“Why?” It’s a question we repeat, over and over, when we are young.
We're all curious as children, we want to discover what things mean and so we search for answers.
We're also uniquely unprejudiced, the world hasn’t jaded us, we haven’t discovered the frustration of politics, within our own lives, at work, and in society.
As we form opinions and become self-obsessed teenagers we're usually revelling in our own ideas and have little interest in accepting things that don't fit our world view.
This can easily carry on into adulthood. I am guilty of it, not accepting someone else’s opinion because it challenged my own, but I work very hard to be objective now. To challenge my own opinions and ways of doing things, because I want to get better at what I do and how I do it.
Opinions are usually held close to the heart and so we will fight for them. This might be our favourite brand of shoe, it might be our favourite car, it might even be our favourite restaurant.
The only problem with an opinion is that most people don't ask that key question that they once asked so frequently - “why?”.
"Why do I hold this opinion? Why does it have merit? Why is this the best way?"
When probed further a lot of us can't actually answer that. It may be intangible a feeling, or something else.
Why? (there's that key question).
I work as a Front End Developer and I have come across many of my fellow developers during my time. I can quickly tell you that the best developers I have encountered are those who constantly question themselves.
A great example of this is “table guy/girl”. I think we all have known table guy/girl, they insisted that tables were the best way to layout pages because a lot of time had been invested in using these in the 1990s and early 2000s. People had, frankly, achieved a lot with a very limited layout method that really should never have had to have been used the ways it was. Alot of people had trouble letting go of this.
It can be hard to realise that even when you’ve invested a lot of time in learning something, sometimes it’s best to accept that it has come and gone and move on.
I can't imagine that our evolution as a species would have been quite the same if we'd all just said "No thank you, I won't have any of that exploring, crafting, hunting, or socialising. I will just sit here in my cave and live with the things that I am familiar with.”
To this end, my message is simple - introspection is an important part of learning to learn.
If you can't doubt yourself, then you'll never have reason to look for new ways of approaching existing problems. Don’t wait for your favourite car to break down to look at others in the market and, similarly, don’t wait for the way you work to become outdated before you think about weaknesses in your methods.
However, you’re not wrong just because you have an opinion.
If you know exactly why you do something and there is great reasoning for it then you have absolute reasoning to explain that to others and show them another approach.
It’s kind of like the difference between constructive criticism and complaining - one helps and the other hinders.
If you can’t explain why you hold an opinion, then why hold it at all?
If you know precisely why you hold that opinion and the reasoning is still obvious, then you have a strong opinion that may be worth holding onto.
And just remember, if everyone disagrees with you, you may be wrong (if you can’t explain why) or you could be right (if you can explain why).