One of my life goals is to be ready at all times to look like a total idiot. I want it to be instinctive to say, “I have no idea what that is, can you explain it to me?” rather than to give the impression I know more than I do.
Isn’t it refreshing to be around people who ask you questions, who listen more than they talk, who aren’t afraid to admit ignorance? These are my favorite people in the world.
The worst people in the world know it all, and they always make sure you know that they know it all. They would never let you suspect for a second they don’t know what they’re talking about. They would never look you in the eye with a face that says “I respect you and wonder what you have to teach me.”
This is unfortunately not rare. The longer I live the more I wonder, where have all the honest people gone? Where are the people who are open and fascinated and curious and consumed with thinking about everything and everyone but themselves?
You can’t find these people on demand, and when you find one, don’t let go.
But you can be that kind of person, and it’s not as scary as it seems.
When you start admitting that you have no idea how most of the world works—that everything from the electoral college to cooking a good meal seems daunting and confusing—you begin opening up. When you’re open you can learn. When you’re open you’re accessible to people. And you need people, not only to explain things to you when they have the knowledge but to empathize with you when they don’t. They will be so relieved to realize that someone else feels the same way they do.
This breeds connection instead of competition. Everyone feels lighter. We both can breathe.
Try it: put your ignorance out into the sunlight—paste it across the tallest billboard. Be the first person to say with no embarrassment, “I don’t know!”
All that influence and respect you were trying to get the old way just might fall into your lap.