More on mistakes

From the introduction to the book of wrong answers

The Book of Wrong Answers is being created to help us have a better relationship with how we make mistakes. In our lives we make tons of mistakes. Ordinary fools? They are shocked by mistakes. Ordinary fools are surprised when things go wrong. Ordinary fools, plan for things to work out as planned. Ordinary fools live in denial of FUBAR and Murphy’s Law.

I’ve met a lot of ordinary fools in my time, many of whom I’ve met by mistake. One such mistake was easily corrected. I attempted to go to graduate school. The first time it was at OISE -. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. There I realized that I did not want to spend money to study artists, and try to understand what they knew. I figured that if I wanted to know what an artist knew, I would simply be one. So. I dropped out.The mistake? Thinking I needed an advanced degree to do that.

It’s not surprising I thought I needed an advanced degree or a certificate for career success. All of us live our lives being told to fit in, get it right, do what we are told and maybe we’ll end up good enough. Maybe with that little piece of paper we’ll end up picked. We are conditioned by a system to be unremarkable fools. We are conditioned to believe that we need a piece of paper in order to succeed.  

It’s far too commonly foolish to believe that we can be right. At all. About anything. We make all of our decisions on incomplete data. This world we live in and attempt to make sense of - our success in doing so is dependent on that data we take in. The data we take in is limited by our senses. And that data is incomplete.

Take my dog Rodney as an example. Every morning Rodeney goes to the end of the walk to check the pee mail left by other dogs in the night. He can get a lot of information through his nose. By checking the pee mail, a dog can determine the gender of the dogs who came before and whether they're spayed or neutered. A dog can also determine the health and stress level of the dogs who've been by, as well as a dog's social status. Yes. Social status from smelling piss. Dogs also hear things we can’t hear. My cat can see things I can’t see. Yet we foolish humans share the belief that the reality we experience from our senses is the only one available to us. 

A time of great uncertainty

We live in a time of drastic societal change, the likes of which have not been seen since the invention of the steam engine and the printing press. The world is connected. Knowledge moves more quickly than ever before.This has created a huge amount of anxiety and uncertainty. People don’t want uncertainty. It’s scary. As such? People are attracted to others who offer certainty.

The evangelicals, the activists all over the political spectrum love to suggest that their point of view, way to be alive and the rules they suggest for living are correct. These zealots are more concerned with control, outcomes and certainty than anything human. When we’re living for outcomes, we’re living for death. The outcome of a human life? We die.  In times of increased polarity and militancy, common ground and human decency  can be found when we are able to make mistakes. 

Remarkable fools focus on the process. Remarkable fools make lots of mistakes. Remarkable fools understand that life’s not about living mistake free. Instead, remarkable fools understand that things can go wrong at any time and are nimble and ready to recover quickly.

What makes an ordinary fool different from a remarkable fool? We remarkable fools know that people are fallible. Our failings and fallibility are not problematic. They define us as humans. In fact, our fallibility is how we learn.

Every time we learn something new, we’re terrible at it. Even the most basic skills we possess were hard won. When you were a very small child you sucked ass at walking. Go find a baby learning to walk. Watch them. The little assholes are constantly failing. I give them an ‘F’. Well, I would if walking was something we graded. Fortunately for people we get a lot of chances.

Another skill that took a long, difficult, messy fight? Knowing how to shit in a toilet. You once were terrible at this. In fact, you shat in your pants or smeared it all over walls much more frequently in the early days of toilet use. What’s worse? Whether walking or keeping our own ass clean, these skills we will eventually lose. It’s hubris and start cognitive dissonance to think of ourselves as anything other than a creature of habit whose lives are bookended with periods of being covered in our own shit.

Remarkable fools understand this. What’s more, we take this entropic brain from childhood forward. We know that learning a new habit, finding ways to be happy or making bigh changes in our lives are profoundly difficult endeavours. When we begin something new, we are beginners and more like a toddler in our competency than adults.

And yet? Through our school system, we learn that once we can understand it in our heads, we ‘should’ be able to do that thing. Try doing this with surfing, quilting, yoga, gardening, riding a bike - you name it. We truly know by doing. 


One Derful Thing

I have a friend who loved writing with his non dominant hand.

Do that today. Use your non dominant hand for writing, eating and brushing your teeth.

Let me know how it works out.