The Opposite of a Black Sneaker

In Favor of Outrageous Thinking

The goal of all our arguments is not to join a black-or-white debate, but to create a color, or a set of fancy footwear, not the comfortable shoes that “go with everything,” but a pair of high-heeled neon ankle-killing athletic shoes everyone laughs at until the day she buys a pair. If you start with black, and I start with white, we tend to think we should meet somewhere in the middle, and the middle too often looks gray.


Gray satisfies no one. It can’t be what we wanted. Ending up with compromises no more compelling than our starting premises wastes our readers’ time (if we still have readers at the end). Instead we need to realize we’ve misinterpreted our starting points. We haven’t started with opposites. For one thing, we’re both talking about sneakers.

The opposite of a black sneaker

The opposite of a black sneaker isn’t a white sneaker; it’s broccoli, or impressionist art, or the atomic weight of laughter. We’re not obligated to compromise our positions to find something that contains components of both. We should instead be hoping that the tension between the two ends of the spectrum reveals something more interesting than either of the “sides.” First it reveals that we haven’t started on the two extremes. Then we discover there’s something beyond both our positions.


The worst mistake we can make—even worse than settling for gray—is to start with gray, which can only result in more gray.


Gray on Gray.
Also known as “How to Fail.”

The most common misconception with someone who is happy is we think that person has meaning in his life. A person who is happier may even have less meaning in her life than her less-happy counterparts. Happiness doesn’t define meaning; rather, it defines contentment. Having meaning in one’s life runs deeper than the mere sensation that happiness brings. Meaning is about contributing to the world, to something greater than oneself. Happiness is just satisfaction with one’s current standpoint on life, and one’s environment. The world defines happiness as something much greater than it actually is. Happiness is nothing more than the satisfaction of one’s current standpoint.

Color on Color.

Our goal is the colorful conclusion, achieved by beginning with bold and colorful premises, somewhere along a line of reasoning the ends of which are not in sight when we begin.


Color on Color: A Model

Our neighbor Frank seems happy, and would probably define himself as happy, but he’s not. He takes pride in his fine house, where he lives with his presentable family, and he has job security. Let’s call him content. Our neighbor Ernest rents a cramped apartment, lives alone, and scrapes by freelancing. Let’s call him happy. Ernest is tortured by an abiding outrage against injustice. He champions every cause that comes his way if it will better the world or ease the suffering of others. Often hungry himself, he will share his lunch with anyone. We might prefer to be Frank, but Ernest is more likely to be happy.

If you can prove that,
I’ll eat my shoe.

The result of our premises will not be as certain as when we try to start with supposed “opposite sides” of a known argument, but the pursuit of an outcome will be more entertaining, vivid, colorful, and compelling. Maybe even nutritious.


One Side Inevitably Loses any
Black-and-White Argument

EXAMPLE. Today we begin a debate on arming teachers in schools. If anti-gun advocates allow the argument to be phrased as black-and-white options, they inevitably lose. Most likely neither side will get exactly what it wants, but the pro-gun side will win. Why?

The “compromise” solution that will surely be the outcome—the grey in the middle between All Teachers Should Be Armed and No Teachers Should Be Armed—will be to arm “Some Teachers.”  Clear victory for the pro-gun side. Utter failure for the anti-gun side. The outcome lies in the how the question is phrased.

In-Class Exercise

Leave some smart commentary about this lecture as a Reply below. Address any topic I have raised. You might consider:

  • The trap of thinking there are “opposites” to every argument
  • The trap of thinking we know what those opposites are
  • A comparison of the Gray-on-Gray model and the Color-on-Color model
  • Another example of why finding a “compromise” solution always benefits one party to an argument and creates a big loser.

If you can’t comment without having some in-class discussion, then I’ll have figured out how to spark a discussion! That’s a win, but you’ll have to start the discussion with me, not the other way around.

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Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels.

29 thoughts on “The Opposite of a Black Sneaker”

  1. The question of whether to arm or not to arm teachers is one that I agree will most likely end up in the “grey”. “Some teachers” will be armed, whether they are trained or pass some aptitude test as to their competency with a fire arm. However, I do believe that there is an opposite side to the argument. People who think they should NOT be armed and those that think they SHOULD be armed. While maybe they can come to some agreement on specifics within the debate that does not change the fact that the simple question of YES they should or NO they shouldn’t are in fact opposite sides of an argument. If it came to a vote, the ballad would not contain a justification for their answer. It would not read YES I think they should carry guns because…. It would simply be YES or NO.


