Sure, maybe you should know. Sure, maybe it’s embarrassing. Sure, maybe you think you know.
But let’s be honest for a second, we don’t know much of anything. I mean, we think we know. And, we act like we know, but do we really? We hear plenty of people around us claiming to know everything from how we should walk our dog to the way to heal humanity. Everyone has the answer.
And if you don’t have it, well then, you’re lost - behind the rest of the world, clawing and scratching to catch-up. Not knowing puts in an uncomfortable place, a place of uncertainty. And uncertainty isn’t strong or tough. It doesn’t exude confidence or exemplify the leader we are aspiring to be.
That aspiration is precisely the issue.
Why Should We Care? Who we are aspiring to become is important. Without aspirations to be someone or something we would live our entire life sitting on the couch watching Netflix and eating potato chips. As Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland points out, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” So, the question becomes who are you aspiring to be?
Most of the people I see are in the pursuit of power, influence, and money (coaches can replace money with wins). After all, isn’t that what society tells us to be chasing? And don’t those come from definiteness in our mission, superior knowledge of our craft, and finding just the right market? But the more I pay attention to it and the more I read on it … I’m beginning to think it’s all a bunch of crap.
Everyone speaks in such absolutes regarding leadership and getting to the top, but they don’t really know what will work for you. Every self-help book and youtube video telling you exactly how you should be pursuing your dream is kinda right, and kinda wrong. Their advice is based on their experiences, as they should be, and what has worked for them. Does that mean it will work for you too? Maybe, maybe not.
This is where the direction of your aspiration comes in. We are best served if our aspiration is centered on improvement, growth, and progress - not on attaining power, influence, or money. So, the trick is, try something. And if it doesn’t work, try something else. And if that doesn’t work, try something else. Naturally, you’re going to start with whatever approach you think is going to be the best option for you based on your knowledge and your experience. But that doesn’t guarantee it’s the right option. This is the process of growth and progress. There is no other path. Sometimes we find the route that works for us right away and sometimes we don’t. That’s the way it needs to be.
Not knowing is the way we grow. It prompts us to action. It creates urgency in our thoughts and habits. And when we adjust our aspirations towards the process of growth instead of black and white destinations, we begin to realize the value of saying “I don’t know”.
“I don’t know” is also a simple expression of humility and vulnerability. I think most would agree they would prefer to be under the guidance of a humble leader. The willingness to first recognize, then admit, one isn’t all knowing is a step in leadership too many try to avoid. Personally, I find this type of vulnerability and authenticity far more inspiring and welcoming than the seemingly perfect, all-powerful boss.
Here are few tools to strengthen your ability, and willingness, to be okay not knowing.
REAL TALK - Action StepsThe Power of Yet - Carol Dweck Ted Talk The idea behind the power of yet is to foster a growth mindset - the belief that, regardless of our current state, we can improve through practice and repetition. Anyone spending time reading understands and, is applying, the concept of a growth mindset.
Parents - One of the key aspects of establishing a growth mindset is being intentional about what you recognize and encourage. Focus on encouraging, positive behaviors rather that lead to desired outcomes rather than the outcomes themselves. For example, getting an A in math class is a great accomplishment but the behavior behind it - studying, doing all your homework, taking notes every day in class, and asking questions about things you don’t understand - are the behaviors that lead to the outcome. Encourage those behaviors that are controllable.
“You don’t understand your homework yet, but you’ll keep working on it and asking questions until you do.”
Coaches/Managers - Very similar to parents, focus on the process. The process is what leads to results and where growth is found. Focusing on outcomes - winning the league or district championship, while a great goal, is simply a flag in the ground. It can serve as a marker for the progress, but does not drive the progress. The daily habits and practices each day do that.
“We don’t rotate well enough on defense to compete at the highest level yet, but we’ll continue drilling it everyday and eventually we’ll get there.”
Teammates - This shows up as hope in the potential of those around you. As teammates it’s important that we use the power of yet to deal hope and confidence to those in the trenches with us. Expressing that a teammate may not be where the team needs them to be, or where they want to be, but they’re working to change it is empowering. A word of encouragement from a teammate is ten times as powerful as that from a coach.
“You’re good. Keep working at it and you’ll get there - I know you will. You may not be strong enough yet, but if you keep working as hard as you have been it won’t be long.”
Disclaimer: I don’t know either. These are just my thoughts and reflections based on my experiences. They’re neither right or wrong and are definitely not absolute. I’ve found them helpful in my journey and I share them simply for your consideration. If they help you, that’s great - please use them. If not, that’s ok too. I’ve found one of the best parts of learning is considering new, and different, ideas or perspectives. Take what works for you and put your own twist on it to make it yours.
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