Hot! On Being Wrong

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“You’re doing it wrong.” is my nickname among many of my friends. I’ve gotten this name in recent years due to my habit of correcting people as they try to do something I know how to do. I get this habit from my dad, who from a young age trained me into thinking that if there’s a faster, more efficient, cheaper, or easier way to do something and you’re not doing it that way, you’re doing it wrong. Not only that, but if you are watching someone make this mistake and you know how to correct it, it’s your duty to help the person accomplish their goal in the faster/more efficient/cheaper/easier way. Predictably, this rarely goes over well.

The flip side of this is that I have an almost pathological aversion to being wrong about something. Due to the unusual way I view the world, my childhood teachers spent a lot of time trying to tell me I was wrong, and I spent an inordinate amount of time proving to them that I was right. In fact, I’d say that most of my early years were spent proving that I wasn’t stupid, crazy, or stealing an adult’s work (an accusation I got frequently, as I had a post-college reading level in 1st grade). As a result, the fear that I might actually be wrong about something can be crippling.

I almost missed out on this guy because of a little fear.

It’s that same fear of being wrong that has stalled The Mongolian Experiment for so long. After months of encouraging and helpful emails regarding TME from fellow travelers, filmmakers, photographers, and expeditioners from around the world, one day I came home to an inbox full of hate mail. I had people telling me the project was ethnocentric, that I was putting Mongolia in a bad light. I had some people telling me that doing the trip on horseback was unnecessary lunacy, and others telling me that it was the only reliable way to travel the country without racking up a massive bill. I had people telling me that the project was a publicity stunt, that I was a hack just out to take people’s money, that the project would crash and burn. These emails continued for weeks.

Eventually, they stopped, but the damage was done. My initial reaction had been to simply ignore the emails and to blow off the claims of the trolls. But, soon afterward, a creeping, insidious fear made its way into my consciousness. I was afraid that they were right, and I was wrong.

I stopped writing about The Mongolian Experiment because every time I thought about the project, all those emails came rushing back to me. I developed an aversion to thinking about TME out of fear that I would feel like I was wrong about something with the project. I was like this for months. I continued to do prep work and research for the project, but in a much more abstract way than before. I went back to the drawing board.

For months, I mulled over the project in my mind, reflecting on the nature of the project, my methods, my goals, even the value of TME itself. I realized what I had done wrong and what had provoked the wrath of those readers: I had been focused inward, instead of outward. Everything I had been planning was “Me” first and Mongolia second, despite the fact that that had never been my intention. Somewhere along the way, I had lost my vision.

Thanks to long hours of contemplation, I have made several new decisions about the nature and direction of The Mongolian Experiment. I’ll be making an official announcement over on TME’s site sometime in the next few days.

Being wrong is never fun, but it’s important to learn not just that you were wrong, but how you were wrong. The fear of being wrong about The Mongolian Experiment nearly destroyed the entire project, but after embracing the fact that I was wrong, I learned what I was doing wrong, and was then able to come up with solutions. It’s a scary, but important process.

Dear readers: Do you have the same fear of being wrong? When has being wrong about something resulted in an even better situation?

[dcs_small][Photo Credit: Camel][/dcs-small]

2 Comments

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  1. I hate feeling like I made a wrong choice. I don’t think anyone likes it. But during the wrong choices I’ve had some interesting experiences (not all “good” as life is not about being all “good”) where I learned something new or gained perspective on something else I was doing right.

    Good post and good luck with your project.