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Daniel Vineberg

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"I don't try to be right, I choose to be happy" ... wait, what?

With no disrespect intended to RIc or any readers with opposing views, I take issue with the quote I pinpointed. The pursuit of happiness is a great thing and all, but I don't think it should actually take precedence over being right.

Now I know there's a fine line between "being right" and "doing the right thing". After all someone who tries to "be right" on every minute issue can get very annoying fast ( -- ever met someone who insists on correcting grammar when it's clear what's being said? case in point).

But on larger issues I would like to suggest that proving that you are in fact right constitutes doing the right thing.
eg. Galileo would've been a lot happier if he just agreed the earth was flat and stopped insisting he was right -- but aren't we happy he was stubborn?

more recent eg. Fighting tolerance / discrimination. Though intrinsically rewarding, most of us can live an easier, happier life by turning a cold shoulder. But who would argue that this is good advice?

I don't mean to pick apart Ric's quote and use it out of context. All I would like to show is that what may help you live on a micro level may actually promote apathy on a macro level. I'm only twenty though, so I'm still at the idealistic age where I think some hard work can save the world. But isn't that what TED's all about? :)

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    Apr 26 2011: It's easy to tell the married people from the Single people on this thread. He made that comment "I no longer try to be right, I choose to be happy" right after saying that he hasn't had an argument with his wife in 2 years, since the plane crash.

    The ONLY way this is possible in any marriage is to often, just decide, not to argue. Which means more often than not, deciding that it doesn't matter who is right or wrong about the issue (whether it's about money, or chores, or any of the million little things that cause husband and wife to argue).

    The quote makes perfect sense in the context of avoiding arguments with your spouse.
    • Apr 27 2011: My thoughts exactly @Ashely. I think he was talking about the small things in life, somehow this thread turned into Galileo and changing the world.

      "I many not be right," :) but I think people over analyzed the point.
      • Apr 27 2011: I'm with you Kevin...I think he was making a simple point about getting along with people, especially his wife (or mine ;-D ), and not referring to "Taking A Stand" when life calls for it. By now, it seems there are 3-4 different threads running, each of which is worthy of lengthy discussion, but I don't think they're based on Mr. Elias's intention.
        What a wonderfully thoughtful man. He's done a lot of clear thinking, and we all benefit. My thanks.
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      Apr 28 2011: Ashley, it's precisely because he was no longer trying to be right and instead chose to be happy, that he hasn't had an argument with his wife for 2 yrs. Great conversation. And isn't that Daniel quite hip for 20!! The camps of thought seem to fall into either the marriage arena or the 'I'm a citizen of the world' discussion. Both are excellent. Given our turbulent political situations in the U.S. and the world, this is a conversation worth having. It hooked me, and I'm not such a joiner!
    • Jul 23 2011: i have a friend who's wife is somewhat absent-minded. instead of him getting upset when she misplaces her car keys around the house he went out and had several extra sets made for her.
      i found that interesting as my approach would be to scold her for always losing them-i might have been "right" but i'm certain neither one of us would have been "happy".
      i think that is the type of thing Ric meant with his comment.
  • May 14 2011: I don't think the speaker is intending to present the situation as something like choosing between mustard or ketchup. I think the type of "right" he is talking about here is the type of "rightness" that the ego might be grasping for to protect itself.
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    Apr 28 2011: In my understanding, what he was trying to convey thru this sentence is that most of the time we get stuck on small, trivial discussions and ideas of being right and spoil relationships that is more valuable. He gives and example of relationship with wife but it could be friends, parents, brother&sisters anybody that came in our life and we had meaningful time with them. Think about how many split and spoiled relations we have in our life? Have all these splits made us better human beings? He is talking about reflections. It is not about losing value system and morality for being happy. Its about losing the ego. Its about being non-judgemental. Its about accomodating imperfection.
    The trick here is to understand what is right. One can decide right and wrong retrospectively but how do you decide that prospectively is the question. Even if we take the example of Galileo, do we know exactly what changed if the belief of people changed that earth was round and not flat. It mattered to a handful of scientist in their quest but what for a commoner was that important?
    So, it is critical to understand what does 'right' mean? Isnt it too relative? Does it not change over time & space. So what he says is to value and enjoy what is more important to keep human relations going. The bonding getting stronger and we accomodating more imperfections and individuals
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      Apr 28 2011: Mentioning the ego, maybe it is the "ego-driven rightness" we need to let go of. That part of being right that has to do with preserving our own world view.
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        Apr 29 2011: "Chaos is what we've lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is Ego, which clenches because its existance is defined in terms of control."
        — Terence McKenna
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        Apr 30 2011: wow great quote..one to tatoo on our palms and walk around with every day..tx
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        May 4 2011: amen amen amen 10 thumbs up..yes that is it excatly Kristiopher..we need as you have so wonderfully said, to let go of ego driven rightness.. that is indeed where it all goes afoul.
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    Jul 7 2011: Vignette from a Marriage

    Me: I lent you my SD card, can I have it back, please?

    Husband: No, I gave that back to you.

    Me: I don't think so. I remember lending it to you on our trip. Can you look for it?

    Husband: (Showing me the empty SD slot in his laptop) See? It isn't here. I don't have it. I gave it back to you.

    ***

    Here, I was right. I lent him the card, he didn't return it. I could have pursued the issue and we would have fought. I didn't. By saying he returned the card, my husband is indicating that he has no idea where it actually is. Getting him to admit that he lost the card doesn't bring it back. I bought a new SD card. I also made a mental note to never lend my husband an SD card with five weeks worth of vacation photos on it ever again.

    I was right, but I chose to be happy instead.

    This is exactly the daily trivial stuff that comprises the bickering of a typical marriage. When you let some of it go, the relationship gets mired down much less frequently. This is what I take Ric to mean.
  • May 6 2011: "Galileo would've been a lot happier if he just agreed the earth was flat and stopped insisting he was right"?

    Would he? After all, he DIDN'T prove to the church that he was right. He proved that his conviction not to support a lie was stronger than his desire to live in a world where one must lie to live.
  • May 3 2011: There is no love in right.
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      May 3 2011: Hi Michael, that is an interesting statement. Is there love in knowingly allowing someone to believe something that is untrue? I am not asking because I know the answer. I am asking because I wondered if there is love in wrong?
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        May 4 2011: don't we have to let people believ what they want and choose when and how to change that? proseltzing and trying to "rehabilitate" others beliefs or what we see as wrong choices for them is a very bad paradign for change..all we can do is model faithfully what we ourselves value and believe and hold those in our hearts we see may be harming themselves or others.
      • May 7 2011: If you are defining truth as "right", then I don't think there's a relationship between love and "right or wrong" (but I might argue that equating "truth" to "right" is wrong).

        If my friend who does not have a good singing voice thinks she does, is there love in telling her that she does not, and thus ruining her enjoyment of karaoke? On the other hand, when she decides to audition for American Idol, is there love in supporting her delusion, and allowing her to be humiliated on national television by Simon Cowell? If my (hypothetical) adopted son was given up by his now-deceased biological mother because she simply didn't want him, should I tell him that, rather than let him think she gave him up because she was unable to support him and wanted a better life for him?

        I think what is "right" is situational, and unrelated to "the truth".
  • Apr 26 2011: Ignorance is bliss, while i do believe in this sometimes, some examples (like you mentioned) do escape that grasp. but knowing everything would be horrible as well, the goal of life, as i see it, is to learn and understand our world around us.

    If i say a hot dog is made of rainbows and happiness i would be wrong, but i would be much happier then knowing the truth. Being right is just as selective as being happy. choices and choices, some smart and depressing and some wrong and enjoyable.
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      Apr 28 2011: I say: Ignorance is bliss, to the ignorant.
      • May 4 2011: Why do you say that? I never said intelligence isn't bliss, but ignorance is just the easier of the two. when faced with the choice of finding the truth or going with what your told, lazy people will choose to sit and accept it and those who want the truth will take the initiative and find it.
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          May 4 2011: I did not say it in disagreement with your comment. What I meant was that one mans ignorance can be bliss to him, at the same time as that same ignorance is hurtful to someone else. If I don't bother to think about how my actions affect others, I can feel good about myself at the same time as I hurt someone else. In that case the ignorance would be a bliss to myself only.

          It was a twist on words that was intended to show that just because there is a catchy frase, it doesn't make it universaly applicable. In some questions "ignorance is bliss", in others "ignoarance is bliss, to the ignorant". I think we agree there.
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          May 4 2011: Kristopher@ I did not say that in disagreement

          love this quote from your comment.. a real gem Thank You

          If I don't bother to think about how my actions affect others, I can feel good about myself at the same time as I hurt someone else. In that case the ignorance would be a bliss to myself only.
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    Apr 26 2011: "All I would like to show is that what may help you live on a micro level may actually promote apathy on a macro level." pure awesomeness!
  • May 8 2011: I think what he was saying was that rather than letting the little things get to you, you have to see beyond them, and think "what's the real goal here". Like.. when you're in an argument with somebody, it can become all about "being right", to the point where each person is deadlocked and stuck in a bad place. It impedes progress and problemsolving, both in work and in a relationship - So yeah, I think he was talking about seeing the bigger picture...