    1. There is really no such thing as an exact opposite but there are opposites to each side of something. For example, an argument consists of two sides and both sides normally are opposites because of two different opinions that come with both people. As an example for a girl with sisters, sharing clothes is always an issue because when something is yours it is yours and you do not want to share but your younger sister wants to borrow it and wear it out. After telling her no more than once, your father gets annoyed and says that he bought the shirt t and both of us can wear it whenever we want/need to. Well I lost in the argument because if I want to wear MY Shirt the same day my younger sister wants to wear it, my father will le her wear it before he lets me wear it. We think we know what the opposites are for each case but in reality, I do not really think that we do.
      The gray- on-gray was very informative of what happiness truly is comparing the two men and how they live their lives.


  2. • With any argument with two sides, a white shoe vs. black shoe argument, there is always a gray shoe that is middle ground. Now this shoe is not always what both parties want, although it does meet in the middle and most of the time it is chosen instead of one or the other main selections.
    • Of course, this is a metaphor for debates and arguments; there are two sides to a disagreement
    • With the analogy that most people choose gray, the same way in arguments are settled can be related to this. A compromise is usually how arguments are solved.
    • As pointed out in the reading, although there still is a solution in the “middle ground”, one or the other party would be more favorable to that solution instead of both sides being happy.
    • When it comes to definitive topics, where either something is allowed or it isn’t, if there is a compromise involving Leigh way could favor one side more. An example was pointed out in the way of arming teachers. If only some teachers become armed, then pro-gun side would favor it more as at least some of their proposal will see light.
    • All of this shows how with thinking in general there are always different options, and although there may not be stark contrasts such as “the opposite of a white shoe is a black shoe”, that is thinking in the subject matters of shoes. A true opposite of a shoe is anything that is not a shoe, which can be applied to thinking as well as our own writing.
    • If we want to make an argument, instead of finding solution in the “gray shoe” there may be another solution in an “opposite to a shoe” type of way, meaning a solution that isn’t black and white, or gray for that matter.


  3. The gray-on-gray model talks about how just because someone is happy, doesn’t mean they heave meaning in there life. Having meaning in one’s life is more important then just the person them self, it is about contributing to the world or something greater then oneself. The color-on-color talks about two different people and how one is happy and the other is not happy at all. They talk about Frank who only cares about himself and his family, while we have Ernest who doesn’t have much but still shares with others his lunch.


  4. There are definitely opposites to every side. You can have a black and a white: The opposite is not necessarily something completely unrelated. We generally do know what the opposites are, but somethings are a care by case issue.

    I only have agree on not starting with gray. If we are comparing colors to opinions, it is possible to have an in the middle or neutral opinion and change to a more extremed or colored position.

    A compromise can be beneficial to both parties, but in certain situations. If I want Indian food and my roommate wants Chinese, maybe we would eat Mexican since we both like it. That is a compromise. You can probably say we both lost, but we agreed to it and we get to eat. If we decided to eat the food I like, maybe we would then get dessert from where he wants or maybe next time order Chinese. Even though I technically got my way, it is still a compromise. There are more extremes to that which are way more complicated, like teachers having guns.


  5. There is not truly any exact opposite to any argument. No true black and white, but rather two opinions separated by a blurred line. We choose to think of opposites as two opposing stances on topics, but truthfully those stances could very depending on the situation.

    The Gray-on-Gray gave a very informative opinion of what happiness truly is, whereas the Color-on-Color example painted a picture for us to imagine, of the lives of two different men, and related them to what happiness truly is.

    Another example of a compromise solution that would ultimately favor one party over another would be abortion. For those that oppose abortion in every scenario, even allowing abortions in only minimal circumstances would be tragic, and it would completely favor the opposing side.

    In the end, we can come to the conclusion that there is no true opposite of any argument, and a compromise does no truly make both parties happy, but rather unjustly favors one over the other. We can also see that t truly bring an argument to life, we must give it color, depict it the readers through scenarios or examples that are easy to relate to.


  6. -Instead of coming into the discussion and expecting a compromise, come into the discussion and understand the other side. Understand where they are coming from and know their goals and what they hope to achieve. Knowing what the other side of the discussion hopes to accomplish could very much help and avoid the “gray” compromise.

    -The post raises some concerns on the starting points of arguments, stating if you start with gray, you’ll only end up with more gray. Both sides of the argument need to state exactly what they want as a result of the conversation. It is not about who wins and loses, but which side ends up benefitting the most from the conversation and who are the ones open minded enough to learn with the discussion.


