Wet Paint Explained

It should be OK to sometimes rock the boat just a little by challenging long held perceptions, myths, and misconceptions. Or by taking a fresh look at well worn and long accepted traditions, customs, practices, and conventions.

Who knows? It can often lead to new insights and ideas.

So, I think that from time to time, it’s something we should all do.

It becomes more difficult if the claims or pronouncements are made by those who stand to benefit or gain financially or otherwise from wide acceptance of them and general confidence in them. Invested self interest is a powerful driver.

Some things we are told or hearare simply oft repeated formulaic mantras by and for the media. They are still worth checking out though.[1]

Others are simply, regularly recycled ideas and sometimes assumptions which are part of the echo chambers within swimming communities or sector leads. Repeated out of loyalty or conformity to an organisation or group of colleagues without critical thought or reflection.

There are perceptions and opinions which after testing turn out to be misleading at best, outdated, or at worst- wrong.

Others turn out to be spot on and take us further on our own learning journey.

Either way it’s always worth it, I think.

George Carlin (died June 2008), American stand-up comedian, social critic, actor, and author, used to marvel at the sorts of things that people seemed only too ready to believe in, without evidence or proof ; especially the supernatural and mystical.

“However,” Carlin observed, “Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure”

When it comes down to it we probably all still harbour that ‘scientific’ CURIOSITY that as children, led us to EXPLORE and DISCOVER stuff, and find out about things for ourselves.[2] In adults it is more likely to tinged with a little healthy scepticism and a desire to learn and understand new things.

The tendency for superstitions, myths and mythologies, misconceptions, ‘alternative facts’ or ‘fake news, to become current and popularised is historic.

I am one of those people who regularly feels the need to ‘test’ or question anything which doesn’t seem to add up- to me at least. After all…

All that glitters is not gold”
“Appearances can be deceiving”
“You can’t judge a book by its’ cover” [3]

I tend to be on my guard whenever certain phrases or ‘assurances’ accompany a declaration or a question:

As a swimming teacher I have often found myself wondering if an idea, a claim, a practice, or a piece of ‘conventional wisdom’ is worth ‘testing’ or sounding out.[4]

I call it my WET PAINT TEST

For instance, pretty much any time an idea, a service, opinion, or product is endorsed or presented by a celebrity, media star, ‘influencer’ or medal winning athlete. I tentatively ask how or why does that make anything any more credible or likely?

It ain’t necessarily so! 

So, what if the paint is not still wet…???
Well, I can disregard the notice, for one thing….

But it may just be the start of something else…?



[1] “In a world where critical thinking skills are almost wholly absent, repetition effectively leapfrogs the cognitive portion of the brain. It helps something get processed as truth.
We used to call it unsubstantiated buy-in. Belief without evidence. It only works in a society where thinking for one’s self is discouraged…” ― Laura Bynum, Veracity

[2] As teachers and parents we are used to young children’s curiosity. I often find myself wondering about colleagues who lack curiosity??? OK we ‘grow up’. Context is everything. But there is surely enough in the context of teaching swimming to arouse curiosity and a drive to find out and know more

[3] Here are a few more of my early ‘encounters’ with the  ‘WET PAINT’ test. Also see: Fat Floats

[4] (You can check out many more which have made me curious and which I have found myself ‘testing’  HERE. If nothing else, pretty much all of them were food for thought and discussion)