    At least that's what I got out of it :)
  • May 5 2011: The point is that most disagreements fester when people focus on WHO's right, not WHAT's right. When you have opposing viewpoints with someone you love, you come to realize that the ego satisfaction of "winning" an argument is replaced by the feeling of sadness you have for proving them wrong - no happiness there.
  • May 4 2011: I'm a bit late to this conversation, but what seems to me is there is an important distinction here between facts and righteousness.

    Facts are things that just ARE. Like, I woke up this morning, or there is a cup of water on the table, or the earth does revolve around the sun. All of these involve some type of observation, and humans being fallible are known for making poor observations from time to time. But no matter who is observing, the fact remains in and of itself, true. Even if no one ever observes it.

    Righteousness comes in when we try to take what we consider to be fact as true and argue for that. The important part here is the 'argue'. There are many ways to present ideas, thoughts, observations, derived proofs and such without having to resort to righteousness. Righteousness is more of an emotional state, or way of being rather than having anything to do with stating the facts. It is our own sense of righteousness that Ric was referring to when he was talking about being happy instead of being right.

    You CAN be happy and still work for the better good. You will also find you will have an easier time if you aren't trying to impose your righteousness on others. We can have civilized discourse, like we are doing here, present ideas and suggestions, bring forth the facts and temper our judgments. Imposition of our beliefs on others through our righteousness is where war comes from, especially when you consider extreme religious groups.

    You can always impose your righteousness on others, but you cannot impose happiness on them. What we think will make others happy, is often not the case at all.
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    Apr 28 2011: Thanks everyone for taking the time to give such thoughtful responses. Based on the direction of the conversation so far I'll just add a brief clarification my defense of "being right".

    "Rightness" is such a loaded term that it is easy to equivocate someone's saying that they are right to saying that everyone else is wrong. A few commenters have pointed to this as a flaw of trying to be right. But this isn't necessarily what I'm saying. Rather, it's the ability to hold onto your own sense of "rightness" while co-existing with others who have their own believes of what's right that should be strived for. If you're living under someone else's notion of what's right (legally, morally, spiritually, etc..) then I don't think you can truly choose to be happy, but only chose to conform.

    On the other hand, I believe there are certain issues where right and wrong can and must be determined. It *had* to be determined for example that women have the right to vote. In countries where they still do not, we cannot simply force this belief on them, but we are selling humanity short if we passively accept such forms of oppression in the name of tolerance.

    ( The first TED talk I ever watched was by Sam Harris, who does a great job of talking about the implications of judging right and wrong:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html )

    In sum, I agree with the speaker on the importance of not sweating who's right in the small things. But in the larger sense, the often tiresome battle for rightness is well worth having.
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    Apr 27 2011: Daniel, I completely got what he says about being right. People who need to be right have no tolerance for others. They perceive their actions as the right way to do things and their viewpoints as the right way to think. Any other approach is just wrong. A differing opinion is a direct insult to their ideas or opinion sometime they become extremely aggressive in their defense. Having to be right seems to be more like the definition of self-righteous I can probably illustrate this better if you applied it in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others: narrow-mindedly moralistic. Someone who needs to be right would seem to be self-righteous, i.e. someone who feels that their way of seeing and doing things is superior to that of others. This will bring a lot of unhappiness to anybody, in my opinion, but then again I might no be right! ☺
  • Apr 27 2011: Problem is that Galileo did indeed agree on the 22nd of June, 1633 that the earth was the centre of the universe rather than the sun. The argument was not about a flat earth but one about the legitimacy of heliocentrism. I think it is interesting that Galileo chose to recant, and, possibly, adds some weight to Keith Bender's post about winning the battle but losing the war. I suspect that Galileo recanted because he knew that ultimately others would demonstrate over time that the earth did indeed move and that fighting for so-called "right" would achieve nothing but his fiery end.

    Heliocentrism was an idea before its time, and the problem of ideas before their time is just that - time needs to elapse, hypotheses need to firm, others need to confirm the "science" and a lot of chatter has to happen before the possible transforms into an agreed reality.

