Why is admitting we don’t know something so frowned upon?
Even that word ‘admitting’ suggests not knowing is a fault.
We start life assuming our parents know everything. By the time that’s fallen away, we’ve developed our fear of admitting we don’t know something. Do we learn it in school? Through the media? From each other?
I do know this: the times in my life when I’ve been least effective have been when I was afraid to admit I didn’t know something.
As a TV reporter, I hated going to press conferences because I was afraid my questions would be seen as foolish by other reporters. I was afraid they already knew what I didn’t. But I was putting my ego ahead of the people I was meant to represent by asking questions. Our audience didn’t know the answers yet. It was my job to find out for them.
As writers, that’s our job too. To find out for our audience.
The authors of Think Like a Freak, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, say that it’s impossible to learn the things you need to know until you admit you don’t know them in the first place.
The older I get, the better I am at being okay with not knowing and the better I’m able to see that there are payoffs.
Being transparent in admitting you don’t know means your audience can come on the journey of discovery with you.
Being strategic in acknowledging there’s some skill you need to learn means you’ll spot chances to grow your abilities.
And being courageous in allowing yourself to not know but still seizing new opportunities means you could go further and faster and more fantastically than you ever imagined.
Like the Game of Thrones scriptwriters who recently admitted they didn’t know what they were doing when they started writing the blockbuster series. Some have argued they never worked it out – but that’s not the point. Not knowing didn’t stop them and it shouldn’t stop us.