Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Often Wrong, Never In Doubt

Being right is way overrated.

Sure, being right can get you good grades in school and being wrong often gets recorded on you permanent record, but nonetheless, being right is not all that it's cracked up to be.

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with being right, if you're already right and being right doesn't impose any overhead. It's no different than being wealthy. The problem comes when being right is more an aspiration than a "been there, done that". Like wealth, the problems with being right lie in overhead spent getting it and/or maintaining it. It's not the fact of rightness that's at issue; it's the cost of it.

Sure, there are times where the cost of being right is worth the benefit of being right. When you trim the bottom of a door so it'll clear the new carpeting, measuring twice and cutting once has a great cost/benefit ratio. When you're going in for surgery, it's nice to know that the surgical team has run its checklist twice or thrice.

However, if you've been holding your breath for a few minutes pinned inside a submerged automobile, you don't particularly care that the jaws-of-life are accurate to the millimeter or that the guy resuscitating you takes time to triple check his instruments. Nope, in times like that being timely trumps being right.

This brings us to an important point. Being right and being wrong aren't exactly black and white. There are degrees of rightness and wrongness that are perhaps best described in terms of accuracy. When it comes to being right, there's a "good enough" factor that one can consider. Many times, being good enough now is far better than being perfect tomorrow.

In some situations, being good enough or reasonably right is far better than being perfect or exactly right no matter what the timing.

Why?

Because being perfectly right has a price tag. It can cost time, money and relationships to get from reasonably right to perfectly right. Further, the cost of being right in one area takes away from being right in another. You kind of have to budget your rightness.

So, the three questions are:

  1. What's the benefit of being right?
  2. What's the cost of being right?
  3. Is the benefit worth the cost?

By the way, those three questions can be quite useful regarding any number of topics and situations that occur on a daily basis (if not a minute-by-minute basis).

Sometimes being right becomes so important that people are willing to be wrong to keep being right, or at least perceived that way. In those cases, the cost of right can skyrocket and there's no benefit that can balance it.

Finally, when doing anything new, the path to being right necessarily traverses wrong. You assert something that you know is not perfectly accurate. You try it. You learn. You assert something that is a bit more accurate and repeat the process. This cycle of progressively rendering closer approximations to right is sometimes referred to as Science.

Yup, being right is way overrated.

Happy Wednesday,
Teflon

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