You, as a Failure

Jay Hayley has an essay called The Art of Being a Failure as a Therapist and in it he does something interesting. He tries to argue for a method of psychiatry (directive) by discussing all the ways it can be done poorly. By showing specifically where it can go wrong, Hayley knows he is proving it to be quantifiable rather than some vague, indescribable notion. In other words, he tested for falsifiability.

Jake Lodwick used the same idea in a thought experiment that is worth running through occasionally. Try to think, he says, of one thing that would finally convince you that Keynesian economics don’t really work.

A better example might be Umair Haque. Is there anything he doesn’t see as confirmation of his theories? His approach makes for a entertaining record of pithy blog posts but it also makes him callous, excessively general, and open to criticism.

If you combine Hayley’s approach with the thought experiment you have a nice way to test yourself. Think about your job. Can you write out, concretely, what you would have to do to be a failure at it? If you can’t then maybe you don’t really do anything. Or, think about something you have faith in or hold in high esteem. Can you articulate, exactly, what would have to happen for it to lose your respect? If you can’t, maybe it’s closer to worshiping than believing.

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