Innovation, On Writing, Productivity

By the way, you don’t know all the answers

I used to be concerned with being right. I didn’t understand that there were many different kinds of being right, one prominent version of which was “it doesn’t matter if you’re right, if you bring it up at the wrong time or in the wrong way.” The key lesson to learn here was that I didn’t know all the answers.

I still don’t know all the answers, and one of the best ways that I know I’m doing well at a problem is when I hit a wall and realize that I don’t know something. It typically means either that I haven’t thought about a problem at all, or that I’ve thought enough about that problem to really dig in and find difficult things that can’t easily be solved. What I do know is that it’s important to try something rather than to wait until you’ve figured everything out. It often turns out, as my colleague points out in his post about business plans, that having the 80% solution really does work remarkably well.

What do I do when I don’t know the answers? Try something. Measure it. See if it works. If it worked, do more things like that. If not, see what you can learn from it and move on. I’ve decided that more important than being right is being authentic and resilient. I can’t control what’s going to happen, but I can control (somewhat) the way that I respond to it and the way that I try to learn from the unexpected situation, the (happy) accident, or the deliberate step that didn’t work out that well.

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