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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

When It’s Right to Be Wrong

Admitting to a change of opinion is challenging but a sign of top performers

It’s often said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything,” implying that if you don’t have strong beliefs, you are more likely to be influenced or swayed by others, making it easier for you to be tricked into believing something that isn’t so.

But what if the inverse is true? What if being so convinced of what you “know” makes it more likely you will get it completely wrong?

Here’s what I mean: Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and second-wealthiest person on the planet — with a net worth of $205 billion — says the smartest people are “constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions and challenges to their way of thinking.”

And, as it turns out, there’s science to back up Bezos’ assertion.

In the New York Times bestselling book, “Performing Under Pressure,” the authors reference a seven-year study with 12,000 participants wherein they compared the top 10% of performers to the bottom 90% and found there were specific behaviors highly correlated with the top 10%. Guess what one of those behaviors was?

An ability to admit when they were wrong, like what Bezos was talking about.

Not only did those admitting they got it wrong also perform at higher levels, but it was one of the most highly correlated characteristics of those recently promoted by their company.

But changing one’s opinion after realizing you may have got it wrong is hard and takes courage. So does sticking to one’s beliefs, especially in the face of opposition. In those instances, the challenge is whether you should admit you’ve had a change of opinion or dig in even deeper with what you already “know.”

So, when rapper 50 Cent (whose real name is Curtis James Jackson III) commented in February 2024 that “Maybe Trump is the answer” in an Instagram post after tweeting to his followers just four years ago, “F--k Donald Trump, I never liked him,” it got me thinking about this principle and that 50 Cent, whose net worth is estimated at $40 million, could be an example of those high achievers that Bezos said are willing to change their minds (and especially on such an important matter as the next president of the United States).

It’s not just 50 Cent, however. Similarly, in an interview from January this year, Snoop Dogg (whose real name is Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr.) said, “(Donald Trump) ain’t done nothing wrong to me. He has done only great things for me. I have nothing but love and respect for Donald Trump.” Now, this is quite a change of mind for Snoop, who, in a 2016 interview in Rolling Stone, said he’s “never seen a mother ----er” like Trump and asked, “How could we have someone as reckless as him running our country?” Remember, Snoop also recorded that music video where he was shooting Trump with a toy gun. This is another example of someone highly successful and still open to completely changing their way of thinking (with their support of Trump now).

My point in sharing all of that is to say that if our nation is to be strong again, then all of us must be willing to have open minds—and to change our minds when necessary—like 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, etc. if we’re going to make decisions as voters who are focused on learning from the past and thinking critically about our future instead of retreating to our corners, satisfied that we “know” all there is to know.

When we’re satisfied with our level of knowledge, we lose all sense of discovery. There’s no need to debate the issues or have any civil discourse because no amount of information will convince us otherwise—so long as we “know” everything already.

This isn’t a new challenge because of the internet or social media. As far back as 551 B.C., Confucius once wrote, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” Ronald Reagan may have said it best in 1964: “The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

And until that changes in our country, for more than just successful, high-achieving entrepreneurs like 50 Cent or Snoop Dogg, nothing will substantively change.

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.


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