27 May 1957

27 May 1957

A person that argues most of the time, that is, when his predominant characteristic is to challenge what anyone says – is it because that individual is on ground which is not firm? In other words – is he who gets angry and will argue at the drop of his hat do[ing] so because:

  1. He himself is unsure?
  2. He cannot explain his viewpoint, but insists on your agreement to quiet his own unsure notices?
  3. Or because he likes his viewpoint and wants nothing to challenge it?

A good teacher is one who knows his subject so well, he does not need to argue or become irritated. He can answer questions regarding his subject for teaching. He also is big enough to say, “I don’t know, or there is no sure answer” when that is the case – as in a social matter, where customs change.


Where there is so much emphasis on correctness and perfection, and not enough emphasis is placed on errors and mistakes, it is easy (under these circumstances) to give the impression that errors and mistakes, and [which are] essential toward perfection, are somehow taboo. More recognition should be given to the privilege of error as part of a learning process. Trial and error will always be part of the learning process.

Kurt, for instance, is so ready to call Billy a “poor sport”. By branding him constantly with the label “poor sport”, Kurt labels Billy as ignorant and/or stupid in the matter of good sportsmanship.

Name-calling is never the answer to a problem. It is merely labeling the problem and condemning the person having such a problem. Such an approach, even if it does name the problem, gives no solution to the problem. What is the answer to a problem?

In Billy’s case, it means recognizing the fact that Billy becomes angry with himself for not doing well say in a game of chess for instance. It might be well, then, to encourage him to think about or study the cause of his error. In the case of chess, it might mean the better use of a piece, one that Billy has trouble with so that he can improve his use of the piece.

The same could have been applied to baseball, for instance. Instead of calling him a lousy catcher, it might have been better to give him more catching practice.

Now, Kurt can say “I tried to pitch to him or, I tried to play chess with Bill. Bill just gets angry when he can’t win!” And Kurt would be right. But even as with all learning one can get too much at a time. The arm or the brain tires after a certain amount of effort.

What is necessary, then, is to gracefully call a halt, gracefully and truthfully call a halt. First by saying, “You’re getting tired. This is enough for now,” in the case of baseball. Or “Let’s finish this chess game” and suggesting concentration on study with the difficulty Bill experiences in his effort to win the game.

By using an approach of the kind suggested here, the emphasis is not on “winning” but on “learning how to win”. This emphasis is not on “how lousy you are” and “what a poor sport you are when you did not win”, but on a constructive approach to the problem of “how to win.”

Actually, when I stop to think of it, it could be incorrect tactics used on Billy in the past which keeps his attention concentrated on “winning” rather than on a careful thorough constructive attack on what he is not doing well.

This whole idea could be an article for “Your Life”. I believe that is what is wrong with many people. They concentrate on the result, rather than on how to obtain the result.

Men who want promotions.

Kids who want to measure up. There is not enough, “how can I achieve it”. There is too much emphasis on quote what I want to achieve” – the end result rather than the way to reach the result.


Many kinds of end results do not require expensive schooling. Libraries, inexpensive evening classes, or another person who has accomplished or achieved your result may be able to help you.

The primary objective must be on “how” rather than “what”. How can I do it, rather than what can I do. And the sad part of it is anyone, almost, can tell us what we can or should do but not how we can do it.