Most people, especally those over about 50, know The Peter Principle: “Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.” Recently a post Why People Shouldn’t Love You For Who You Are caught my eye. It was a reminder why hate discussions that assume human behavior is static, and don’t learn and change.

People change constantly. If anything, it’s our adaptablity that makes us such an amazing species. As a developer (and a bit of an engineer) the idea of feedback loops and self-balancing systems makes me happy, since they seem intrinsicly beautiful, and self-managing. Not only are humans dynamic, but the universe itself isn’t static. As old as trees, or rocks, or our planet seems, it’s only because we are so small and live so short a life.

One of my most painful experience with this was during my first job out of college. I breezed through college with a A- average, really not applying myself to much schoolwork outside of one or two classes I dug. I knew how to do enough to get an A-/B+ with little work, and I worked that system. I graduated thinking I was pretty damn good, especially if I could do that well with little work. So it was a rude shock when during my first review the head of the software group told me I was not so good, and pointed out 3-4 major problems with the code I had written that month. It was a major blow to my ego, largly because it was true.

After that I got to thinking about feedback, and using it intellegently. I’ve developed the habit to usually assume that everyone ( even the jackasses) are Agent-Correct. Given their knowledge and experience, I am going to trust they are giving an honest ‘trying to fix things’ opinion. Even if that opinion is given in a brash way. I also try to realize when I, or they, ‘Agent-Wrong’ vs. ‘Global-Wrong’. Given their view/information/experience am I wrong to them? Maybe I’m even wrong overall?

It’s amazing what a downer being wrong can be. I am still amazed when someone who cares about me corrects me, and I get defensive. Why do I have such a negative reaction even when I know they are trying to help me? Why do I get defensive and regretful even when intellectually realize they have a good point? It’s weird, and it’s sometime hard to keep those feelings in check. Sometimes wanting to be right can stand in the way of taking feedback, being correct, and becoming actually right.