Don’t Just Prove Them Wrong

I went “freelance” about a month ago. I put that in quotes because I’m no expert. I am taking everything as it comes and working hard until I do know what I am doing and how to do it.

This week I was having a conversation with an acquaintance. It was a brief and casual conversation. I mentioned a business idea I had, since it was relevant to the topic we were discussing. Suddenly, the conversation turned aggressive. My acquaintance sternly told me the following:

“I know business, and that’s just not how business works.”

I thought to myself, wow, how interesting that this person knows basically nothing about me, my history, my education, or my business, and yet he feels entitled enough to tell me I have it all wrong.

I brushed it off at the time, but it really did bother me.

My immediate reaction when someone nay-says an idea I have, a risk I am taking, or something I am trying to make happen, is watch me do it— watch me prove you wrong.

Photo by Nate Luebbe.


The idea of proving someone wrong can really light a fire under us to try harder, to get the job done, to find a way. It can be so satisfying when we achieve something, to rub it in the faces of our ex-partners, ex-bosses or family members who thought we could never pull it off.

But that satisfaction comes from the outside.

What if we shifted our response to people who tell us we can’t do something?

What if, instead of “I will prove you wrong,” we said, “I will show you it is possible”? What if we asked, “Why not try?”

I guarantee you that you know at least a handful of people who buy into the idea that there are rules in life, the world, business, whatever… and that those rules are unbending and unbroken. We are taught from an early age that the “real world” works a certain way. When we are kids, we are simultaneously told that we can do anything we want, and yet that we must follow a certain trajectory. It is not surprising that we often accept things (jobs, systems, business models) for how they are without trying to challenge them. It is also not surprising that we scoff at people who are taking risks and asking questions. We are taught that these people are unrealistic. We are taught that the people who do succeed going against the norm are the exception– that they had some stroke of luck, or some reason they were able to do it that we could never possibly encounter.

When we accept the rules as they are, we go nowhere. We do not get innovation. We do not foster creativity, growth, and learning. We stay the same.

“I’ll prove you wrong,” is angry and competitive because we feel personally attacked. Can we change how we respond? Can we say, “I am going to question the rules, and I will show you how”?

When you are told you can’t do it, instead of letting your bruised ego react, remember that love accomplishes far more than anger. Yes, you can prove them wrong. But don’t stop there. Show them that so much is possible beyond what we think the rules are. Show them that challenge is not a reason to stop. Show them your courage so that they, too, might try something they once thought was impossible.

I hope to have another conversation with my acquaintance one day, and I hope to tell him about how my business worked the exact way he told me it wouldn’t. I hope to have a conversation not to say “I proved you wrong,” but to plant a seed that says, instead, “perhaps the rules are different than we think.”

Photo by Luke Gottlieb.


Do you have a story about how you challenged the rules or proved someone wrong? I would love to hear about it. Email me!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    December 15, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    I love this advice. We all have this happen at some point. How true that the I’ll show you mindset is really anger. Thanks, great post!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      December 19, 2015 at 11:47 am

      Thank you Marcie! It’s so interesting how the “I’ll show you” mindset is a go-to for so many of us, myself included! Working to change it. Love!

  • Reply
    December 25, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    This is the kind of thought process it takes for those of us who go against the grain to make a productive change in the world. Only those with the vision to try something new can see what is to come, and for the rest, they can only see the results of past actions. Great post, Erin.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      December 28, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Thank you Ian! I totally agree. Happy to see you are doing it!!

  • Reply
    Katie Boue
    December 28, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Oh man, I love this. Idk how I’ve gone this long without devouring every word of every one of your posts but I’m going in d-e-e-p today. You rock, lady!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      December 28, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Thanks so much Katie! That means a ton. Big love to you!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Watching you evolve has been one of my not-so-guilty pleasures, as it brings me so much joy! I want to go “freelance” as well – but I don’t have much of the “free” right now. Thanks for inspiring me on the daily when I’m cooped up with zero motivation and creativity. You rock!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      January 13, 2016 at 11:54 am

      That means so much to me!! Thank you Gariele! Call me ANYTIME! So much love.

  • Reply
    June 17, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Erin, I love reading your blogs. Thanks for the inspiration & sharing your thoughts. – Cas 🙂

  • Reply
    April 29, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    I just had a conversation with someone i respect about the same issue. They dont believe i can do it. So for the next full year i have accepted their challenge to earn a set number of income per month.

    I shall show them that i will do it and i will show myself that i am capable.

Leave a Reply