The gift of someone else’s shoes

Paul Duffy
3 min readMar 17, 2021

When you come across a new idea in someone’s writing, which seems stunning in its brilliance, don’t lose sight that the idea is not what’s important; what is important is what the idea allows you to do.

I once asked a conference organizer for tips on speaking at such events. She said, “take a bold position.” She went on to explain, “It’s not your job to be all things to all people. If you’re doing your job right some people will disagree with you, and that’s ok. You need to remember that your job is not to be liked, and your job is not to build consensus, or even to persuade people to your view. No, your job is to get people to think.”

Having a tangible sense of conviction is something I have struggled with. I find it much easier to see several points of view all at once. No view seems wrong to me (unless we’re getting into ethics and morality, in which case I have a LOT to say).

Whether we’re talking parenting, painting, or panting, it seems silly to advocate for one approach when situations commonly benefit from a dexterity of attitude. (As I think about this I guess I could become dogmatic about the importance of remaining undogmatic.)

Despite my seeming ambivalence, I find myself drawn to those articles that express a view with conviction. I may agree with their point of view, in which case I am swept along by the invigorating torrent of validation. I may disagree with them, which also feels good, because there is something satisfying in having something to push against; there is a sense of dynamism and energy when the irresistible force meets the immovable object; just imagine the total sense of dissatisfaction — even if there is comedic value — if we were to push hard against a swing door.

I find myself reading articles in a search for life’s truths. What is the right answer when considering how much money to spend now vs how much money to save for later? What is the right answer when considering whether to spend time addressing our weaknesses vs. cultivating our strengths? And so on.

The people writing with conviction have figured things out… for themselves, in this moment, and for their circumstances, but they are not you! You can try on their shoes, even walk around in them for a while, but at some point you need to invest in, and…

Paul Duffy

An ocean loving, tea drinking nomad. Curiosity can elevate us above our wiring.