You may think Trump’s use of Twitter is a distraction. Or you feel it is an embarrassment to the country. But what if I told you it was the smartest thing he’s done as President? Let me make the case by first talking about how our culture treats mistakes.
Imagine the kid in school who generally sat in the back of the room. Tried to hide from the teacher’s line of sight. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, he just didn’t want to get called on. He might have been a little shy but the real problem was his fear of being wrong. He didn’t want to make a mistake in front of the class. We are in school to learn. Not knowing is to be expected. So why the fear?
That kid I’m describing is me. But I bet you could see yourself too.
We live in a culture that punishes mistakes. We’ve been conditioned to believe that mistakes are bad. This starts while we are in school and continues into adulthood.
The stigma of public mistakes is hard to shake. I struggle with it even though I know we have to make mistakes to move forward. We would not be doing anything new or meaningful if we aimed to avoid mistakes.
Mistakes are How We Learn
Saying that mistakes are how we learn is cliche. Everyone knows it or has heard it. Yet, we continue to criticize others for making mistakes no matter how benign. Especially if they are a public figure or celebrity. Gaffes are paraded all over the media.
Gary Johnson had a popular mistake during the 2016 campaign when he was asked about the situation in Aleppo to which he responded, “And what is Aleppo?”.
It was so widely reported and shared on social media that Johnson got more coverage over that gaffe than anything else. 90% of Americans who basked in Johnson’s mistake didn’t learn of Aleppo until that morning. While they laughed at him.
To his credit, Johnson admitted that he did not know the details of the situation in Syria. He admitted his error and then proceeded to learn. Johnson had a better understanding of the conflict in Syria than both Trump and Hillary after this incident.
Trump always talks around a question when he doesn’t have specifics with a tone like he’s insulted you even brought it up. Classic New Yorker attitude. And Hillary sticks to her memorized and rehearsed focus-group approved talking points like the robot she is.
So while the Aleppo Incident was painful for Johnson, he came away more knowledgeable than he started. Shouldn’t we celebrate that?
The Power of Little Bets
Those of us who grew up fearful of making mistakes are unlikely to completely change our stripes. The fear of mistakes is basically second nature but we can try to be aware of it and use some hacks to minimize how much it holds us back.
One strategy is the concept of little bets from the book of the same name. The idea is to take small steps toward a goal and then let the failures or successes along the way guide us. Making small errors is much easier to deal with than making big errors.
Now let’s look at President Trump. The news reports his use of Twitter as some kind of national disgrace. He certainly doesn’t always tweet the nicest or most Presidential things but we are missing the bigger picture if we only focus on the reported mistakes.
Twitter is Trump’s way to quickly get public feedback on the support for various strategies he is considering. Some may say there’s no way the President is clever enough to be doing this. But they would be wrong.
Trump didn’t build a billion dollar empire by accident. One can inherit money or win the lottery accidentally but that’s not Trump’s story. The first time he became rich could very well have been from his father’s reputation and some luck but he lost it all. His second act is where the story is.
He became richer than ever. He learned. He deployed the idea of little bets everywhere. The Apprentice was a little bet. He wasn’t sure it was going to be a hit but doubled down once he got positive feedback. Trump had tried running for President before 2016. He made a little bet with the Reform Party. The feedback was negative and he didn’t pursue that strategy further.
Trump does not double down on ideas with negative feedback. Not negative feedback from the media. All their feedback is negative. As President, he takes feedback from where it matters most: the people. Twitter is his little bets feedback machine.
You can dislike Trump but it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from him.
Let me know in the comments if you have a fear of mistakes story you’d like to share or if you think this post is a mistake and Trump is no smarter than a toaster.