“Excepted axioms aren’t necessarily true.” ~ Monty Rainey
Over the weekend I was doing some research for a book I am working on and was reminded of something I have long known – that we govern our lives according to many axioms that are simply not true. As I was researching in Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder 2.0, Mr. Rath pointed out the fallacy of the old axiom, “You can be anything you want to be if you work hard enough at it.” This cherished axiom is something we tell our children and in the process, often set them up for failure and disappointment. The truth is, not everyone has the capabilities of being whatever they want to be due to mental of physical limitations.
As a child, I dreamed of being a world champion bull rider. At a young age, I thought I had what it took if I just worked at it – and I did work at it. I even got pretty good at it. But then in the summer of my sixteenth year, something happened that changed all of that forever and wiped that dream away. That summer, I left for work on a wheat harvest crew – a lanky and lean 130 pounder – but by the end of the summer, I returned a muscled up 180 pounds. Upon climbing on my next bull, I learned very quickly the physics of inertia. The g-force on a much stronger 180 pound body is ten times greater than the g-force on a puny 130 pound body. By the time I reach my 17th birthday – by then over 200 pounds – I had climbed onto my last bull. I was simply too big to ever be any good at it. Just like a kid 5’2” is never going to make it as a power forward in the NBA. The laws of physics simply won’t allow it.
That’s not the only bad axiom we readily accept as truth. One that really sends me into a tailspin every time I hear it – especially from one of my grandchildren – is “a friend accepts you as you are.” What a bunch of bologna that is. The kid at the drive thru accepts you as you are. A true friend expects the very best from you and pushes you to accomplish more than you thought you could. By believing this horrendously false axiom, many people fail to choose their friends judiciously and fall in with people who do little or nothing to help them advance their life and may even push them in the wrong direction altogether.
Here’s another example of a really bad axiom – “knowledge is power”. This isn’t necessarily a false axiom, it’s just incomplete. Knowledge not used is worthless. I don’t think I have ever used Pythagorean’s Theorem to solve a problem since I left school, so what good did that knowledge ever do for me? Knowledge applied incorrectly is dangerous and perhaps even evil. Certainly Hitler was knowledgeable, but look at what he did with that knowledge. Yes, he did have power temporarily, but as with most misused power, it will eventually be your demise. Only knowledge understood and correctly applied is power.
Don’t get me wrong – I love axioms and use them constantly. The point I want to make is that because an axiom has become accepted as accurate doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Just like anything else in life, an axiom should be proven and rationalized before its acceptance as gospel. Just because an axiom is popular doesn’t make it factual and we need to think them through carefully before accepting their validity.
What other axioms have you put your faith in only to find they are false?
- The Reason I’m Here (femininepronoun.wordpress.com)