The Dilbert Principle and Mark Twain – All you need is Confidence

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure – Mark Twain

That’s how the morons in life get hired. The previous post, called to mind anecdote about Mark Twain which I came across once upon a time. I can’t remember where I got this from, though I am fairly certain it was the great man.This is on the subject of how to answer questions – whether at an exam, or interview, or generally, I forget which.

 “I was given the advice at an early age that whenever I was asked a question, I should always answer firmly and positively. I always put this advice into action. When I was asked a question at an exam, I said I was very glad to be able to give the examiner an answer, which was:

“I don’t know.”

This is not a direct quote, as I can’t locate the source where I got this from – will have a look around the house.

Of course, saying “I don’t know” or admitting to making a mistake, isn’t always such a bad thing, even in a professional context, provided you say it with confidence.

I remember having to sit for my interview for an apprenticeship (“pupillage” is the technical term) when reading for the Bar. This really has to be the scariest interview I ever had. There were no less than eight interviewers – all of them incredibly sharp, as the chambers I was applying for was one of the top four commercial sets in London. I was presenting a legal argument for a technical exercise they’d set me, and was talking away, but it seemed that they didn’t quite understand me – till I realised I’d quoted the wrong piece of legislation.

Immediately, without thinking I said “I’m sorry I’ve made a mistake” and proceeded to rectify it there and then. No one batted an eyelid. Didn’t make any difference – I’d already impressed them up to that point anyway, and I got the place. Thankfully the mistake occurred midway through – otherwise, who knows how it would have turned out!

So admitting to your mistakes is all right. As long as you don’t make too many of them. Or should I say, as long as you don’t admit to too many of them!

But spare a thought for the man whose surname happens to be Wrong. He’s Wrong all the time!

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