A well-known motivational speaker gave a talk at a local women’s club. At the end of his talk the secretary of the club approached him with a check, meant as reimbursement for his traveling expenses. The speaker declined to take any money and said it could be donated to a good charity. “Would you mind,” the secretary asked, “if we put the donation into our special fund?” “Not at all,” the speaker replied. “As a matter of curiosity, what’s the special fund for?” To which she replied sheepishly “to enable the club to get better speakers next year.”
The feelings of the speaker in our story could have been spared by remaining unaware. The state of being unaware is simple – you don’t know something. This as it often described as “ignorance is bliss”.
Everyone experiences a bit of this if they have ever second-guessed a football coach or a politician. Some occupations look easy from the outside as if “any fool could do it”. (Some do.)
I like the way Socrates describes this topic: “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” Not knowing in business is even more difficult. People are paid to know. People are proud of what they know. And it’s often hard to admit that what we know sometimes will not be enough.
Learning to be good with discomfort is one of the most important skills you can develop in life and in business; it sounds strange doesn’t it, being comfortable being uncomfortable. I believe that the best things in life are often hard, and if you shy away from difficulty and discomfort, you’ll miss out.
Look at all the things that are hard: Learning is hard. Building something great is hard. Many jobs are hard. A marriage is hard. Running a company is hard. And what do they have in common?? All are amazing.
If you get good at tolerating the discomfort thing, you can do almost anything. Not knowing is not easy, it’s not comfortable, and it can be a place of great anxiety. But if that’s how it is, that’s what is true. And it’s OK… Sometimes we are better off not knowing.