Some people are Seekers of the Truth. Others close their eyes and can hold on tight to beliefs in spite of intrinsic illogic or overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Here are the two essential requirements of a Truth Seeker.
1. A Truth Seeker, when presented with an alternative viewpoint, an opposing opinion, a perspective that they do not believe or have not considered, will then take their own opinion on that subject and place it at arm’s length, and evaluate the opposite perspective free from prejudice, without giving the belief they held previously the slightest favor over its challenger.
They will try on the new viewpoint, seeing how it fits, and make a good faith effort to convince themselves that the new way of thinking is true and the beliefs they held previously were false. Sometimes this entails rejecting an entire framework of supporting beliefs.
They will then evaluate both from an unbiased perspective, and choose the better or more likely of the two viewpoints, adopting the winner as their own, until it does battle with the next challenger.
2. A Truth Seeker never forgets, no matter how many wars of opposing ideas they have weathered, that the Truths they have found are not final or absolute; that they hold the title only until a younger, hungrier, smarter viewpoint comes along and steals the crown. A Truth Seeker is always on the lookout, indeed, is eager to find and explore contrary beliefs in the hope that this exploration may lead to a better understanding of any topic area. That is, a Truth Seeker always maintains a reasonable doubt that any belief, no matter how deeply held, could be wrong.
A Seeker of the Truth walks a path far from the seemingly secure, cozy, delusional worlds of those who are certain that their beliefs are the only right ones.
Note: Years after writing the above, I stumbled across the blog post below:
From 37 Signal’s blog:
Jeff Bezos stopped by our office yesterday and spent about 90 minutes with us talking product strategy. Before he left, he spent about 45 minutes taking general Q&A from everyone at the office.
During one of his answers, he shared an enlightened observation about people who are “right a lot”.
He said people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds. He doesn’t think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait. It’s perfectly healthy — encouraged, even — to have an idea tomorrow that contradicted your idea today.
He’s observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a well formed point of view, but it means you should consider your point of view as temporary.
What trait signified someone who was wrong a lot of the time? Someone obsessed with details that only support one point of view. If someone can’t climb out of the details, and see the bigger picture from multiple angles, they’re often wrong most of the time.