Swallow your pride occasionally

History has not been particularly kind to all manner of experts and their definitive pronouncements:

  • Anglican Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656) researched the dates of Biblical events and painstakingly subtracted all the Old Testament generations. When he finished his calculations, he proclaimed that the earth was created on October 23, 4004 B.C. at nine o’clock in the morning. (We now know he missed his mark by 4.6 billion years or so.)
  • In 1899, Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office proposed shuttering the office. “Everything that can be invented,” he said, “has been invented.”
  • In 1927, The New York Times heralded Philo T. Farnsworth’s new creation, the television, with a front-page article and this subhead: “Few Commercial Possibilities Seen.”
  • Walter Lippman, one of the 20th century’s most respected journalists and thinkers, wrote in a column dated April 27, 1948, “Among the really difficult problems of the world, the Arab-Israeli conflict is one of the simplest and most manageable.”
  • In 1962, a little-known Liverpool group called The Beatles auditioned for Tony Meehan of Decca Records. They performed 15 songs in just under an hour. Decca sent them packing, saying “guitar groups are on the way out” and “the Beatles have no future in show business.”
  • “To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness.”
    Benjamin Franklin

    It’s not just the “experts” who flounder, of course. Life is one long lesson in humility. Our perceptions can deceive us. Trust gets misplaced. Knowledge grows and opinions change. Even when the truth is with us, there are often exceptions.

    It’s natural to seek out experts who can guide us. But outside of physics and chemistry, predictions about the future are best taken with a whole shaker of salt.

    We are all swimming in a vast sea of the unknown. The sooner we recognize this – and embrace it in our personal and business lives – the better our chances of staying afloat.

    Source: Alex Green

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