I was in a bead store this weekend visiting a friend who made quite a leap, from high end systems administration in a wireless company, to self-employed owner of a crafting business. A young lady and I were browsing the books when a woman came in and said:
“Hi. I know absolutely nothing about beads, and I want to fix this necklace. Can you help?”
The young lady and I exchanged a glance, and she said it first. “Wow. It’s really brave to start out by admitting you don’t know anything.”
She summed up my thoughts exactly.
People tend to have a hard time admitting what they don’t know. They want to seem capable, in control, up for the challenge. If you admit a lack of knowledge, it might mark you as less informed, less powerful.
I think the best state of understanding comes from admitting what little you know. But the key is this: you don’t admit ignorance as an excuse. You must admit that you’re new at this, and then be willing to try, to fail, to try harder.
Look at job openings. Have you ever passed up an opening because you couldn’t check off every box in the ad? Bah! Those descriptions are wish lists. I know. I write them when we have openings. Of COURSE I want you to have traveled to Tibet, to have written five best-selling Nonfiction works on technology in social settings. Will I accept you if you’ve got passion, a proven ability to learn, and commitment to trying new things? Damned straight, I will.
It’s even harder to admit your ignorance about things you feel are your core. The best creative minds, the best musicians and programmers and teachers of all stripe are the ones who repeatedly try new things, re-invent themselves, and challenge their boundaries on the things they do best.
Tiger Woods started out his golf career like that. He had a decent game, and was winning major tournaments, but not consistently. He decided to go back and reinvent himself (or at least that part of his game that was shaky). The results: he won more games than ever after a two year dip in his performance that was his new learning curve. Talk about gutsy. In the public eye, he went back to “school.”
Try it this week. See if you can open your head up to the idea that you don’t know everything. What will come of it?