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As I think back to the final session of TED2011, “Only if. If only,” I’m lamenting, “if only I could have gotten my blog up sooner.” But, the good news is that the messages remain “ideas worth sharing” and I’m excited to highlight key takeaways.

Joss Stone sings, “Right to be Wrong” and Kathryn Schultz, author of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” took the concept a step further as the opening speaker of the final session of TED2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder.

Schultz is a wrongologist who has dedicated the last five years of her life to the study of why we misunderstand the signs around us. To start, she asked the audience “how it feels to be wrong?”

Dreadful, thumbs down, embarrassing…were a few of the responses, which Shultz cheered as all good responses and then immediately framed as answers to a different question – “how does it feel to realize that you’re wrong?”

She pointed out that we all go through our lives conditioned to understand that people who are “wrong” are lazy, irresponsible, dim wits and that those of us who achieve success do so by being “right” more often than not.

However, in order to continue feeling right, we create a reality based on assumptions that everyone around us is either with us or wrong. Those assumptions generally focus in three areas:

  • Ignorance Assumption: not aware of the facts
  • Idiocy Assumption: not smart enough to see the error of their ways
  • Evil Assumption: aware of the facts, but manipulating them to their own benefit

After I stopped laughing at the three levels of wrongness, I quickly picked up on Shultz’s point that this life would be an incredibly boring place if we all saw it the same way – without all the supposed ignorance, idiocy and evil.

So, this crazy wrongess lady (her term, not mine) challenged us all to step outside our tiny, terrified world of rightness and look at the vastness of the universe and say, “maybe I’m wrong.” And that will be OK.

Ten years from now, as we look back on TED2011, many of the theories and discoveries discussed this week will have been forgotten, but I hope this sentiment about the need to reach beyond our comfort zones to accept new ideas and people (including ourselves) in a new way will persist for decades to come.

~ Kimmie

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