Three weeks ago, we discussed Edmund Burke in lecture. We discussed his political views and his beliefs, and we discussed his political platform. Burke once said in his Speech on Conciliation with America in 1775, “I put my foot in the tracks of my forefathers, where I can neither wander nor stumble.” You see, Burke believed in tradition and he believed in continuing with the same political behavior that was done before him. He knew that if he didn’t deviate from the path set forth by his predecessors, that he would not make any mistakes and therefore, he couldn’t fail in any of his endeavors.
Burke’s beliefs reminded me of a video that we were assigned to watch earlier in the semester. Speaking at a Tedx conference in Long Beach, California in March of 2011, Kathryn Schulz speaks on the topic of “On Being Wrong.” Shulz makes the argument that the way our society approaches being wrong is detrimental to our social progression and advancement. In her talk, she states, “By the time you are nine years-old, we learn that people who get stuff wrong, are lazy, irresponsible dimwits. And second of all, (we learn) that the way to succeed in life is to never make any mistakes. We learn these really bad lessons, really well.” She expresses that because our society looks down upon people who are wrong and who mistakes, we try with all our might to not make mistakes. And this fear of making mistakes limits our productivity and creativity. But she emphasizes that being wrong is not bad. In fact, she states that making mistakes is a fundamental part of who we are as humans. But this is something that we don’t realize, so we are strapped down by this concept and it hinders us for the rest of our life. And thats what troubles me; like Schulz, I see this “fear of being wrong” impede and restrict people every day.
Three days ago, I had a conversation with my younger brother over the phone. Still in high school (10th grade to be exact), my brother has shown to me and his teachers that he is a bright kid, but can be timid when presenting in front of his peers . In our conversation, he told me that his math teacher had assigned a rather difficult word problem in class last week. He told me that because she thought he had gotten the correct answer, his teacher asked him to put up his work on the chalk board for everyone to see. It was a prime opportunity for my brother to showcase his math skills and earn an extra couple of points in class. Unfortunately, he declined the offer — passing the opportunity along to another student. When I asked him why he didn’t present his work to the class, he said, “I wasn’t sure if I had the correct answer and so I didn’t want to be wrong in front of the whole class.”
My brother was afraid of making a mistake. That’s perfectly human. But we need to listen to Schulz and free ourselves of this attitude. We can’t let mistakes and failure prevent us from moving forward and from being creative. We shouldn’t think like Burke and just follow in our predecessors footsteps, because then we won’t advance. We won’t continue to get better in whatever we do. We need to discard Burke’s beliefs and try something different, and be creative in our thinking. So what if we are wrong? It is said that we learn best from our mistakes, and I think thats the best kind of learning.