  7. This reading kind of threw me off at first. I think “meeting in the middle” will always be the only outcome for both sides. I kind of like grey. I think it does satisfy both black and white in it’s own ways. Its not completely what they want but its something. Its in the middle.

    A colorful outcome does seem to grab more attention.


  8. I think if there is an argument where black and white have to compromise than one side of the argument would win. For example: There are parents who let their kids play a variety of video games and then there are parents who do not let ther kids play at all. In this argument the side that lets their kids play video games would win.

    If the two sides were to compromise on their kids playing video games, the middle ground would be that some kids would get to play video games but not as much as before. This middle ground would support the side of parents letting their kids play video games and the loser would be the side that does not let their kids play video games at all.


  9. This sneakers example is a great metaphor to why we shouldn’t just write and research about a hypothesis that is already known. That would be starting with a black sneaker, but our goal with writing an argument should be to find a colorful sneaker. When writing we should make sure to not start with a hypothesis that is in the middle of the two sides, the black and white, of the argument, and to conclude in that same grey area. This usually gets us no where. By the time we conclude our argument, our goal should be to reach a colorful conclusion that we didn’t foresee from the beginning. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean to go for the opposite or to compromise the two sides. Compromising doesn’t always mean equal outcomes for both sides, and usually ends better for one side.


  10. When there is a disagreement the general thought is compromise is the best solution. But a lot of the times when we compromise it isn’t really a compromise, its one side get what they want but not to the full effect of what they had intended. We see this in everyday life whether it is small arguments like what to have for dinner, or big life changing arguments, like how many kids to have. When me and my fiancé first started talking about having kids, I didn’t want kids at all. She, on the other hand, wanted 3 and at least one girl, so we “compromised” and now we have 1 kid with a girl on the way. We both win right? No, she won, as always, and I lost that argument. No kids vs 3 kids, and we end up having 2, doesn’t seem much like a tie does it? If she was smart she would have asked for 5 kids and then when we compromise we would of had 3 or 4. Sounds like more of win for her than me, which is fairly common in my household.


  11. There is always two sides to an argument considering people have different views on the problem. In the debate of arming teachers, one side agreed and the other side disagreed. The compromise would be to arm some teacher. The pro-gun side had more of a win than the other side so it wasn’t as great of a deal for them. For example, people wanted to end the practice of chickens in small cages for egg production. The other side to this argument was that egg production is a necessity. The compromise would be to regulate laws for a better lifestyle of the chicken to still be able to produce. In this case, the other side won. This follows the white shoe vs black shoe, where there are two sides and creates a middle ground. Both sides may not win but with this compromise they come together and solves the problem.


  12. In an argument, there are always to sides to a story. That does not the stories are always opposites. One could have the same information as the other and just have more detail. At the end the two decide to compromise just like the black and white sneaker. When they meet in the middle the sneaker is now gray. It’s not what they wanted but that’s what they settle for.


  13. Everything is an argument and we have the belief that there is always a direct opposite to each argument; (We MUST choose a side.). This could not be a more accurate way of how society today handles current moral issues. It is a never ending, ineffective way we have handles issues since the dawn of time and as said in the lecture, NOBODY WINS. This is because we think we know the only two sides available to take, and an “in between” really is still a win for one party and still a loss for the other. Example:
    -You have a brand new Gameboy (the year is 2006) that you recieved for your birthday. Your younger sister wants to be able to use your Gameboy, but you decline her attempts repeatedly; as it is yours and you are only one worthy of the battery life. Mom steps in and now you have to take turns with your sister playing with the Gameboy. Now, you have suffered a loss while your sister gains a win, as you will now not be able to play as convienetly with your toy that is so rightfully yours.
    *Disclaimer: This never happened*


  14. 1. When we join a discussion that involves an argument with two sides, the idea is to transform those sides into a creative and innovative argument that offers a solution. Most of the time, one side is going to be more favorable to that solution.
    2. The essence of a white-or black discussion relies on the fact that there are multiple sides to take into account. The purpose of joining this type of conversations is not to create a hybrid of those sides, which in this case would be a “gray” debate, but to find a way to make the discussion vivid.
    3. From my personal opinion gray debates are not useful in certain cases. Sometimes, discussions involve arguments that need to favor one side more than the other. For example, abortion is a controversial topic that has two very opposite sides. Abortion involves the line of life and death, which is why a hybrid between the two sides would not be effective at all.
    4. There are two or more sides in a discussion because of the different approaches that one can take regarding to a specific argument.


