“I Don’t Know” Is The Key To Growth

I don’t know

People who think they know everything are very restricted in their ability to grow. Be very careful of thinking you know things. The key could be this thought from Penn Gilette

“The most important revolution in human history, more important than agriculture, more important than writing, is the scientific revolution. The scientific revolution came down to these three words: I don’t know.”

Much of the rest of life follows the same course.

The half life of knowledge.

Like you car, your furniture, and your clothing, knowledge does not last forever. The question you must ask is how quickly does half of it become obsolete. Surprisingly not long.

I saw a comment recently that more has been learned in the past ten years than was learned in the previous two millennia. I would be surprised if that is true. It is possible that what has appeared in the past ten years is more than what survives from the those millennia, but that speaks to survivor bias.

What have we learned in the past ten years that will still be useful in a hundred. Likely very little.
Nonetheless ee must become stuck in the past.

Knowledge is not static.

If you want to be the best investor, teacher, or engineer, you must devote time to learning new material. You are never finished. More importantly, you must learn to forget the old knowledge. That is far harder than you would think. Knowledge, once acquired, is held very tightly.

The bigger problem with that is you must not forget all of it. Only half of it becomes obsolete quickly, and half of what remains becomes obsolete in  the future and again and again, until what you once held sacred seems quaint. That is how knowledge works. It builds on what is known and it fits  facts and circumstances in new ways.

Context changes

When I was at university computer memory was very expensive and processors were very slow. People learned to write very small, very efficient programs. If they did not, the program would not run.

Today, more memory and faster processors are the answer to clumsy code.

History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes

If you dragged someone to the present who had died 50 years ago, they might marvel at the internet and smart phones, but they could catch on pretty quickly. The essence of them was present in 1970. People knew about networks, they knew about cameras, phones and music. The implementation is different now but the fundamental idea of playing music, taking pictures and calling your friends, remains.

ARPA Net, the first network to use packet switching and TCP/IP protocols was created in 1969. The internet idea is old, its implementation form is much newer and much more efficient.

Be humble

“I don’t know” and “Gee that’s odd” are the basis of curiousity and of growth. Humility is a big factor in being able to see it and amend your belief. You will learn little from life if you think you know everything or are always right.

Don’t pin your value to what you know

Penn Gillette again

“No institution, no church, no king, no power structure in history has ever said, I don’t know”

To their disadvantage. Don’t tie your ego to what you think you know.


I help business owners, professionals, and others understand and manage risk and other financial issues. To help them achieve their goals, I use tax efficiencies and design advantages to acquire more efficient income and larger, more liquid estates.

In previous careers, I have 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 705-927-4770

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