Getting It Right

It pays to be right. I’m paid to be right. I have to be right.

Take a moment and meditate on this line of reasoning. Does it feel true to you? If it is true for you, what does that mean? It if is true for others, what might it mean for them and the behavior you observe? What happens if others are wrong? Must you be right? What would it be like if you’re wrong?

I firmly believe there is a right and a wrong in many cases. In the majority of others, I’m not so sure. This doesn’t make me a moral relativist, multiculturalist, or a post-modernist. I can for example be sure that it is wrong when one of my children strikes or bites another out of anger and without danger to themselves. I can be sure I’m capable of monstrous acts. I can be sure that evil exists and it must be confronted. Without sacrificing those beliefs, I can be unsure about a company layoff, curious about my spouse’s distasteful behavior, or open to the promises of a Senator. Objective right and wrong do exist, yet I’m limited in the reality I can perceive and my capacity to make sense of it.


If I fail to acknowledge those limitations, my belief runs amok. This is compounded by another belief, that I have got to be right. If there is no safe option but to be right, I push myself to believe that I must be right. I slip into a kind of slumber. Then, I dream. In my dream, I invent reasons, arguments and conclusions that justify my rightness. Around me reality passes by, yet I take no notice. I’m sleeping. My unconscious state only serves to bolster my need to be right in increasingly imaginative ways. I create my own reality which diverges increasingly from actuality.

When I wake my wife in the morning, I gently stroke her arm and wait patiently for her to orient herself to consciousness. We have an understanding, I’m not to trust morning her. As she wakes, I may ask her, “Do you have an alarm set?” She may tell me she does when she knows she does not. Some mornings, the allure of sleep is so powerful that the most virtuous woman I know will lie to my face! Actual sleeping is a wonderful place to be. Bringing her out of it and into harsh reality should be done with care and understanding.

We slumber who hold too tightly to being right. Unconscious, we miss the signals reality gives us that could teach us something. You can’t be open to the waking world or curious about what’s there as long as you keep your eyes closed. When we sleep hard, we resist coming out of it. Unlike actual sleep which is restful and restorative, this hard sleep of our mind is neither. It creates anxiety to require ourselves to know or when we are required by others to know…when we don’t truly know. To quell this cognitive dissonance, we might double down. We might use powerfully imaginative dreams to reason into being alternative realities in which we actually are right! Yet we still slumber, blind to what’s happening and holding desperately to our increasingly, unrealistic dream.


Be patient with the long life of a bad idea. People get attached to defending it and then it’s hard for them to set it aside. Treat the situation like any other change. With curiosity, explore what the idea-holder thinks is good, right, even beautiful about the bad idea. If they don’t sense in their bones that you honor their current world open-heartedly, they surely won’t let you lead them to a new world.

Inspiration for Agile Coaches Email – 2019/02/26 – Lyssa Adkins

Take care when you seek to wake someone from their slumber. Be circumspect. Be understanding. I realize we tell ourselves often, “We don’t have time to let them sleep!” Are you very sure? Do you believe yourself to be right about that? How do you know you aren’t ANOTHER sleeper instinctively and unconsciously thrashing about? I love how Lyssa calls us to be. She calls us into waking, into curiosity, into openness, and into exploration. She calls us to honor our dream and the dreams of others while still acknowledging that we are dreaming. She invites us to care for the dreamer and with empathy. We know how to say, “Me too” to the dreamers. We know how alluring it is to dream. We know how hard it is to wake up. We know how easy it is to despise the dreaming of others while forgetting about our own. Her advice is the gentle stroke I give my wife. It is the knowledge that waking to reality is irksome at times. It’s understanding that the dream may feel safer, cleaner or more solid than what’s actually out there. Knowing this, take care when you seek to wake someone from their slumber.


Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

“12 Rules for Life” – Jordan Peterson

Once awake, we do best to be curious most times. Curiosity is open. It’s playful. It doesn’t have a use for being right or wrong. Games have rules of course and the curious scientist does well to studiously regard the laws she observes. Yet if we’re not careful, these things become the point. They become that which defines us. To challenge them is to challenge us. We may even feel attacked. They, no WE must be defended! Again, sleep beckons us to dream. What if instead, we changed it? What if being right weren’t as good as getting it right? If this were the case, being wrong could be seen as a necessary step in discovering what is right. We could start to lay our egos aside in service of curiosity. We would have permission to be wrong and to learn reality’s lesson from it. Maybe that openness and the learning that results is what we want. Now the spouse, colleague or Senator might have something to teach us! We bring them down from the ramparts of our opponents and into the lectern of a professor. Perhaps they even become one at whose feet we sit. Maybe they teach us the most valuable lesson we’ve ever learned. Maybe that lesson helps us get it right. These riches are there for the taking if we will assume that the person we are listening to might know something we don’t.

It pays to get it right. You’re paid to get it right. You need to get it right.

Getting it right is what we need. There are important problems in the world that need solving. Many of these problems are yours to solve, but the majority require you to work with others. When you work with others, take care when you observe a sleeper. Wake then in the manner you wish to be awoken. After all, you too will fall asleep. You will need them to wake you. We need you to be awake. The world needs you to see it and to make sense of it. The world needs you to work hard to right it when it’s wrong. Wake from your sleep, dreamer. Wake me when I slumber. There are things to be done, and we need to get them done right.


Jason is a developer, Scrum Master, writer, teacher, coach, husband, father, and community leader out of Tulsa Oklahoma. He's been delivering software since 2007 and absolutely loves the values and principles of agility especially as given form by the Scrum framework.