TITLE: Serendipity and False Pride AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: August 30, 2004 10:54 AM DESC: to learn you have to risk looking foolish ----- BODY: Yesterday I blogged about a new Rule of Three for the patterns community, taken from Gerald Weinberg's The Secrets of Consulting. Weinberg motivated the rule with a story of how his false pride in being thought smart -- by his students! -- led to ineffective thinking. The story of false pride reminded me of one of my favorite scenes in the movie Serendipity, and then of one of my favorite classical quotes. In the movie, Jonathan ( John Cusack) throws all sensibility to the wind in an effort to find the woman he fell in love with one afternoon many years ago. His search threatens his upcoming wedding with a beautiful woman and makes everyone think he's nuts. But his best friend, Dean ( Jeremy Piven), sees the search and its attendant risk as something more. Dean is married, but his marriage is in trouble. He and his wife have let their problems go on so long that now both are too proud to be the one to make the first move to fix them. When Jonathan wonders out loud if he has gone nuts and should just go home and marry his lovely fiancee, Dean tells him that his search has been an inspiration to work with his wife to repair their relationship. In support of his admiration for Jonathan, he recited a quote from a college humanities course that they shared: "If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid..." That scene and quote so struck me that, the next day, I had to track down the source. As is usually the case, Google helped me find just what I wanted:
If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid with regard to external things. Don't wish to be thought to know anything; and even if you appear to be somebody important to others, distrust yourself. For, it is difficult to both keep your faculty of choice in a state conformable to nature, and at the same time acquire external things. But while you are careful about the one, you must of necessity neglect the other.
... and led me to the source, The Enchiridion, by Epictetus. This quote is a recurring source of encouragement to me. My natural tendency is to want to guard my reputation by appearing to have everything under control, by not asking questions when I have something more to learn, by not venturing to share my ideas. Before I started this blog, I worried that people would find what I said shallow or uninteresting. But then I decided to draw my inspiration from Serendipity's Jonathan and step forward. Weinberg's book teaches the same lesson throughout: A consultant will live a better life and help their clients more if only they drop their false pride and admit that they don't know all there is, that they can't answer every question. And if you like romantic comedies but haven't seen Serendipity yet, then by all means check it out soon. -----