Dan Kang

Being Wrong

Every day, I go on Hacker News and various blogs to stay up-to-date with the latest tech news and cool projects. After a few months of doing this, I’ve noticed something very scary. I can no longer think for myself.

Replace Hacker News with wherever you get your interesting, thought-provoking content, and many of you will recognize my ritual as your own:

  1. Go on Hacker News
  2. Click on an item
  3. Read what some guy thinks
  4. Go to the comments
  5. Read what a lot of other people think

During this process, I regularly fail to ask an important question between steps 3 and 4: What the hell do I think about what I just read? Too often, I jump straight from the original content to the comments and allow myself to be bombarded with every viewpoint possible. I leave myself no time for reflection, no time to think about the issues raised, no opportunity to develop my own opinion. It’s not that I don’t hold any opinions at all; I’ll read through all the different responses and adopt the one that makes the most sense to me. But that’s completely different from coming up with that opinion all by myself through critical analysis. It’s gotten bad enough that when I engage in conversation about something I’ve already read about, I find myself just parroting what someone else said instead of offering anything original.

Why do I succumb to this? I’m simply too afraid of being wrong. It’s much easier to adopt someone else’s view and point your finger at them if you end up being wrong rather than come up with your own interpretation and take full responsibility for what you think and say. This fear of being wrong has started manifesting itself in other aspects of my life and I find myself always agreeing with someone with a persuasive argument rather than beingthat someone with a persuasive argument. Obviously, no one wants to look like an idiot; but when the fear of being wrong starts to cripple your development and ability to formulate insightful thoughts, it’s time to do something about it.

If you see some of yourself in what I’ve written above, join me in taking a couple minutes between reading content and reading others’ opinions on it in order to reflect on the piece yourself. Do you agree with what you just read? Why or why not? Let’s bring something new to the table.