On success stories and search of truth

There is an interesting point in Stoics philosophy about truth: they urge everybody to seek it and not being afraid of changing your mind if something you believed was true turned out not to be the case. It is interesting to look at this through the context of literature, success stories and “believe in yourself” mantras which are very popular right now. Perhaps always been.

This post is not about self esteem but about point of focus in these success stories. Quite often they are focusing on believing in yourself omitting the importance of searching for the truth. “Nobody believed in him but he stuck to his guns and went through all the hardship and became very successful. Proved them all wrong!” — this narrative sounds too familiar isn’t it? I would make a gamble — there is a feeling of justice being served appears in a lot of people hearts when they read stories like these.

These stories and movies are used to educate ourselves and our children about importance of having a strong character. Undoubtedly, having a strong character and being able to carry on despite negative factors is a great quality. But on the other end of this spectrum is stubbornness. Stubbornness of ideas and actions. Which does not seem to be good quality, does it?

Everybody has a right to have an opinion. The problem is that very often just sticking to your opinion is seen as a virtue. Regardless of it being a reflection of truth or not. I argue it is not a virtue in this case. If my opinion is not based on truth, or I consciously avoid any new information which indicates so, then I could as well throw a dice to choose what to believe in and bet my life on it. It is equally absurd.

This, obviously, is not applicable to everything. There are questions where “truth” is hard to come to or agree by. There also can be something in the fabric of the question itself which excludes even the possibility of ultimate truth, or “rightness”. I am talking about cases where it is more clear.

Living by sticking to your ideas and thinking that the fact of believing and not changing mind about something is a virtue of its own can leave us to dangerous path. It will interfere with harnessing the best quality of time and man — ability to learn. It will not stop it completely though. People die and born. May be this was one of the reasons why Steve Jobs famously said that death is the best invention of life? — by having a constant supply of new minds not yet cluttered with beliefs so dear to itself it will not let it go, life can ensure that new ideas will appear.

Perhaps we all can learn a lesson from this and make our lives better too?