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Learn When Not To Know
Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance. Confucius
I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing. - Socrates
Pursue knowledge, daily gain Pursue Tao, daily loss - Lao Tzu
One of the best practices for self-mastery we can do is to learn when not to know something. Deliberately not-knowing prevents blunders. It prevents the stories we tell ourselves when our expectations for success rested upon shaky assumptions. It allows us to open ourselves up to the genius of other people and gives them an opportunity to be rockstars rather than standing off stage. And it enriches what we do know.
By deliberately not-knowing, I mean learning to entertain the possibility that what you believe may not be true or that the core assumptions you have may no longer be valid. Or to not settle on any belief or the other. Or that there are alternative and valid perspectives on whatever you're considering.
Here are a few instances when it's good to not know:
When the outcomes of what you're doing really matter
When you're meeting someone for the first time
When you're integrating a new teammate
When you're entering a new field, career, or market
When you need to know what your customers or market thinks
When someone else has a lot invested in knowing more than you do
When you're arguing with someone you care about
When your industry is either disrupted or is undergoing continual disruption
When you need to let go of something
When you can't do anything with what you know
When you're in a different cultural context
When you're not sure whether you locked the door
Whenever you feel the strongest pull to be certain, then is when you're best off to not know and approach it from a place of curiosity and openness.
Being comfortable with what you know shows your intelligence; being comfortable with not knowing shows your character. (Click to tweet this - thanks!)