Strong Opinions - Weakly Held

We make thousands of decisions every year. Some, like choosing a spouse, change your life. Others, like how to treat your spouse, add up too. Year after year, the effects multiply.

When making decisions, your values and opinions play a prominent role.

If you see a world full of opportunities, you’ll be more likely to seize them. If you view the system as impossibly rigged against you, why bother trying?

The quality of your opinions affect your decisions. And the quality of your decisions affect the quality of your life. Want a better life? Examine your opinions to see if they’re informed, adequately serve you, and what, if anything, can be done to improve them.

But, here’s the problem. We’re not predisposed to change our minds easily. We’re wired for confirmation bias, to find evidence of what we believe is true. I’m no different. I like a good debate and enjoy being right.

A few years ago, I came across an idea I’ve found helpful. In an interview, Marc Andreessen, one of the godfathers of Silicon Valley, described how he tests ideas. He called it “strong opinions - weakly held.” When immersed in a conversation or debate, he’d vigorously argue his point, in order to test its merit, but the moment he recognized its inferiority, he’d change his mind. He actually welcomed being wrong. This philosophy, he believed, has played a significant role in his success.

Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. Remaining open-minded in the heat of debate has been a challenge, but I’ve made progress. The time required to recognize the inferiority of my opinions has declined. What once took several weeks, now takes a day or two. Not yet ideal, but Rome wasn’t built in a day either. As a result, I’ve improved a number of my beliefs. 

Moving forward, my intention is to conclude each year with an itemized list of updated opinions. If executed consistently, it should meaningfully improve my life.