Growing up in the south, I was used to unique one-liners. Often these one-liners told you what something is like … often an odd and entertaining comparison of sorts: We’re making progress like a herd of turtles. Or you’re confused like a cow on Astroturf. And then some of those one-liners made for brief quips offered for personal development.
Like … oh, don’t be a know-it-all.
I heard that from my dear Mom a few times. In my adult years! And it was great advice. It’s when we “know” that we know something … when we think we have it all figured out … that we arrive at the dead-end of learning. It’s the unfortunate brake we apply at the brink of another discovery. It’s where wonder ceases. And it’s the moment when we are most likely, in-fact, to be wrong.
In Outliers, one of my favorite writers, Malcolm Gladwell, rightfully points to the importance of experience in his 10,000-hour benchmark of practice to achieve mastery of something. The repetition of an activity sure helps. I have indeed seen this in the speaking profession … especially where a speaker or an executive nurtures the continued desire to improve.
Yet, in the most fascinating, important and mysterious aspects of our journey … the reverse applies. The more time we have invested, the more we realize how much we don’t yet know. I have found this to be true in the deep dive of my work on core values and integrity. I now relish those moments when someone asks a question and I get to say …
“That’s a great question. I don’t know!”
The deeper I dive … the more this seems to happen! In my days at Arthur Andersen, Kristin was an amazing technologist on our Firm-wide Recruiting Team. I can still picture Kristin’s reaction when you would ask a technology question she had yet to think about. From her deep expertise, she would gasp with a joyful wonder … “Ohhhh, that’s a great question.” The gateway to yet another new insight had been opened.
To approach the mystery of our own expertise in any other way would be like a farmer starving while standing with their back to the garden.
When is the last time you walked through the gateway in an arena where you thought you knew it all?