A man sitting at a desk surrounded by a lot of paperwork

Foolish Consistency

“Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” This quote comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s fantastic essay titled, Self-Reliance. Let’s unpack it.

My first job in college was doing basic accounting work for a homebuilder. I was tasked with keeping track of all the bills we had to pay. We were building 250 homes a year which meant that every two weeks, 300 to 500 bills came through our door for processing. It was madness.

The lady training me on the process had a very unorthodox way of doing things. She required us to handle and review every bill four times.

“Why do we look at each bill four times?” I asked.

“That’s how we’ve always done it. I know it’s a pain, but it keeps us from making mistakes,” she said.

I went home that night and re-read Emerson’s essay. His words, Foolish Consistency, screamed at me from the page. Since that day, I’ve always been annoyed when people say, “That’s how we’ve always done it.” Emerson was trying to tell us that doing things just for the sake of being consistent doesn’t make the action right. I couldn’t agree more.

Consistency is not always a virtue. Sometimes, it’s healthy to question the system.

Until tomorrow, read slowly, take notes, and apply the ideas.


Published by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *