One big mistake people repeatedly make is focusing on proving themselves right, instead of focusing on achieving the best outcome. I call this the wrong side of right.
People never work as hard as they do when they are trying to prove themselves right. They unconsciously hold on to the ideas and evidence that reinforce their beliefs and dismiss anything that counters. When this happens, it’s not about the best outcome, it’s about protecting your ego. If you’ve made this mistake, you’re not the only one.
One of the biggest differences between running a company and working for a company is how you tend to think about solving problems. As a knowledge worker employed by someone else, I wanted to be right. I saw being right as how I proved my worth to both myself and the company. The best outcome was my being right. Because …
If I wasn’t right, then what was I? Wrong?
But … I couldn’t be wrong. My ego wouldn’t let me.
Other people? They could be wrong. But not me.
If I was wrong, then what was I?
I worked toward my solution and not the best outcome that was possible.
For the longest time, I thought that if the winning idea wasn’t my idea, it meant I was somehow less. I thought no one would see me as valuable. No one would see me as insightful. People would think I wasn’t adding value. And worse, I’d see myself as not contributing.
I was wrong.
I had so much of my identity wrapped up in being right that I was blind to how the world really works.
At Farnam Street, one of our principles is that we work with the world as it really is, not as we want it to be. My desire to be right reflected how I wanted the world to work, not how it actually worked. Instead of trying to be right, I try to be less wrong.
The most important lesson I’ve learned from running a company is that the more I give up trying to be right, the better the outcomes get for everyone. I don’t care who gets the credit. I care about creating the best possible work.