  15. Certains things do not have opposites like this great example of colors and sneakers. There is no opposite object of a sneaker and there is no opposite to any specific color. There is always a loser during a compromise because it always favors one side more than the other.


  16. In arguments the grey is the worst place to be. We usually say that compromising is the best way to find a solution but in reality compromising is something that both sides have to “settle” for. Meaning that neither side is truly content with the solution. If no-one is content then the gray solution will not be brought back under ridicule to be debated yet again. Gray at best only breeds temporary solutions. Colorful or radically different conclusions help create strong solutions.
    The definition of opposite is subjective but it is truly impossible to call to like things opposites of one another. Now, maybe you consider the colors to be opposite, but what qualities of a color demand that white is the opposite of black? They are both colors so they can’t be opposites. Even if taken a step further, if we refer to black as the absorption of all light, and white as the reflection of all light, they are still factors dependent upon light. These little commonalities is what keeps things from truly being opposites so when applied to debates. Whose to say that pro choice and pro life are opposites? They both have to with not wanting unwanted pregnancies, and planned parent hood. Even if the ideas are continuously expanded there’s no real way to say these terms are opposite of one another. Truly, we as a society make it so that they are in direct conflict with one another, because we don’t want to settle for the gray. It’s either my way or the highway, because nobody wants to take the road with all the lights. We want them to be “opposite”, but nothing real states that they are.


  17. Opposite opinions are not an argument. There is always something better than the original starting point of the argument. This creates a better and fascinating argument, so it is not gray. If you start with a grey argument, then the result or compromise will be grey as well. A solution shouldn’t’ be gray, it should be colorful.

    The Gray on Gray model describes what happiness truly is and how it is not meaning. The Color on Color model describes that happiness is about meaning and what you give into the world, not just what you personally have or what makes you happy. It is doing more and going beyond the needs of yourself to feel a sense of happiness.


  18. Happiness certainly is a mindset that one puts themselves in. Happiness has nothing to do with meaning. I agree with the notion that someone could have absolutely zero meaning in their life and still be happy. Along with the fact that someone who might have meaning in their life is utterly unhappy. Someone could be the most evil person on the planet, or the most mean spirited person, and they have the potential to be very happy. When comparing happiness and meaning, happiness is much more short term than meaning. Meaning impacts the world and those around you, while happiness is more self-centered and might not last. An act you do of meaning might last a lifetime, perhaps much longer than happiness will last. People can be happy for a day, or a week and then things go south. Meaning is more worldly, happiness is not.

    I believe that the grey area isn’t always so grey. For example in the arming teachers idea, the compromise is to “arm some teachers.” This might be the middle or grey area, but it caters more to those in favor of arming teachers. They technically won because the other side advocates for no arming at all.

    The opposite of things are what they are not. The opposite of the black shoe is broccoli because it is what it is not. Opposites are very much associated with the acronym of the subject. The opposite of something would be something that serves the opposite purpose. An example of this is the opposite of a left shoe. It could be thought as the right shoe because it serves the polar purpose of fitting on the other foot. However the opposite of the left shoe could be a fork because it is not the same, and serves a completely different purpose. Its all about purpose and perspective.


  19. When looking at an argument it is critical to look at the argument itself and not get hung up on the possible outcomes. When you focus on the outcomes you start to develop tunnel vision on only the obvious choices and start to leave out any chance of thinking creatively to come to a real compromise. This was the point in the black and white argument section. It is important to be diverse in your thinking and bring some color into your argument in order to stray from the common, gray path.


  20. The gray on gray model for an argument seems to lead to a more pessimistic, nihilistic, response. There’s no strong convictions between both sides as their hopes to reach a middle ground stand over any means to have a good argument.

    The color on color argument however leads to a more lively argument that takes the audience for a ride. It focuses on taking the reader for a ride by grabbing them in with a premise that will shock their socks off and wrapping it all up with a colorful conclusion.

    The two arguments main difference is how they’re presented. One focuses on the argument and the efforts to find a middle ground. Whereas the other focuses on grabbing in the reader and ideally is what we would want in our essays.


  21. When there is a debate and/or argument, there will be always two sides. However, the opposite sides of the argument cannot always be negative to each over. In other words, one side can be just based on fate and other side on data. For example religion.


