I grew up watching The Red Green Show. If you’re Canadian you’re probably familiar with it. If not, consider it one of Canada’s best kept (or better kept?) secrets. It was a “man’s man” show, showing us how to fix any car trouble with duct tape and remove any barrier with explosives. A proud part of our Canadian heritage…
One segment of the show was called The Experts, where a couple characters answered a question submitted from a fan. The intro to this segment always went something like this: “It’s that part of the show where we examine those three little words that men find so hard to say: I DON’T KNOW.”
Maybe it’s just because I’m a man, but I find those words hard to say as well. Letting those words slip from my lips really hurts my pride.
It often seems easier to nod along or deflect a question than admitting ignorance.
If you’re like me, the most difficult thing is saying “I don’t know” to questions related to something in which you consider yourself an “expert”.
“I still don’t know.”
After attaining a certain amount of knowledge and experience in a certain domain, it feels like admitting there’s something you still don’t know exposes you as a fraud or a non-professional.
Of course, it’s ridiculous to think that we have nothing left to learn in any field. And in fact, maintaining the posture of a learner is important for our growth and development.
Stay a Learner
Recently I heard this quote from an Accidental Creative podcast which points the importance of always being a learner:
Some people will never learn anything because they understand everything too soon.
– Alexander Pope
To assume or project understanding can mean that we close ourselves off from learning. But if we keep the posture of a learner, we can continue to build on our knowledge and add to our understanding.
Being quick to say “I don’t know” might even be the best way to stay on the path towards becoming a real expert.