our summer.  On Tuesday, we decided to go to the Milwaukee Zoo. Because I am a bit of a crazy perfectionist (who may or may not be a tad obsessive), it’s possible that I may have slightly over prepared for this relaxing activity. I printed coupons, maps, and details instructions on how to get to the zoo. I had prepared an itinerary that included train rides, the antique carousel, seeing all the animals, attending the seal show, and of course an amazing picnic lunch. I packed water bottles, sun block, mosquito repellent, and extra socks.  We were going to have a fantastic day.

Forty-five minutes into the trip, I realized that I forgot the backpack containing all of those amenities, including directions on the kitchen table.  I was (extremely) mad at myself, but I knew that I remembered the directions exactly.  Being the somewhat controlling driver, I navigated the way I was SURE was the right way, even as my husband pointed to the sign that said “Milwaukee County Zoo” as it was flying by.   He may have politely suggested that I missed the exit. I may have ignored him. 

I knew I remembered the number of the exit and it was not that one. I was right. He was wrong. I was sure of it. (Insert exasperated sigh here.) 

Except that I was wrong. We were dreadfully lost and almost not in Wisconsin anymore. I felt a blush-worthy shame, I felt embarrassed at my insistence that I was correct, and I felt angry at myself for being forgetful of the map and food.

I thought back to this amazing TED talk by Kathryn Schulz.

Kathryn talks in this video, and in her book “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error“, about the fact that most people spend a great deal of their lives trying extremely hard not to be wrong. 

There are many great lessons in her talk, but the one that I am noticing more and more at work, and in my personal life, is that I have spent a great deal of time and an even greater amount of energy running my life in a manner to avoid being wrong. The cold, hard truth is that I fear being wrong. I fear that being wrong means that I’m not smart enough, educated enough, or that inherently there is something wrong with me.

This fear has actually gotten me pretty far in my life, but at the expense of a great deal of creativity, possibilities and alternate paths. I have found that having a great deal of self-awareness about this is helpful because it opens up the world to a great number of possibilities. I am becoming a better listener, and much better at considering other people’s opinions and views. I am enjoying the freedom that comes with admitting my fallibility.  I know that my son is going to not feel the insane intensity I felt about being “perfect”.  I am going to encourage him to make  a lot of mistakes, try new things, and ultimately fail. I am going to teach him to be wrong. And I truly believe this will lead him to some amazing accomplishments.


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Katie Hill


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  1. Katie, loved your blog, and so, so true (not that you’re wrong, Silly–that it’s ok to be wrong). Is it too much extrapolation to link being wrong to having failures? B/c the most admirable people to me are those that fail, and maybe (gasp) even fail more than once. We’re not talking about people that don’t learn from their failures…rather about those that aren’t afraid to fail. Heard a lovely commentary about some of the things that Steve Jobs did after he left Apple…not all successes, but bet he learned some things, stretched a bit. Our culture is one of conformity…so it’s hard to break off from the pack and do your own thing, no? But oh, so rewarding. Thanks for this!

  2. Kari, thanks for your comment. I think one of the greatest acts of bravery is to fail, and get back up and keep going. I had a mentor once who told me “fail spectacularly” in order to learn the most. I always find it fascinating how scary this prospect is. I think it’s so important to change the stigma associated with being wrong!

  3. Cana mom respond to this?I admire the perseverance of my daughter. She has learned so much in her life and is so open to learning more. She, in a word, rocks!!!

  4. Katie,
    I remember a band director saying “If you are going to make a mistake, make a big one, because we can’t fix it if we can’t hear it.” One of the managers where a close friend of mine works recently responded to an email that attempted to point fingers and lay blame by saying: “Be hard on the problem not the people.”
    These are all attitudes we could use a lot more of today.

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