The power of saying ‘I don’t know’

There is much we don’t know about.  While we may know about our own lives and that of close family and friends, our area of work or what is happening near where we live, there is much going on that we don’t know about.  It is good to be curious, good to listen to others and good to learn about new things.  Recently I have become a convert to saying, ‘I don’t know’ after years of saying, ‘I know’.

The reason comes from a childhood incident when a teacher told me I was stupid because I confessed that I did not know the words to a Christmas carol by heart.  I was being truthful but was upset when this woman declared that I was stupid in front of all my classmates.  So I started saying ‘I know’ to everything and saying ‘Yes’ to everything.  Both are stupid reactions but how is a child to know?  I carried this shame and reaction in my heart for many decades although I had long left that school and teacher.  It is only now that I realise that saying ‘I know’ is actually stupid.  There is very little we know and most of what we know is of little importance. It is better to be humble and look at the world with new eyes of learning and gratitude.  It is also such a release. When you say, ‘I know’, you are also waiting to be found out that you actually don’t know. So less stressful!

It is also so powerful to say this because you open your heart to new experiences, to be able to listen and to gain knowledge.  Even if you find out later that you knew something, it still adds to your skill and knowledge to hear it from someone else.  Most people are keen to talk and tell you something.  So the ‘I don’t know, please tell me’ has actually increased my knowledge and I have made more friends by being able to listen.  It doesn’t sound unprofessional at all- in fact it makes you look more professional by wanting to listen and understand colleagues.  Social media wants you to look like an all-knowing clever (and barbed) quip-a-dozen personality.  But opting out of that restriction is always an improvement to one’s life!  Be simple, be ignorant- or to follow the quote beloved of Steve Jobs, ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’.

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When to reveal your age

It is rude to ask someone their age, how much they earn and other personal stuff like religion and sexuality (unless they talk about it themselves) but I found there are times when it might be advantageous to reveal your age.  This is when you work in an industry where age or experience matters and you look younger than you are.  I look younger than I am and I work in a very male dominated industry where I’ve been dismissed by both men, and surprisingly by women too (I suppose these women follow the males).  I was being also ignored for promotions and my suggestions or advice not being listened to. One colleague even calls me ‘kiddo’.  Friends told me to stop worrying about it, saying, ‘You know that people actually reduce their age on social media?’ or ‘You are so lucky!’  People have different problems and I had this strange one. I wondered what I should do as it seemed a ‘non-problem’ to some, and even ironical to complain about it.

I spoke to a female mentor and she said I shouldn’t worry about this and should use this to my advantage. But what advantage was it giving me? None, I decided.  Then I noticed a female colleague who had set out her date of birth in her C.V., unlike me.  She is the same age as me but actually looks older.  But instead of dismissing her, I noticed the men saying we should all support this ‘young woman’ and the women giving her respect too.  So obviously being careful with online scams and ‘cat fishing’, I’ve decided to reveal my age (but not the day and month) on my social media profile on sites like Linkedin and my CV.  I noticed that this also stops me from getting unwanted chatty emails from men saying things like, ‘I love your smile, shall we meet up when I am next in London?’

Have you had any experience of this?  What actions did you take?

What this blog is about

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

I feel I have been living a creative life for a long time, whether in my office, in the kitchen or in my living room.  I feel passionately for the planet, particularly as I see my children and others- and wonder what life lessons we can leave them with to cope with the future? Or, as my friend put it, ‘Often we ask what kind of planet we are leaving for our children but do we think about what what kind of children we are leaving for the planet?’  So I have tried to live creatively, frugally and fairly in order to inspire them to do the same. I have been a follower of Buddhism, in particular being inspired by the teachings of Nichiren who lived in the 13th Century and the modern reviver of his philosophy, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who lived in the 20th Century.

Makiguchi’s philosophy was about living life in the everyday, amidst the turbulence and turmoils of society. He believed in the contributive and creative life- in the life of value creation that brought forth beauty, benefit and goodness. He said, ‘We are born of the earth; we live on the earth; we are inspired by the earth.’  For many years, I have been experimenting with creative living ideas that are easy, everyday and available. I am not advocating living in a commune or making your own toilet paper (!) but looking at ways in which we can simply and happily.  I have followed many simple living sites and listened to many vloggers and lecturers on this topic.  But I was left profoundly disappointed by the overzealousness and sheer impracticality, sometimes by the deceit, and sometimes by the naivety that I observed.  So I decided to start my own blog, writing about food growing, urban life, parenting, working, cooking and all the things I do everyday. I hope you can join me.