Society has created a fear around the phrase “I don’t know”. We are conditioned to believe that if we don’t know the answer to something, don’t know about a subject, or generally are unaware of a topic, we are stupid or incompetent. It becomes an ego-protector to just nod and fake your way through “knowing” something to avoid the damage to our pride.
As writers, freelancers, artists, marketers, accountants, business people, generally successful individuals, and more, we are afraid of admitting we don’t know something. It’s shameful to not know something. It’s a fear of not knowing.
It’s impossible to know everything there is to know, yet we sit in the corner, researching and learning until we become a master at that topic. Then, once we are confident in our knowledge, we announce what we know. We are trained, we are thorough, we are intelligent.
But what happens when you take a different approach? What happens when you reach a point where you can say “I don’t know” and be content in your answer? What happens when you learn out loud?
Think of children, for example, and their endless string of “why” and “how” questions tied to things they don’t understand. They want to understand the world, just like we do, but they don’t have that filter that shames us into being embarrassed for not knowing. They don’t hide away and research or pretend to know something. They openly allow their curiosity to fuel their understanding, and when satisfied, are happy to move on. They learn out loud.
So what does learning out loud do for you?
Let’s take the writing world, for example, a community I joined after having no experience. Instead of writing silently, not asking for help, or hiding my work, I chose to learn out loud. I started a blog and just wrote. On top of that, I chose to learn minimalism out loud as well.
It was incredibly humbling to write about my struggles, show my failures and successes, and even admit when my opinions or perspectives changed. I wasn’t perfect, but in showing my flaws and what I was still discovering, I found an incredible outpouring of support.
Honestly, I’m sometimes quite intimidated by writers or minimalists who appear to have it all together. The ones who never show their flaws seem so distant that I actually get discouraged from pursuing those goals. But the people who share their discoveries along the way? The ones who admit to learning something they didn’t know before that improved their writings, or even did nothing to advance them? Those are the people I wanted to learn from.
Learning out loud creates a connection.
Sure, the talented writers are there for a reason, but somewhere in the middle, there’s a group of us that have an incredible connection based on learning out loud. We are happy to share what works for us. We are happy to share the things we try. We are happy to support others who learn out loud and admit when they don’t know everything.
Learning out loud shows we are passionate about growing.
It helps us stay accountable to our goals. It helps us provide value and let others learn out loud with us. Learning out loud doesn’t mean we have to follow it to the end — the point where we know absolutely everything. Mostly because it doesn’t exist, there are always things to learn, but also because it shows we are human.
It also means we can walk away and still have provided value.
Maybe we reach a point in time where we are no longer passionate about the topic. Maybe we discover something else that takes priority of our learning out loud strategy.
Either way, we have the ability to step away from it and know that we still delivered value. Everyone that followed your journey and everyone that comes across that journey at a later time will all have learned with you. Even if you aren’t there anymore, someone got value from what you offered in your learning.
How boring do you think it would be to know absolutely everything there is to know about a topic? You have nowhere left to go. You are stagnant.
When you learn out loud, you can see the progression of yourself. Be it an artistic craft, an academic discipline, a sport, or literally anything else, learning out loud gives you a perspective on your personal growth.
And just because you might choose to walk away when you are satisfied doesn’t mean your previous work is useless. As humans, we derive happiness from our utility — our ability to provide value to others.
But we didn’t just provide value to others, we provided that same value to ourselves. We learned something, we grew as a human, and I can bet that at some point you can find a use for that developed knowledge, even if it’s in a different aspect of life.
The next time you don’t know something, be okay with sharing that. You might give the other person an opportunity to provide value to you. Maybe they don’t know as much as they thought, or maybe you can find out together. Or, in a customer service case, maybe you follow that up with a “…but I will find out”, thus continuing our fuel for learning out loud.
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