Who was the greatest scientist? Albert Einstein may well be the answer. Who was the greatest inventor? Thomas Edison would be a strong candidate. Both men were epitomes of their respective fields. But they were not infallible. Einstein was a genius; however, after a long intellectual battle with Dane Niels Bohr & his disciples, Einstein—with a bitter taste in his mouth— had to admit that quantum theory, despite its obvious weirdness, was a giant leap towards understanding the nature of reality.
While Einstein did concede his opinions, Edison was a bit more inflexible. Despite owning more than 1000 patents, Thomas Edison lost the “War of Currents” against Nikola Tesla. Throughout his career, Edison remained adamant about the superiority and safety of his DC (Direct Current) power devices. However, in the end, Tesla, with financial support from George Westinghouse, came out victorious, with his Alternating Current (AC) being acknowledged as the future of power generation.
In both these episodes, the two greats remained persistent in their views for years, rather decades. Persistence or perseverance is a desirable attribute but sometimes it exceeds logic, where it turns into stubbornness. Being stubborn is a negative attribute which, in extreme cases, can border stupidity and may lead to disasters. Below five lessons will help you identify and avoid being stubborn:
Lesson One: Differentiate Between Persistence and Stubbornness
Persistence is the ability to pursue your goals with a positive, open mindset. Persistence or perseverance is an essential attribute towards success. However, when your persistence exceeds the boundaries of logic and reason, this becomes insistence or stubbornness. When you become stubborn, you start neglecting other alternatives or opportunities. Stubbornness is a negative state of mind which, when engulfs your senses, disables you to receive and perceive any unbiased opinion. Be wary of crossing the fine line between persistence and insistence.
Lesson Two: Keep Reminding Yourself that You Can be Wrong
Einstein is often called the ultimate genius; Edison, in his heyday, was called “the Wizard of Menlo Park”. But they were proven wrong in some of their views. If a genius and an inventive wizard could be wrong, why can’t you or me? Keep reminding yourself that you can be wrong. There is nothing wrong with being wrong. Rather, by accepting your imperfections, you can open pathways for improvement and growth.
Lesson Three: Be a Good Listener
Try to be a good listener: do not listen to respond, instead listen to understand; do not interrupt while others are speaking; make gestures and facial expressions to let the speaker know that you are paying attention. As a general rule, if you can repeat what the speaker has said, you are a good listener. Remember, good listeners are good learners, as they are not stubborn in their views and are open to alternative opinions.
Lesson Four: Don’t Jump to Conclusions
How many times your judgments have proven to be wrong? It happens to all of us, every day. And if you say, your judgment has never been wrong, you are already a stubborn person. Keep analyzing your past; the times when you jumped to a conclusion, and it proved to be a mistake subsequently. Reminding yourself of your mistaken opinions and consequent losses will help you avoid jumping to conclusions, and in turn, avoid being stubborn in your viewpoints.
Lesson Five: Keep Your Ego Aside
While making any opinion, don’t lose sight of your end goal. What do you want to achieve at the end? Don’t let your ego and biases overshadow your objectives. Let me remind you the story when Steve Jobs joined hands with Bill Gates— his archrival— in order to save the drowning ship of Apple. Keep your ego aside, keep moving forward.