  22. When arguing do not create a black and white debate, adding some color to the argument which can bring flexibility to the argument. I figured that meeting in the middle would bring both ideas together in which there can be a compromise to reveal the argument.

    The gray on gray model is reflected on how someone is happy but it doesn’t necessary means they are happy with life. Happiness is a form of satisfaction in someone life at one point in time.


  23. With any type of argument with two different sides it’s always something in the middle. You can argue about a black or white sneaker but what about the gray shoe. That can relate to a disagreement which is solved by a compromise. As an example, me and my girlfriend disagreed about weather we wanted to eat at Popeyes or Olive Garden so we compromised and went to Applebee’s because it’s best of both worlds.


  24. Should high school varsity athletes participate in gym classes? It is mandated by the most state that all students take a gym class while in high school. This scenario is color on the color model. Even though these athletes may be physically ahead of their counterparts which do not participate in any sports, most parents will agree these athletes shouldn’t be forced into taking gym. But what we don’t take into account is some students do not play in an athletic sport but are more athletic than these so-called athletes. The compromise for this situation will be give athletes the option to opt out of gym, but then students who don’t participate in any sporting activity will want the option too.


  25. In any given argument, the goal is not to choose one direct “side” in hopes of completely disproving the other. If you want an effective conclusion to the argument, you realize that there are no clear “sides”, as they can have many different definitions. For example, a black sneaker v.s. not a black sneaker. Not a black sneaker could mean broccoli, dryer sheets, or any other thing extremely unrelated to a black sneaker. Even the “gray” in the middle does not constitute fair compromise. Inevitably, the gray will still favor one side or another. For example, when I babysit my younger cousins, we always seem to get into the same debate. They wish to play hide and seek, while I tell them it’s time for bed. To compromise, I allow one more game of hide and seek and they agree they will then go to bed. They hide in the most difficult place to find them and I am spent looking for them for 30 more minutes. Clearly, we see who actually won this argument.


  26. There will allows be two different sides to an argument. This is because all people have different views on different things, this does not mean that they are “opposite” because neither of them are wrong or right they have just opinions. With the “grey” method, I think that the argument of “Teachers having fire-arms” is a great discussion. Teacher who are qualified and ready should and can be armed but teachers who are not qualified should not be armed. I don’t see who there can be an opposite to this argument because teachers who want to be armed will do what needs to be done to be qualified and teachers who don’t want to be armed have their own right to decline the offer.
    In this reading it talks about the “opposite” of something but I do really find this opposite argument intriguing. How can we decide what the opposite of something is how can the opposite of a black sneaker be a white sneaker and can the sneaker be the opposite of itself. It really brings up a good point about opposites because who hear do we have to go to call something an opposite. Just like people always say the the opposite of the color white is the color black how can two colors be the opposite of each other. This is a really great argument that I would love to see discussions on.


  27. The gray on gray model talks about how someone can be happy, but they have no meaning in life. It mentions that happiness doesn’t define meaning, but rather it defines contempt. So, with the gray sneakers, a person can be contempt with the choice they made in picking the sneaker. But in reality it is more about the meaning in one’s life instead of the person themselves. With the color on color model it mentions two people and one person is happy while the other is not. Frank seems to be content with his comfortable job and his nice house, but is not happy. With Ernest, it seems like he is going through a lot. With Ernest being hungry, he is still willing to share his lunch with others. It seems to be that Ernest is more likely to happy than Frank.


  28. there are opposite sides of everything which we see like, the grey and the color. but we don’t want to stick to the grey side because we want to create an argument on the color side. even when we participate in an argument, which is having 2 sides, we have to find out to great, innovative and creative ideas out of it. because according to me, if we take part in one sided conversation or argument, then we will end up the argument into a biased or one sided argument. and that type of arguments are always favorable conclusions rather than a solution.

    even when we compare the grey-to-grey argument to color-to-color, like in grey, it defines happiness as the most valuable thing in the whole world, but instead it is the point where a person feels satisfied at the stage where he/she is standing at that point. and in the color to color, the happiness is defined by heart and persons nature, rather than money, security of jobs and reputation.

    for example, if you bought a brand new bicycle, and then share it with other people like friends and family when they are in need of that. that defines your good qualities and the ‘color’ side of you. but on the other hand, if you didn’t share it with anyone and behave like a choosy guy and hates helping other, then this defines your ‘grey’ side.

    as earlier i said that, we shouldn’t find solution to the “gray shoe” instead the solution in an another shoe or ‘opposite to a shoe’ which is the “color shoe.”


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