By Gene Benson
One big step to being better is to realize that we do not know everything. Of course we do not know everything – nobody does. But what about knowledge in our area of specialization? Aren’t we supposed to know everything there? Does the heart surgeon know everything about heart surgery? Does the airline pilot know everything about flying the airliner? Does the software engineer know everything about the programming language? News flash: nobody knows everything about anything, even if it is their area of specialization.
Learning everything there is to know about something is an admirable goal. But the earnest pursuit of that goal will result in getting closer and closer, even though the goal may not be reachable. It is very important to maintain our realization that we are on a journey and have not reached our destination. It is equally important to not pretend to others that we know everything. The person who tries to appear as having knowledge and skill beyond what is possessed, is doomed to failure.
To be better, we need to leverage what we do not know to learn more. We can do that by exhibiting a persona of someone who genuinely wants to learn more, rather than a false persona of someone who already knows it all. The know-it-all persona will inevitably fail at an assigned task or will be exposed in some other way. The want-to-learn persona will ask questions before and during the performance of a task and will receive guidance from those who already possess more knowledge or skill. The want-to-learn persona will be more likely to succeed and gain knowledge and skill while the know-it-all persona will likely not succeed and will gain little from the experience while being viewed unfavorably by others.
The know-it-all persona often comes from a lack of confidence rather than from arrogance. The individual who lacks confidence will sometimes try to hide inexperience or knowledge weakness by acting confident or bragging about past experiences. This may produce short-term acceptance but cannot be sustained for long-term success.
The person destined to be better will be open about any areas of weakness, seek help and advice when needed, and leverage our weak areas to help us in our journey.
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