Being Wrong but Useful

Alyssa Wright reflects on how creating value and being right don’t always align. Beliefs shape lives, but the utility of those beliefs is often more important than their truth.

We all want to be right, to have a true understanding and right perspective on the world around us. We look around at different perspectives that clash with our own and think those people are ignorant, stupid, or evil. We look into the past and see all the times people were wrong and laugh at how stupid they were.

But in the future, people will look back and laugh at us and how stupid we are. Are, as in right now in this current moment. We are wrong about a lot of things, and don’t even know it. Probably a majority of what we believe to be true isn’t.

In some cases, our wrong beliefs have a functionality. If they have enough sense, they cohere with the rest of our understanding of the world. In science, models are simplifications of reality. In the past, models for atoms were incorrect or an oversimplification. But in high school chemistry class we still learn about Bohr’s model of the atom before we learn about the more complex, more current models. Because there’s a usefulness in the wrongness. The model is inaccurate, but it helps simplify the concept so it is comprehensible.

For this post, I’m drawing from two videos. “On being wrong,” a TED talk by Kathryn Shulz, and “You have no idea how wrong you are,” a video I watched during Praxis last month.

We’re wrong, a lot. Kathryn Shulz said in her talk, “Being wrong feels like being right.” And it does, until or unless we realize we’re wrong. But in the realm of religion or philosophy or etiquette or any number of other things, we will never know if or that we’re wrong. We can change our minds, sure, and think we used to be wrong in what we believed, but we can’t know.

For example, I don’t believe in any god or gods. But a lot of people do. I used to. I don’t know if I’m right or if some of the people who believe in a god or gods are right. I could very easily be wrong. They could very easily be wrong. Everyone is probably wrong. And we’ll never know what’s right. But what we believe is right shapes our lives.

That most of what we think and believe is true doesn’t entirely matter. Most of it is probably wrong. Whether it works and makes sense in relation to what we know and understand of the world matters. Though most of our understanding is probably very wrong. But it works, just like Bohr’s model of the atom. It has a utility.

When we can relate to the world and to each other in a way that makes sense and use that relation to create value, we can succeed. Even if a decade, or century, or millennium from now people look back and think we’re stupid for how wrong we are. If it works and we can use it to create value and improve people’s lives, including our own, we’ve succeeded.

How right we are doesn’t matter. How much value we can create does.

Learning SEO in 5 Days

Alyssa Wright details how she taught herself SEO basics in only five days for a value prop.

On Wednesday, Johnny Roccia, one of the Praxis placement advisors shared three open positions at a potential business partner called Fundera. One of them was a staff writer which involved creating frequent blog posts for their niche — small business financials. I was immediately drawn to and excited about applying for this position.

I sketched out a value prop — one blog post for them by today and one to two more by next Monday. I thought of three possible topics, and chose to write a beginner’s guide to SEO.

Before Wednesday, I had never delved into SEO. I had heard of it, seen a blog post from a fellow Praxis participant about her experience learning SEO and how her blog traffic improved upon implementing it. But I had never learned about it myself.

Over the past five days I assigned myself a crash course in SEO from various Youtube videos. (You can check out the resources I found helpful in this playlist I’m making.)

I learned enough about SEO to write an article about metadata, keywords, finding more keywords including long-tail keywords, finding content gaps, backlinks, and conducting an SEO audit.

Not only did I learn the SEO basics in only five days, I simultaneously wrote a ~1500 word article about it for Fundera.

I’m going to pay attention to my traffic, Google rank, and subscribers to compare before and after implementing SEO on my site. This will help me measure how much I learned and how well I applied it for myself. I have yet to do a full-site update, though, so posts about the results will have to wait.


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“Deal With It” (Poem)

Everything is building up,
It’s getting to be too much.
You want to get it over with,
To say ev’rything is finished.
But no, you can’t.
You have to finish what you’ve started.
You can’t quit.
You want to, but
That’s not an option.
Your brain is sick.
Sick of the stress and strain.
You’re sick of it too.
You get to suck it up
And deal with it.
The stress makes it harder to sleep,
Harder to concentrate.
But still you must deal with it.


This was originally written in October 2013.

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Reflections

Time heals all wounds, but sometimes it leaves scars.

I’m dealing with a difficult emotional situation right now. I thought of this while journaling and it resonated with me.

I’m not ready to disclose the situation, but I’m feeling better more quickly than I expected. I’ve been able to think through things with more clarity than I expected too.

Vocabulary Differences

I use words differently than most people around me. Not in a way that hinders understanding, but my word choice sometimes surprises people.

Today at work, my manager remarked on my use of “unwieldy.” I actually realize now I said it wrong, because I said “unwieldly,” with an extra l. He said a lot of other people would have used “awkward” or another more common word.

Previously, another coworker was surprised by a word I used, though I cannot recall which word it was.

That got me thinking, why do I use a different vocabulary to most of the people I interact with?

For the most part, it’s fairly similar, with a few uncommon word choices. Sometimes I’ll use a word with creative liberty, like finagle. I don’t use that exactly as the definition, “obtain by devious or dishonest means” (according to Google). I have remarked to a friend that I was trying to finagle my hair tie (ponytail holder) out of my hair. It adds a layer of meaning that implies it is difficult and I cannot do it as I would normally.

Over time, I have encountered and learned a wide variety of words. I have admired odd or meaning-heavy word choices. I find it exciting and creative. That has likely contributed to my adoption of unusual and uncommon words into my vocabulary.

I tend to go through cycles of infatuation with specific words, interestingly enough. For a week or even a few days, I might really enjoy using unwieldy or finagle or some other word. (Sorry I cannot think of more specific examples other than those two at the moment.) Then I might find or remember another word I really like and start using it again.

When I think of a word choice that fits and feels correct, I use it, even if it may seem wrong or strange to other people. Most of the time, I have not had confusion with this approach, though it has been seen as amusing. I’ve also had cases where I learned I was using a word completely incorrectly and it did not work in my chosen context even with creative liberty. That happens. I learned and adjusted my speech and writing according to my newfound knowledge.

I enjoy surprising people with the freshness of unfamiliar or infrequently-used words. I’m not trying to show off or appear smart by using “big words” or words people don’t hear often. I’m trying to use the right word, and often that’s not the usual way of expressing that idea.

I love unusual words. Share your favorite uncommon word with me in the comments!

Goals and Stress

I’m showing up. I’m done with today and worn out, but I’m still here.

I stayed late at work three extra hours because they needed help. One person was scheduled to be on line from 4-10 and close, so I stayed til 7.

I was gone all day and still had content to consume for Praxis, this blog to come to, Mystical Warriors to write, and the reading I want to do outside of Praxis.

It’s getting late, and I want to give myself a break. But I also want to meet all the goals I set for myself. I’m not always good at balancing my responsibilities with my leisure time. I’m aware of this. Often it seems I try to do too much of either at once and wear myself thin. Too much of work, work, work and I feel I desperately need a break. Too much fun, fun, fun and I stress myself out because I have so little time left for what I need to do. I’m still working to find a balance.

I try to do everything I need to early in the day and then relax and have leisure time in the evening/night. That’s not always what happens, but I think that works best for me.