Almost everyone always answers this question with “I’d rather be right than wrong.” Well, here’s a different take on the subject.
I’d rather be wrong. That’s right, I like being wrong. Once my ego adjusted to that concept, it became clear that when I am wrong, struggle, lose, “fail” or whatever, I am in a far better condition to learn.
Looking back on my life, it was the failures, losses, and mistakes both big and small that have prompted my greatest learning and growth. A poor investment, bad business decision, a divorce, a wrong turn, or a loss on the golf course that created the best opportunities for me in the long term – though I didn’t always appreciate them then.
No, receiving an award, a pat-on-the-back, a correct answer or the like really never have never done much more than to inflate my ego. It’s being comfortable (though not complacent) with failure that provides us with the choice pickings to learn and improve provided we stay in the game.
Coaches both in and outside of sports might refer to this as “Game Film.” Once the heat of the contest is over, we can analyze the precedings in a calm, neutral manner much as a football coach might review game films. If a relationship didn’t go as planned, a negotiation failed, or a sale was lost, we can review things detached from the outcome. Win or lose, football coaches will dwell upon what didn’t work so as to refocus strategy and coaching to improve it. In golf, in the last couple of years Rory McIlroy in the Masters and Adam Scott in the British Open suffered late stage meltdowns to suffer embarrassingly devastating loses only to comeback and win the US Open and Masters golf tournaments respecitively in stirring fashions soon thereafter.
Fellow coach Steve Chandler also speaks about this relaying the following story.
“I remember years ago one of my clients was Dick Tomey, head football coach of the University of Arizona Wildcats. One of the things I noticed about Coach Tomey was that after a game in which his team lost, he always had this strangely energized expression on his face. His eyes were sparkling and he didn’t look exactly happy, but somehow he looked uplifted.
And after his team won a game there was a strange foreboding or brooding look on his face as he trotted off the field. And I thought that was interesting because most coaches celebrate wins and when they lose they look angry and upset. But he was the opposite, in a very subtle way.
So I asked him about it one time and he said, ‘I see what you mean and I’ll tell you why that is. When we lose I’m really excited about all the alterations we can make and everything we can learn from our film of the game. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to really fix this team and shore it up and make it strong for next week based on what we see on the film—all the things we can do differently. But when we win we get a kind of feeling of being invincible, there’s nothing really left to correct, we only need to show up next week. And I don’t like that. I get upset with that attitude, so I’m worried when we win about how to keep the intensity and how to keep people focused. So that’s what you are seeing in my face after each game.’”
Just like my own experience, whenever my clients have had some breakthroughs, it often accompanies a new approach to failure and to things we did “wrong” and things that didn’t work.
In business, Bill Gates and Microsoft provide yet another example of this “winning by losing” or being wrong approach. Gates has said, “We built our company on customer complaints.” Because when the customers would complain about any part of his computer system (or software systems) they would really be fascinated by the complaint and they would stay with it and they would have teams studying the complaint so they could change things and that complaint wouldn’t show up again.
In contrast, most people try to forget what doesn’t work because they have a bad emotional reaction to it. They think, “That’s too bad and it’s sad and I wish I hadn’t lost that deal or I wish I hadn’t lost that customer,” but if I can change that to “Boy, this is terrific, I’ve got a lot to learn here, there’s a ‘game film’ to watch, I’m not afraid to watch it because this customer I lost last week who I wanted to enroll is going to show up again in another identity soon and if I haven’t learned how I lost the customer this time, it’s going to happen again and again.” That’s the making of genuine personal or organizational development in action!
It’s really true that most people who are not doing well have patterns of things that keep happening again and again that cause them to not succeed. Part of that is because of their willful lowering of consciousness when bad things occur—like, “I don’t want to think about the bad news, I want to move on, I need to stay positive, I don’t even want to look at it.” We are quick to run from our pain and negatives, but shining the light on it can really reveal so much for us.
By embracing and analyzing your failures, you set yourself up for real growth and development. You also prepare yourself to not keep repeating the same mistakes. You see I don’t mind being wrong one, but being wrong in the same situation twice stings!