Nope, I didn’t publish a blog post last week like I’d promised.
While I had one in the making. In fact, it was almost finished. A blog post about the first thing business owners should figure out before writing their copy, inspired by a call with a potential client.
But I felt it needed a few examples to be credible. So I started doing research. Yet the examples I found were not specific enough. Or not in the right niche. Or the copy wasn’t great…
Soon I’d spent hours surfing the web and typing keywords into Google. With thoughts popping up in the back of my mind saying “do I actually know what I’m talking about? Am I not selling crap?”
At that point, I was tempted to just give up and not publish the article at all. And it wouldn’t have been the first time.
How my quest for correctness keeps me from sharing anything
Seeing this play out made me realize that the need to be right is one of the reasons I’ve been creating so little.
Because how can I be certain I’m correct? And that no one is going to prove me wrong?
In a lot of areas, I can’t. No one can, because it’s too subjective. And even if one could, like in math, it’d require a lot of study and time. With the possibility of still being proven wrong 10–1000 years later.
The lesson: if I want to create and have an impact with my work, aka share it, I have to risk being wrong.
But we’re being taught this stuff!
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. Fear of failure is rampant, and I believe it’s one of the biggest roadblocks that keeps us from bringing our ideas to life.
Watch Sir Ken Robinson’s famous TED speech ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ if you haven’t done so yet. This quote of his still brilliant: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original”.
Yet, many schools still judge based on the number of mistakes you make. Not number of attempts or the creativity of your answers. Because it makes it easier to score someone’s essay and compare test results.
But the net effect is that we’ve taught generations to make as few mistakes as possible. And one of the best ways of doing so? Not trying much at all.
How to look at being wrong instead: the way to expand our knowledge
Two years ago I bookmarked this Medium article on Stephen Hawking. It talks about his habit of placing public scientific bets on all sorts of things, from Higgs particles to the existence of black holes.
And he was proven wrong more than once. But that didn’t bother him. He wasn’t trying to be right—he was trying to get discussions going and move things forward.
And that’s how we should view it! Because one of the BEST ways to learn is to make mistakes and being proven wrong. The ensuing discussion can teach you so much (even if it hurts your ego a bit). Things you would’ve never found out if by keeping your ideas to yourself.
I’d say this is even more important in fields other than hard sciences. Discussions and conversations are so vital to discovering different perspectives and ways of looking at the world. And I honestly think that nót having these discussions enough is at the root of a lot of misery in our society nowadays.
Changing habits by starting small
But becoming comfortable with being proven wrong is easier said than done. My struggle to publish that blog post clearly shows that.
So how can we deal with this? How can we become more comfortable with failure and put more of our ideas out into the world?
I really like the idea of “microbravery” coined by Caroline Paul in her book The Gutsy Girl. She talks about ramping up your tolerance for fear by performing small acts of bravery.
It helps you become familiar with the feeling fear and discern it from other sensations like excitement and wonder. And better handle them and act, despite that tinge of fear you might have!
The comfort challenges Tim Ferriss gives in his book The 4 Hour Work Week are a classic example of this as well. Although I’d say the first one already sets the bar quite high, to not even mention the last one (go lie on the floor of a coffee shop for no apparent reason, sure!).
But have a think about it: what “micro acts of bravery” could you perform to address your fear of failure? Or any fear you have, really. Perhaps you can publish work under an anonymous Medium or Instagram account without telling anyone about it?
Now let’s share this post…
Fear of failure. I’m not the first to write about it. And that’s because it’s VERY common.
But often very insidious as well. Dressed up as common sense, laziness, lack of motivation. Keeping you from publishing that blog post because you’re convinced it needs more examples…
That’s why changing it starts with recognizing and naming it. Then you can start confronting your fear by starting small.
Like I’m doing right now by publishing this blog post. And the other one (on copywriting) without having any concrete examples in it.
Accepting that I might be wrong. That I might have a totally different opinion in a couple of months from now after finishing an intensive copywriting course.
But if my blog post helps even one founder write better website copy it’s worth it.
Because if there’s one thing I discovered over many years of writing articles that never saw the day of light it’s that, without sharing, your work becomes kinda useless. How is it going to help others if they can’t even see or hear it?
So let’s confront our fear of being wrong and share what we got, even if it might be a bit scary. Who knows, it might help someone!