Friday, November 20, 2009

Everything you know is wrong

There. Feel better? I bet you do.

Because I know that you so badly want to change. You want to improve. You want to try new things. And you still think the word "innovation" is cool and if you can put it on your resume you know you'll get invited to cool parties.

But there's this really big problem. The problem is that you know so much. You're an expert in your field. You've seen it all and you know what works and what does not work. So if you're going to change, improve, innovate and hobnob with the A-listers, you've got to find something that fits in with what you know to be true.

And that is hard. Honestly, it's damn near impossible. Because if there was something new and better out there that fit with what you know, you'd probably already have it wouldn't you?

So what is a would-be innovator to do?

Well, I'll tell you. Accept that everything you know is wrong. What you learned in school. Wrong! Your accumulated professional wisdom. Wrong! Your most sacred beliefs. Wrong! All of it is wrong. And if it isn't wrong this very minute, it'll be!

The world is not flat. The sun does not revolve around the earth. Infants are not born as tabula rasa. Our sensory perception is not driven by eidola (c'mon, look it up). The most sacred beliefs of the best minds throughout history have been shown to be wrong by the advance of wisdom and knowledge. Are you really certain that you're smarter than them all? That human knowledge has now reached its apex and that we now know all there is to know? Really?

Look. There are very few certainties in life. But here are two for which there is so much evidence that only the delusional could possibly deny them.
1) Future generations will laugh at your naivete. They will know how you were wrong. And the generations after them will do the same.
2) Your kids will laugh like crazy at the clothing you wore when you were young and most assuredly at that goofy mustache you thought made you look so cool.

But this is all good news. Well, not so much the part about your kids laughing at you. That can sting a bit. I kid you not. But the other part is good news. Because you already know the end of this movie. The end is that you were wrong.

Stop for a moment to take in the full measure of this. You are wrong. How wonderfully liberating it is to be wrong. You do not have to hold onto your orthodoxies as if they are the last piece of flotsam saving you from certain death in the stormy seas. You are not in possession of a jewel so precious that you must guard it with your very life from the hordes of envious pillagers.

Rather, what you've got now is OK. It's good enough. It's working pretty well. Maybe well enough to hang onto for a bit longer. But it is wrong. And you are free to move on. To challenge your own orthodoxies. Even to toss them away with a soupcon of cavalierness.

Go ahead. Give it a try. You know you want to.

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