I Don’t Have the Right Answer

Posted On: April 6

When I first got into the training and consulting business (30+ years ago), I believed it was critical to demonstrate exceedingly high competence and strong confidence in my ideas!  Often, when I felt that a client was mistaken, I would argue with them to defend my position and prove that I was right and they were wrong! Then one day, I had an epiphany.

I am not right.

The truth is, most of the time, there is no one “right” answer. My ideas are based purely on my opinion, and everyone I work with has their opinion too. Each of them has a background with unique experiences, ideas, and information. No matter what my answer is to a question, it is rare that my answer is the only correct answer.

As soon as I realized this, everything became easy.

I no longer had to defend, argue, persuade or attempt to prove that I was right – because I knew I wasn’t. Sure, I have a lot of business experience and usually have some pretty good ideas, but at the end of the day, I’m just giving an intelligent guess as to what I think the answer might be. I could be completely wrong, I have been in the past, and I will be in the future.

I offer my opinion, give some feedback, suggest the very best ideas I can think of, and then it is up to the other person to accept my idea or reject it. It’s just an idea. If they hate it, that’s okay. They are perfectly welcome to think that my view is terrible. But here’s the most critical point: this doesn’t mean I’m awful, stupid, or incompetent. It just means they didn’t like my idea. Adopting this position allows me to be fearless because it is impossible to fail.

Don’t Stop When You Come Up with the First “Right” Answer.

It also taught me another fundamental lesson, don’t stop when you come up with the first “right” answer. The most innovative people I know push for a second, third, or fourth correct answer. Perhaps you get lucky, and the very first thing you come up with is the best possible solution, but pushing for additional ideas and answers typically yields a much better solution.

Of course, I want to operate at the highest competence level I can achieve. I give well-reasoned opinions based on data and years of experience. I am thoughtful in conveying my suggestions and have great confidence that I am delivering the best ideas I can muster. Yet, I still understand that I am not “right.”


If you want to get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you. Please visit my site at https://johnspence.com/contact/ and let me know how I can help.

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