Hang on tightly, let go lightly

On why you should not hang onto bad ideas for too long

Emotional investment?

I work with a lot of software engineers. In terms of the common personality traits I see, they are all very intelligent, hard-working, and creative at problem solving. Actually they are a joy to work with.

Sometimes however my team mates can become too invested in an idea, a technology, or a process. It often reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from the movie “The Croupier", staring Clive Owen:

“Jack : Hang on tightly, let go lightly.”

Jack (played by Clive Owen) becomes addicted to watching gamblers lose their money each night, you could say they are refusing to let go of a bad idea.

When the facts change

I like to passionately defend my ideas in a debate, right up to the time that:

  1. The other person has a better idea or:
  2. The facts that my idea are based upon change, or were just plain wrong.

Then I drop my idea immediately, “hang on tightly, let go lightly”, with no ego or other emotional attachment to that. I had to learn to do this, it does not come naturally, by arguing well beyond a reasonably point in the past to defend my ideas just because they were “mine”.

It reminds me of another more famous quote from the economist John Maynard Keynes:

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

I think we can all practice that.

John Collins

I have been writing about web technology and software development since 2001. I am the developer of the Alpha Framework for PHP. I love open source, technology, and economics. You can follow updates from this blog on Twitter.