    The other thing that struck a resonant chord in me with KBs post was his suggestion that maybe there is no such thing as "right". If we use pre-scientific, or Aristotlean, logic then of course we can proclaim a string of things as right and wrong, we can declare that we've discovered the rock of truth and we can breath life into the Descartes notion of the God's eye view, but science has moved on since that bunch of smart Greek guys sought to codify the reality of Athens 300 BC. The very scientific approach that ultimately proved and went far beyond Heliocentrism has also helped us move beyond the logic of right and wrong into quantum and radial logic, where about the nearest one can ever get to right is "right-ish".

    Pity that most of the public debates of today are still conducted using Aristolean precepts, when with a little flexibility we could try to use the logic of the twenty-first century. And maybe, just maybe, we can reduce the mortality rate of contemporary clashes of ideas in the process. For if one looks over history at those who have "fought" for whatever, we see a massive body count.
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      Apr 28 2011: tx for this wonderful thought and in particular the idea of "agreed reality"..that's one to hold and think about for ''- time needs to elapse, hypotheses need to firm, others need to confirm the "science" and a lot of chatter has to happen before the possible transforms into an agreed reality.'and this too very comelling:" The very scientific approach that ultimately proved and went far beyond Heliocentrism has also helped us move beyond the logic of right and wrong into quantum and radial logic, where about the nearest one can ever get to right is "right-ish". "so how do we bring ourselves to this in our normal linteractions with one naother..is it similar in essence tothe "talking stick" or is it just everyone saying that they know and accepting that's as afr as we got?Anyway..very fruitful tx"p
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    Jun 28 2011: My friend Daniel Vineberg,

    I wish you will try some Tibetan meditation which will helps you to find your answer .
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    May 6 2011: In my own personal experience, I've prioritized Truth over happiness. At some time I sat down and asked myself the hard question "what is most important?" at the time Truth came out the winner over all else and so I pursued it to the best of my ability. now I'm not saying that I have understood The Truth, but I will say that the closer I approached it the more I regretted my decision. I have learned that there are absolutely more important things in this world than Rightness, or The Truth (with a capital T), the closer I came to Truth the further I got from what is really important, which I now know to be Love, the only thing in this world worth a damn.
  • Apr 30 2011: He (Ric) was saying he didn't need to be right on issuses that were not so important he needed to cause discomfort. On this, I believe he was RIGHT !!
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    Apr 29 2011: I used to have a friend who always had to be "right", even when she was wrong about nonsubjective matters. I used to argue for hours with her about basic logic problems, showing her algebraic solutions that proved she was wrong. This had nothing to do with moral standpoints. And she would never back down; she was right and you were wrong. This behavior also transferred over into her marriage. She is now divorced and we are no longer friends. So in her ego, she was right, but I don't think it made her very happy.
  • Apr 28 2011: About turning a cold shoulder.

    I find that activism for whatever cause wen not base on what is possible outside of blame, ends up creating the same thing that they are "fighting" against.


    “You don’t have to feel bad to act kindly. Love doesn’t stand by, it moves with the speed of clarity.” - Byron Katie
  • Apr 27 2011: Hi Daniel, I know what you're saying, I agree, and I think I have something helpful to say. Right versus happy isn't an all-or-nothing choice.

    We should pick our battles wisely. That's the answer.

    We are sometimes faced with a choice (this is from John Bradshaw): do we want to be right or do we want to be close (to someone). Lets make that choice conciously. As the annoying grammarian is probably not doing.

    By the way, I'm not religious, but this reminds me of a quote from Jesus: "I bring not peace, but a sword." This seeming contradiction from a great champion of peace is about rocking the boat when what's right is important enough. But he did it with love and non-violence. Maybe that's the way to be right AND happy...
  • Apr 27 2011: A few years ago something came to me, a single line that summed up all that was wrong with the way I was living and, I suspect, the society in which we live:

    "Stop being right - and start being".

    Daniel I think you could benefit greatly from watching Kathryn Schultz talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong.html

    The problem is you are walking around in your bubble of "being right" not realising that it feels exactly the same as being wrong. It confines you to a limited reality filtered through your preconceptions of "being right". You can't tell the difference between being right or being wrong until someone proves it one way or the other.

    Life is much simpler when you give up the ghost of "being right" and start "just being". Life is simpler and so, oddly enough, is being right AND doing right.

