From Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic:
..Much like a boxer who wants to fight the best in the world, you want to take on the best of your opposition, and their most credible arguments. (My neighbor James Fallows excels at this.)This is not only for the benefit of people who read you, but for your own. To paraphrase Douglass, a writer is worked on by what she works on. If you spend your time raging at the weakest arguments, or your most hysterical opponents, expect your own intellect to suffer. The intellect is a muscle; it must be exercised. There are cases in which people of great influence say stupid things and thus must be taken on. (See Chait on George Will’s disgraceful lying about climate change.) But you should keep your feuds with Michelle Malkin to a minimum…..And then after you fight with them, have the decency to admit when they’ve kicked your ass. Do not use your platform to act like they didn’t. Getting your ass kicked is an essential part of growing your intellectual muscle.
To do all of that, you have to actually be curious. You have to not just want to be heard, but want to listen.
I think our own Yoni Applebaum gave the best advice some years back:
Choose the things about which you genuinely care, and come to know them deeply and well. Form your own judgments, and constantly question them. In other matters, attempt instead to ascertain the consensus of expert judgment. It will be right far more often than not. The only alternative is to form your own judgment upon every question, and I can assure you that you will be correct far less frequently.
If you encounter an attack upon a conventional piety that troubles you, first assess its source. Has its author taken the time or trouble to know his subject deeply or well? Then, assess its content. Does it seem sophisticated and convincing? If it meets those two tests, ask yourself how much you care to know about the matter. You can always add it to the list of things you wish to know deeply. But if you feel that you simply don’t have the time, because of the realities of your life, then bracket your concerns and set them aside. The regnant consensus will do.
Wise words. You simply can’t know everything, and you can’t always be right. But you can be honest and you can be brave.