“I Know Nothing” Is A Beginning Not The End

Dennis Mosely-Williams at DMW Strategic Consulting posted this blog last week.  I know most people don’t follow links so here it is.

I know nothing pic

There are two kinds of “I don’t know”. I don’t speak German; I can’t play piano. I have no idea how to use this program on my computer. These are the things you may not know (yet) because you haven’t been taught.

The Internet is awfully good at solving most of these problems, as are teachers and courses.

The second kind of “I don’t know” is very different, although often confused with the first kind. These are people who say they can’t be more organized, or cook, or use a computer properly. This isn’t about lack of knowledge; it’s usually fear or a lack of interest.

People who have this affliction won’t find the answer they are looking for in a book or in a course. You don’t learn to cook from a cookbook; you learn to cook by cooking.

The art is in the trial and error and motivation and in overcoming the fear that makes us avoid the issue in the first place.

And why should you care?

You need to care because if you try to solve the second kind of ignorance with a manual or a checklist or a blog post or a video, you’re going to fail.

I have read this article several times and it still opens new ideas.  Some of these are:

  • Each of us has a particular way to use our knowledge.  We cannot be taught everything.  Experience connects our way of knowing to the way the real world uses that same knowledge.  Sometimes the world’s way is different enough that our misunderstanding or shortcomings appear.  A mistake!  Experience teaches the nuance.
  • It is okay to not know how to play the violin or how to hit a stinger on the golf course.  Not knowing you do not know how is a problem.  Stay open to new ideas related to what you know, but also look for arrows pointing to what you do not know.
  • All people procrastinate.  It is a defense to the unknown.  Especially to the unknown-unknown.  The crucial question is how long.  Eventually you must step into the unknown or else never learn what you need.  I suppose the key is to procrastinate immediately, and get it over with.  Deal with your insecurity early on.  Once you recognize its existence you are nearly there.
  • You need to be a bit old to immediately recognize Master Sergeant Schultz above.  Hogan’s Heroes’ last episode ran in 1971.  Schultz used “I know nothing” and “I see nothing” as a defense against personal responsibility.  As Dennis pointed out in his article, if you use the wrong technique to remedy a deficiency, you will fail.  Denying a problem is a technique that also always fails.

Financial planning is commonly put off.  Doing nothing is a decision and it has both costs and values.  You should know the meaning of that decision before you implement it.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  don@moneyfyi.com  866-285-7772

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2 Responses to “I Know Nothing” Is A Beginning Not The End

  1. I concur with you Don on this one knowing nothing is the beginning of something if you are open to the possibilities.We all come to learn about a lot of things from the not knowing position.The difference is that we embrace the challenge and learn from trial and error and we become experts in the field.I have always maintained that every day in our life we are faced with the task of taking decisions some from a position of not knowing but that later turn out to be the best we have ever made.We need to overcome the fear of not knowing and embrace the challenges that come with the journey to knowledge.It is a virtue in me in my interaction with clients to concede if I have no knowledge of something but with the promise to find out,and I do not lose anything but rather gain the trust of the one I serve.

  2. Well said. An early skill to acquire is learning from the experience of others. Much cheaper.

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