“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”
You have probably called someone ignorant in a disapproving tone with a scowl on your face.
I certainly have.
We commonly use the term “ignorant” in our society to be an insult.
I’ve also used the term with no insult meant at all.
And, I’m sure you have as well.
But regardless of the context, it has largely become an insult, whether meant that way or not.
I learned this first hand.
I was home during my sophomore year in college visiting my grandmother, who has been more like a second mother to me.
For whatever reason, politics came up…
During the discussion, I started to believe that the reason my grandmother and I held opposing positions was that I had left the small town I grew up in to go to the University of Texas at Austin where I was exposed to different cultures and ideas. My grandmother had not.
So I told her that I thought she held her position because she was ignorant of the impact it would have globally if it was implemented.
That was a bad word choice.
What I meant by the term “ignorant” was that I understood that from her perspective, the position she was taking was rational. But, that if she had a broader perspective, she would see that her position was actually illogical.
What I didn’t mean was that she was stupid.
But that is all she heard.
And I hurt the feelings of someone that has given so much to me over my life and that I love very very much. That sucked.
It happened partly because I was a know-it-all 20-year old and partly because the word “ignorant” has been adulterated into an insult in all contexts.
Good Ignorance, the Key to Being Better
The type of ignorance you should embrace is not the self-induced ignorance you used to see on Jerry Springer.
Instead, it is based on an acceptance and understanding of reality.
The reality that there is a massive amount of information and experience in the world.
And the reality that we can’t know it all, or even a significant portion of it.
When you recognize that fact, you can accept that you are ignorant of most things.
And that’s totally fine.
Embracing the reality of that type of ignorance allows us to do three very important things:
1) You Can Be Yourself
Once you come to terms with the idea that you are ignorant and that it is ok, you can stop acting like you know everything.
You can be who you truly are.
A real life human person with some knowledge, but with a far bigger area where you lack knowledge.
You can acknowledge that other people know more than you about some, in fact most all, things.
And you can appreciate people for their particular expertise where you lack it.
2) You Can Get Less Ignorant
When you stop acting like you know everything, you can start recognizing the holes in your knowledge, and go seek information or experiences to fill them.
It’s pretty amazing, but the faster you come to terms with being ignorant, the faster you can become less ignorant.
If you spend all your time acting like you know everything, you can’t afford to be honest with yourself or others about where you need to learn new things.
3) You Can Connect With People
When you embrace your ignorance, it comes with a recognition that everyone else is more knowledgeable than you about at least one thing (probably much more).
When you recognize how much you don’t know, you start to appreciate how much everyone else does. And every conversation has the potential to be rewarding if you ask the right questions and actually pay attention to what the other person is saying.
If, however, you spend all your time thinking you know more than everyone else about everything, you have a much harder time respecting people and connecting with them.
And so you miss a lot of the experience of being a human.
Ignorance is not some terrible label to be avoided. Instead it is something to be embraced.
And doing so allows you to become a better, and, somewhat surprisingly, a less ignorant person.
So go out and embrace the flag of ignorance.
Stop pretending to have knowledge, when, if you’re honest, you’re ignorant.
Instead, recognize that you don’t know everything and that the best way to know more, is to come to figure out where you are ignorant and seek out knowledge or experience to fill in the gap.
Craig had an “aha” moment when he realized he wanted to live a life that provides an inspiration to his kids, not a counterexample. He started Forge Tomorrow Today to help others in the same boat.
Grab Craig’s Ignorance to Success Cheat Sheet and harness your ignorance to jump start your success!