Jim Nielsen’s Blog
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Learning and Being Wrong

I recently read Adam Grant’s book and I wanted to pull these notes into their own post.

Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. – George Bernard Shaw

Being actively open minded means “searching for reasons why we might be wrong—not for reasons why we must be right” (25) because “the purpose of learning isn’t to affirm our beliefs; it’s to evolve our beliefs.” (26)

Don’t put your confidence in your knowledge, put it in your ability to learn. Learning means changing, modifying, and updating your knowledge.

If you consider yourself a learner, your confidence will quickly shatter if it’s placed in your own knowledge because learning—by definition—changes, modifies, and updates your knowledge.

If being wrong repeatedly leads us to the right answer, the experience of being wrong itself can become joyful. (69)

If you consider yourself a learner, you can genuinely enjoy discovering you are wrong because that means you are less wrong than you were before. Discovering you’re wrong means you’ve learned something. I love these two quotes from people Adam highlights in his book:

That should be the preface to my blog. Or at least the disclaimer to any post more than a couple weeks old.

Writing, for me, is a genuine process of learning. As EM Foster is quoted as saying, “How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?” (158) Writing helps expose my own vulnerability to the “illusion of explanatory depth”:

Psychologists find that many of us are vulnerable to an illusion of explanatory depth. Take everyday objects like a bicycle, a piano, or earbuds: how well do you understand them? People tend to be overconfident in their knowledge: they believe they know much more than they actually do about how these objects work. We can help them see the limits of their understanding by asking them to unpack the mechanisms…People are surprised by how much they struggle to answer those questions and quickly realize how little they actually know. (93)

I read many people’s blogs and think, “wow, they know so much.” But I suppose it’s very possible that, in writing, they feel a lot like I do: “wow, I don’t know as much as I thought.”