Do not be afraid of these three little words. Too often we are afraid to say “I don’t know” even when it is obvious we don’t.
Knowledge and learning come from exploring, questioning, seeking, and failing. Yes, I said another prohibited word these days – failing. All that innocent word means is that we don’t know something at the moment. It is not a life sentence! Let’s get over our terminology stumbling blocks.
When we don’t know something, we should allow this to motivate us to find the answers. In other words, “I don’t know” does not shut down the learning process; rather, it invigorates it.
Sometimes, students are surprised when I admit to not knowing – and I have to admit this a lot. There are far more things in this world that I don’t know than I do. Some of these things, I’m not going to explore. Obviously, it is impossible to know everything or to remember everything for that matter. There are things I used to know that I don’t know now. Learning them again would be quicker and easier than the first time though, so don’t fret about the things you used to know. With a little effort, it will all come back to you.
If you think you have got me beat (well you might), listen to a child in the “why, why, why” stage and legitimately try answering the questions for yourself. I think you will find it tricky to fully respond to each of the questions and these are from an inquisitive three-year-old!
Okay, point made.
Some people fill in the blank with babble. They don’t know, so they try to pretend they do with word salads that don’t make sense. This is never a good idea. It is far better to admit a lack of knowledge than to be discovered a fraud! Better yet, say you don’t know and model yourself a student of the world, “I’d be interested to know.”
Instead of panicking whenever you don’t know something, do a quick assessment. Is this knowledge something you need or want at the moment? If not, let it go.
If there is a need or desire to know, begin the journey. Jump into the topic and search for texts, videos, podcasts, or courses that will take you there.
Take comfort in the fact that the most intelligent people in the world ask questions constantly. Also, many of the questions asked seem odd at first glance.
For example, who first thought to examine the sex life of seahorses? Why bother? By the way, did you know that it is the male seahorse that gets pregnant and gives birth?
Who was the first to ask “How can we move ourselves or this heavy load more easily?” There were probably lots of people who asked and many more who said, “I don’t know. Some, however, kept asking and took a few further steps to discover the wheel.
Yes, we take it for granted now, but there was a time when we humans did not know about the wheel. Many people continued to ask the same question and generated new modes of transportation, and we continue today.
It seemed impossible that people would learn how to fly, go to the moon, and see and talk to each other on a portable device. Those who asked these questions and explored ways to make these things happen were often seen as eccentric or downright crackpots wasting their time!
My point is that not knowing should be the start – not the end. There is no shame in not knowing something.
Take up the challenge to keep learning. You will be the better for it.
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