Man, if there is one thing I hate, truly hate, it is being wrong. Hate it. It’s not so much that I hate admitting when I’ve been wrong, I hate being wrong. Full stop.

This is why it got right under my skin that just the other week, here in this column, I was wrong. I stated that Ukraine had “never been” a part of Russia, and I was wrong.

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As noted in the Encyclopedia Britannica, a fully independent Ukraine emerged only late in the 20th century, after long periods of successive domination by Poland-Lithuania, Russia, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Ukraine had experienced a brief period of independence in 1918–20, but portions of western Ukraine were ruled by Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia in the period between the two World Wars.

Obviously, this does not change the current conversation. Ukraine has been a recognized independent nation since 1991. Russia’s ongoing assault is unwarranted. Further, the deliberate attacks on civilian populations and routes of exit are war crimes, as noted by Linda Thomas-Greenfiled, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Nevertheless, I was wrong in that statement, and that is so uncomfortable.

I suppose that’s hardly strange. I mean, is there anyone who enjoys being wrong? Doubtful. As luck would have it, the concept of “right being wrong” and embracing actual “wrong” as a positive thing came up in my day job.


The presenter of a virtual conference recently posited the notion that perfectionism is akin to the repression of others. I felt my hackles rise. After all, our culture raised me to believe “perfect” was the goal. Every report, project and term paper from kindergarten through grad school has reinforced this idea. I worked hard to get things right.

I try to be curious about things that annoy me, so I dove into learning more. Turns out, there is plenty out there on the topic – books, studies, TED talks – all about the benefits of being wrong.

In her book “Being Wrong,” Kathryn Schulz argues that mistakes are inevitable, and avoiding them results in depression, anxiety and a self-protective refusal to entertain contradicting ideas, which might actually be beneficial to us.

Schultz’s theories are echoed and reinforced by American philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, who says the natural human reaction to making a mistake is embarrassment and anger, and you have to work hard to overcome these emotional reactions. Try to acquire the weird practice of savoring your mistakes, delighting in uncovering the strange quirks that led you astray. Then, once you have sucked out all the goodness to be gained from having made them, you can cheerfully set the mistakes behind you and go on to the next big opportunity. But that is not enough: you should actively seek out opportunities to make grand mistakes, just so you can recover from them.

This most recent mistake of mine was not particularly “grand.” It’s not like attempt No. 1 at human flight or anything. It is a mistake more of the “stupid” sort, born from moving too fast and through too much emotion. Still, the concepts apply.

I’ve sat with it. I’ve gotten “the goodness,” and I’ve reminded myself of some well-known, but easily forgotten, truths. Most interestingly, I was reminded that this philosophy is actually not new to me. My parents have been offering it, along with a gentle forgiveness, my whole life long. I simply hadn’t been paying proper attention. Another mistake to savor.

The problems of the world remain, as tangible and pressing as ever. I will continue working to find in what ways I can be helpful, and while I can’t yet say I relish the idea of making mistakes, I will at least try to make the next ones grander.

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