Being confidently wrong

While on a walk with Mollie yesterday we passed through a wood that I have walked through hundreds of times. I was going to show her a different footpath through that wood than we would normally take. Not sure whether it was due to everything looking different in the snow but I took a wrong turn somewhere and we ended up on the path we would have usually taken.

But I didn’t realise! My brain was trying to make the path we were on look like the path I thought we were on, waffling on about the helpful arrows painted on the trees by The Chiltern Society. Even when we came out of the wood, where we usually would expect to, I didn’t recognise it because my brain was still trying to make it look like where I thought we were!

When I was playing my clarinet in orchestras and wood bands my tutor used to say “If you are going to make a mistake make it sound like you meant it”. In other words don’t be diffident. Do whatever you are doing with confidence.

But I have learned, especially on mountains, that false confidence can be dangerous. Admitting you don’t know where you are as early as possible and doing something about it rather than marching on in the wrong direction is so important.

I reckon the same is true in business. How many hugely expensive mistakes have been made either because people ignored the signs that the path they were on was the wrong one, or when they knew they were on the wrong path but were trying to bluff it out?

There is a lot of power in life generally in admitting that you’re not sure…

4 thoughts on “Being confidently wrong

  1. We were once on a walk in the Lake district and I was navigating using the maps (and more foolishly, the compass) on my phone. We forked off up a small hill and, some time later, came to a path which I thought looked somewhat familiar. This was confirmed when my spaniel picked up the stick she had dropped there an hour before, and trotted happily on.

    I should probably try to draw an analogy about businesses sometimes going round in circles as a result of the mistaken adoption of advanced technologies 🙂 But we still had a nice walk, saw new places, learned an important lesson and had a nice story to tell at dinner-parties. (Remember those?) 🙂


  2. I once set off confidently in thick cloud from the top of Helvellyn heading for Fairfield. I was in company with another walker I’d just met and aware of the depths of St. Sunday crag to our left we must have subconsciously veered right because a few moments later, as a large cairn emerged from the gloom, we realised we were back at the summit of Helvellyn. I sheepishly got my compass out and we set off again, much to the amusement of the folks sitting having their lunch in the cairn.


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