Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I'm Allowed to be Wrong

One day, I learned that it was okay for me to be wrong.

I was back visiting a test facility that I had left a year prior. Probably asked to review a test facility for readiness to run. Anyway, I saw a schematic in someone's office. It was of a pneumatic system. Being pretty savvy about such things, I understood what it was meant to do, but it wasn't how I would have designed it. Something was off, and I didn't like it.

Being somewhat coy, I didn't tell the engineer what I was really thinking. I merely asked, "how did that work out?"

"Great," was the reply.

At that point I fessed up. "I wouldn't have designed that like that. I would have thought you'd have trouble controlling the pressure." We had a laugh, I learned another way to configure a pneumatic pressure system that, apparently, worked just fine.

More importantly, I learned that it was okay for me to be wrong. It wasn't much of a leap from that point to allow myself to be wrong. In fact, I often say exactly that. When challenged on a point, one of my standard replies is, "well, I can be wrong, but I think..."

I can be wrong.
It's okay to be wrong.
I allow myself to be wrong.

For an engineer whose training over the years has been to never be wrong. - to have every mistake punished by grade or derision - such a litany is quite liberating.

At those times when others are trying to punish me for my mistakes, it's quite disarming to reply, "well, I'm allowed to be wrong." After all, it's a truism that people will, on occasion, be wrong about something. You can't effectively argue that, but sometimes people try. To those, I merely point out how they are destined to go through life unsatisfied by their fellow human beings.

One of these days, I'm going to have to work on not being such a smart ass.

That would be easier if it wasn't so damn entertaining.

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