These will be small, okay? Because on the big stuff, like divorce is for losers, I am right. But here is some stuff I was wrong on:
1. Get plastic surgery. I said that people should get it because good looking people earn more money. But in fact, plastic surgery doesn’t change what people think of you. If you were an 8 before surgery you’re an 8 after. The human eye can subconsciously adjust maybe – I’m not sure what it is. But I talked to Gordon Patzer , author of Looks, on the phone, and he assured me this is true. So don’t bother with the surgery. Just get botox so you don’t look tired.
2. Certifications are stupid. I really really think certifications are stupid. I tell everyone to not get them. Just get a job doing whatever you were thinking of getting certified to do. But, it turns out that PayScale has research to show that human resource certifications help. I don’t know what to make of this, except that LinkedIn has research to show that human resources attracts people who are most averse to risk. So it makes sense to me that people who are scared of risk would need to trust a certificate rather than their instincts when making a hiring decision.
3. You can increase your happiness by having sex twice a week. First of all, the number of weeks of my life I have done this is, I don’t know, maybe six. I have never been a sexual dynamo, even though I want you to think I am great in bed. I have been writing for five years about how there’s not a lot you can do to change your natural happiness set point, but having sex twice a week with the same partner can change that. It turns out though, not if your friends are having sex three times a week. So have more sex than your friends. Because the key to feeling more happy from sex is to pick friends who openly gripe about how bad their sex life is.
4. Getting a PhD is stupid if you don’t have a trust fund. I am starting to think that staying in school might be a good idea for people who never want to go into the business world. Look at it this way: If you ask the CEO of Google to stay home all day with kids, he’ll die. The same is true if you ask some people to go out into the work world: they’ll die. It’s just wrong for them. The values and the purpose are wrong.
So why not take the people who will absolutely suck in the work world and let them stay in school until they get married? Then they can have kids and that can be their job. (Preemptive strike: Don’t tell me it’s not safe for someone to be totally dependent on their spouse. We are all totally dependent on a spouse when we have kids with that person. We are a team. You never get out of being that team with that person.)
5. Don’t have a crazy commute. I have reported all the research about how bad commutes ruin your life. For example if you are grouchy in the car, you will make your coworkers grounchy (or family, depending on which end of the commute you’re on). I’ve shown research that for every fifteen minutes of your commute, you lose one friend. And Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert shows in Stumbling on Happiness that commutes through heavy traffic are actually harder for us to adjust to than losing an arm. (The missing arm is predictable and bad traffic is not.)
But it turns out that a predictable-but-long commute is okay. And, most people are doing that type of commute in order to have a stay at home spouse, which is a huge factor in keeping a marriage together. So those long, predictable commutes are just fine if the benefit is an intact family.
The people who are wrong the most are the most confident and decisive. Sharon Begley writes in the Daily Beast that style affects what we listen to, and we listen to people who are boisterous and outspoken and largely wrong. Of course this is ironic since the Daily Beast is known for this type of punditry.
Psychologist Philip Tetlock studies pundits, and in an interview for Wired magazine he said, “Experts with the more eclectic, self-critical, and modest cognitive styles tended to outperform the big-idea people.” Which is why I’m posting eclectic photos of The Little Prince in braille and the spoon chandelier hanging in my house.
The real reason I don’t mind being wrong is that you can’t ever be right in a way that matters if you’re never wrong. Think about it: if you are right on something where everyone knows you’re right then it doesn’t matter that you’re right. If you are right about something where people think it’s surprising, then you take a risk of being wrong but you also open yourself up to the joy of surprising yourself with your own insight. It’s a risk high performers are willing to take.