Hang on tightly, let go lightly

Published on 2019-11-12 by John Collins.

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.