It’s Ok Not To Know

I can’t remember when it became necessary to know it all. Can you? Somewhere in our psyche though, as we’ve evolved we have found this need to have an answer to everything question. If we don’t have the answer, we somehow feel weak or incapable, and worst yet feel that others will look down on us. Why is this?

This might not be you, it might not be me, or it might not be someone you know, but it’s the reality for many.

Ask yourself these three questions:

  • Must I have an answer to every question?
  • Must I interject my insights into every engagement?
  • Do I feel uncomfortable not knowing an answer?

Then, challenge yourself with the following questions:

  • Why must I have an answer?
  • Do I ever really say I don’t know?
  • When I say I know, do I really know, or is it just habit?

The Need to Have an Answer

This characteristic seems to be a common trend amongst us in the tech-startup ecosystem. Where we feel that our superiority in a specific domain makes us superior in all aspects of life.

I can’t quite get my head around it though; I ask myself if this is a insecurity for a deeper issue, something like imposter syndrome.

My business partner, Daniel Cid, likes to say that he can always tell a Senior Engineer by how he asks questions and specifically says “I don’t know”.

I found that to be a simple, yet profound statement.

How true of a statement is that really? Just ask yourself:

  • How many junior people do you have working for you that know it all?
  • Now look at your seniors, how many times do they tell you they don’t know?

I don’t think it’s any wonder why people don’t ask questions, I think it comes down to fear; fear of what others will think and how they’ll treat you.

I think it all comes to a fundamental misunderstanding around having read something and confusing that with actually knowing the subject.

Food for thought.. what do you think? Which are you?

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