    Living as close to the very moment you are in as you can leads to this.
  • Apr 26 2011: What is right? ....Win the battle but lose the War? Happiness is a by-product of a life worth living. My viewpoint may differ from your way of seeing things but it is not wrong compared to yours being right. For all it is really is a choice among many choices. The day I backed my arrogant attitude up against the wall with the realization that there is at least 6 ways of seeing the same situation if I would just stop defending my way, then I might see the others persons point of view in the midst of all their "wrongness", I saw happiness as a decision I was in charge of making for myself. The truth is that many of us have been addicted to being right! It's a smoke screen for being perfect and we all learn at some point that our definition of perfection is imperfect and that too is a decision among many choices.

    You will make more friends by listening than ever by being right. I thought that by being right I would deserve the friends I wanted to have. It was back asswards from that, but you will never convince someone addicted to being right of that simple truth . Being addicted to being right means saving our face is more important than saving our life. The talk was about a life awakening event. The old melts away like it never existed. May you survive your destiny of being Right if that truly is your head strong path. Life is a whole body experience and being Right is simply a head trip.

    When I heard those words about not wanting to be right but to be happy I applauded. I could feel the words he spoke and those words were alive.

    Changing the world ?If we can get 2 billion to see it our way it will take being wrong more than it will take being right. My rightness stands in the way of our progress. Do we welcome being wrong ?
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      Apr 28 2011: RE:. I could feel the words he spoke and those words were alive.

      Me too

      and how eloquent and beuatiful your words
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    Apr 26 2011: Hi Daniel,I think this sort of statement arises out of two different situations. One- it is a lot of intellectual work to continue to figure out what truth is. Along the way it requires giving up some cherished beliefs and the hard work of really listening to people and to the thoughts expressed in written works. Many people get tired along the way and form some sort of uneasy truce with never getting to the bottom of things.The second situation comes when people just get tired of battling. Even if they believe that they have more information and more truth than the prevailing authorities they know that the truth was never the goal for some people and they get tired of the fight. I'd rather be happy than right is sometimes just the best compromise that can be made when life is short and the battle is too tough.There are prices to pay when you are a person who will not settle for injustice or BS. The world really needs all of you energetic 20 year olds with hope and vigor to push ahead!
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    Apr 26 2011: Let's not forget also that there are some people who, for them, being right makes them happy. I'm sure Ric doesn't give up being right 100% of the time, but after surviving a plane crash I think his point is that his priorities have, well, re-prioritized. And top of the list of being a good parent, as he says.
  • Ell Tee

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    Apr 26 2011: I think that maybe what he was getting at could be said as, "let some things slide". Being right when it's important to be right -- like Galileo -- is good but there's no need to force being right on people at every opportunity, especially if it is going to create bad feelings. To walk around with a cloud over one's head because one is preoccupied with others' perceived faults, concerns about status, always making a point and convincing others of can really affect one's day-to-day mood.
  • Jul 21 2011: Well I respect that also, but I think you just missed the mark here. He clearly means that he does not want to argue and waste his energy with negative people. It is obvious that he is not supporting doing the wrong thing to be happy, but simply choosing to be so without getting other people´s approvals.
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    Jul 21 2011: thank you, i am studying tibetan meditation form my boyfriend, he is a superstart in tibet. i wish you always be happy.
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    Jun 28 2011: Have you realized that all the wars that have had place in the world are because two sides (at least), think that they are right?

    It all resumes in " THE EXACT ISUE THAT ITS ABSOLUTLY RIGHT FOR YOU COULD NOT BE RIGHT FOR ME AND VICEVERSA"
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    Jun 27 2011: Have you considered this scenario:

    A guy fights/argues/demonstrates to prove he is right because he will gain respect (= look cool) in public, but he is never the practitioner of whatever that right implies. So when it comes to himself, he still does what makes him happy regardless of the degree of "right" in what he does.
  • Jun 25 2011: Being right is very important. but what is more important is to realize that in most cases we are far from knowing what right is. most of the time we don't have or can't analyze all the factors affecting an event so we can't really say for sure what is wrong and what is right. so many issues that cause arguments are subjective and by far no one knows what right is.

    in this cases, to insist that you are right, is taking your happiness away from you and people you care about and it shows that you are far from being a mature person. I think this is what he meant because he said he had not been fighting with his wife. human fights are most of the time not about facts (e.g. if earth is flat) they are about preferences (e.g. let's go see that romantic comedy).