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Disagreeing with the Person You Used to Be

Seth Godin had another insightful post this week that hit close to home. Here’s the post:

The reason it’s difficult to learn something new is that it will change you into someone who disagrees with the person you used to be.

And we’re not organized for that.

The filter bubble and our lack of curiosity about the unknown are forms of self defense. We’re defending the self, keeping everything “ok” because that’s a safe, low maintenance place to be.

The alternative is to sign up for a lifetime of challenging what the self believes. A journey to find more effectiveness, not more stability.

When I first read it, it made me think about my recent experience with the Citizens’ Police Academy, which I wrote about just yesterday.

In that post I noted that I had gone into the program with a certain opinion about police, an opinion that was not always a positive one. It was relatively easy to find support for my opinion through the process of confirmation bias. I would see news stories that would show police at their worst, resorting to deadly force when it didn’t seem necessary.

But then the police academy taught me things like the “use of force model” that all officers are trained in, and how they try at all costs to avoid getting situations where deadly force is necessary.

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It also taught me that in many traffic stops, particularly at night, it’s nearly impossible to determine the physical profile of the driver of a vehicle when the decision is first made to pull someone over.

I also learned that the police get just as angry as the rest of us when they see a cop behaving badly, because they know it will affect how people judge all cops.

But as a result of what I learned from the academy, I’ve changed my opinion about police, and I no longer agree with the person I used to be on this subject.

This notion was confirmed again tonight when my wife, son, and I attended a social justice documentary created by a group of Villanova students. I plan to devote a separate blog post about the film, but the point I want to make here is that I went into the film with one idea about the subject matter of the documentary, and came away with quite a different perception.

Seth’s post, and my experiences, remind me of the lyrics of, “For Good”, from Wicked:

I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.

The key is a willingness to learn from others, which as Seth notes, is not easy, because you may end up disagreeing with the person you used to be.

But as Elphaba and Glinda point out so beautifully, you can be changed for the better.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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