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’.

The eight winds

In today’s world of selfies and instant fame, it is easy to be swayed into doing and saying things that might bring us into the lime light.  It may be easy not to listen our ‘gut feelings’.  Women have a stronger sense of intuition than men but only because women use it more and are in touch with their emotions.  Doe Zantamata says, “We ALL have intuition. Some of us have better hearing than others, some can see better, some can smell a hotdog a mile away. Some people have a naturally very strong sense of intuition, and some do not. But even the ones who do not but who train themselves to improve their sense of intuition will be better off than the natural ones who do no training at all.”

We always have the barometer of our sixth sense, our intuition, to help us make our judgements- this is the most powerful thing that we have.  However, we may forget to use it.  And like any other thing, ‘use it or lose it’ holds for intuition too.  We need to remind ourselves to use it when confronted by big things, even when everyone else is doing it.  I always remember the ‘Crazy ones’ video from Steve Jobs when I face decisions about what I need to do.  Watch it here (You will have to do cut and paste if the link does not work)-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rwsuXHA7RA

Recently I was asked to support something quite controversial.  Although the reasons behind this action were good and correct, I did not agree with the action suggested- I had another way of achieving the same goal, via peace and engagement and not through confrontation that this action wanted.  Now although I find myself heavily criticised for not supporting this action, I know that I have done the right thing.  Time may prove me right or wrong but for now, I am happy and proud that I followed my own voice, not of others.  I feel peaceful.  Peace comes from following our inner voice which tells us the right action to take for our humanity and our sense of natural connectivity to others.  If we followed our inner voice, I am sure there would be less violence and more good. We have inner strength and it is more important than ever to use it in order not to do things that don’t feel right to us.

This piece of advice given to a hot-headed samurai warrior by Nichiren in the 13th century is still relevant for us today- “Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honour, praise, censure, suffering and pleasure. They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline. The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds.”