Explore Ideas You Disagree With

When I was a teenager I fronted a rock-n-roll band. At 17 years old, I was playing in bars that I would not have been allowed in otherwise. In many cases, the bands that my band opened for were much older—and much better—than we were. It was there that I was infected with a negative belief structure.

When a band was playing, the members of other bands would stand at the back of the bar and criticize the band that was playing. They would find something wrong with the singer, or the guitarist wasn’t really a shredder (as if that is even important when it comes to rock-n-roll, which is really more attitude than it is a competency). This was especially true for big, national acts who were experiencing the success that everyone else believed they deserved. Hanging around for a while, I learned to do the same thing. Like the others, I’d stand around being jealous.

At some point, my competitive nature took over, and I started to look at the bands that were playing through a different lens. First and foremost, they were better than we were. Second, and more importantly, they drew bigger crowds. We were opening for them, and not the other way around. It struck me that instead of trying to find reasons to criticize other bands, I should be trying to discover why so many people like them—even though I didn’t particularly like them. This massively improved our results by helping my little outfit make changes, whereas criticizing other bands produced no measurable benefit.

There are people who you may not like because you disagree with them on ideas or issues, and you may avoid looking at what they believe and why they believe it because you couldn’t be further apart in certain areas. This is a mistake because it prevents you from another perspective, a perspective that can improve your own. Instead of looking at what is wrong with what someone else does or what they believe, look instead to see if you can understand the value in their ideas, their beliefs, or their actions—or at least look to understand why they believe what they believe.

When you don’t like something, it is worth your time and effort to explore it. If an idea makes you uncomfortable, that is almost always an idea that is valuable for you to explore.

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