The Joy Of Being Wrong And The Danger Of Desirability Bias

“No one enjoys being wrong,” Daniel Kahneman told Adam Grant, who recounted their conversation during a recent interview, “but I do enjoy having been wrong, because it means I am now less wrong than I was before.”

Grant describes Kahneman, the psychologist seen as the originator of and greatest contributor to the field of behavioral economics, as “a living legend,” a lofty label that Grant himself is sure to earn any day now. So when these two sages, known for having gotten so much right, talk about their enjoyment in having been wrong, it provides a special comfort to those of us who find ourselves acknowledging our errors more often.

Being wrong sucks.

First, I love that they admit to their humanity—not just that they are occasionally wrong, but that it kinda sucks when the realization initially strikes. Helpful humbling is often initiated through a little hurting. And one of the best ways to salve that sting is to recognize the benefits to be gained from being more right into the future.

One of the biggest humblings of my career was also one of my most important lessons. I grew up professionally in financial firms that believed the primary justification for their existence was picking the right stocks, bonds and mutual funds at the right times for their clients. I genuinely believed this was the best use of our time and energy, until I was exposed to the evidence—that the vast majority of stock pickers don’t actually beat their benchmarks long-term and that allocating and reallocating active funds likely only increases the costs investors are virtually guaranteed to incur in pursuit of “alpha” that’s very difficult to sustain over the long-term!

Upset guy realizes he made a mistake