The importance of being wrong

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on October 31, 2012 at 9:00 AM

I just read an article on the internet about fifteen tremendously successful people who each experienced failure at some earlier point in their lives. In fact, some of them were told they would never accomplish anything and were advised to give up by well-meaning superiors who clearly misjudged their talent.

For example, Oprah Winfrey was fired from one of her first jobs in television because she was “unfit for TV,” Walt Disney was told he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas,” Sidney Poitier was advised to become a dishwasher after he failed his first audition, and the Beatles were dropped by their record label because “they have no future in show business.”

My first reaction to these stories is that it would be tough to be one of the people who made such a ridiculously bad call. Imagine looking back and thinking you could have been associated with Oprah (or Walt or the Beatles) if only you had recognized the talent that was there all along. How sad to have been so colossally wrong!

But then I realized that these nay-sayers, the ones who criticized and fired and discouraged others, actually served a vital function. Their rejection became a powerful motivator for those future celebrities who picked themselves up again and kept trying.

Without that initial failure would Oprah or Walt or Steve Jobs or anyone else on the list have found within themselves the determination to forge ahead and overcome obstacles? Perhaps failure itself is necessary for us to dig deep and discover our true identity and purpose. The pain of failure helps hone us into who we have been meant to be all along.

And if failure is necessary in order to achieve greatness, then we have a need for those people in our lives who pronounce us unfit and hopeless. Those detractors are important for our growth and evolution – in fact, they are vital to us.

So the losers who failed to support Sidney and Walt and Steve and the Beatles in their quest for greatness, might be unspoken heroes after all. Their willingness to be spectacularly wrong in their judgment made them crucial players in the unfolding drama of those celebrities’ lives. That’s a pretty special role to play, even if they will never collect royalties, or be photographed, or acknowledged for their contribution to excellence. 

Ironically, what I have learned from this is that in the end, we have to be willing to be wrong. We have to have the courage to speak up and say what is on our minds, even if our opinions turn out to be spectacularly mistaken. Because it is possible that our “wrongness” is exactly what the world needs in order to move toward greatness.

Sometimes we will be the one who fails and sometimes we might enjoy success. But, ultimately we have to embrace all of it and just do the best we can. There’s no reason to fear being wrong in a Universe where nothing is good or bad. Though it is difficult to see clearly right now, just like Oprah’s and Walt’s talents were hidden in the beginning, every one of our failures has the potential to be perfect - and it will all make sense to us some distant day down the road.

Categories: Current Events, Spirituality, Transformation

Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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