The three smartest words in the world are “I don’t know.”
But most people have it mixed up. In reverse order to be exact. They think the smartest words you can utter are “I know.”
It’s almost an insult for them to be wrong. It seems that getting them to see your point of view is impossible. They just don’t listen.
Know anyone like that?
Sure you do.
We all do.
My question is, how do they get that way?
The know it all
My theory is, from school. Teachers are paid to know their subject, no matter how outdated or inaccurate their knowledge. Most teachers are simply byproducts of the same educational system we were a part of. Students are seen as empty vessels who need to be filled with knowledge. And teachers are the godsends who quench their thirst.
Of course it isn’t so blatant, but the underlying mentality is there.
The result of this teaching philosophy breeds a society of fearful thinkers. People who believe you “should” know everything, and that you’re dumb if you don’t. Unfortunately, the adoption of this mentality starts at an early age.
If your grade school was anything like mine, you may remember raising your hand in class and getting an answer wrong. Your classmates would look at you weird and the bullies often laughed and pointed fingers. The “smart” kids would sit at the front of the class enjoying special treatment from the teacher.
Our very own learning environment taught us to be fearful of being “wrong.” As we become adults, we safeguard ourselves by turning into “know it all’s.”
Everyone can be wrong
Truth is, everyone is susceptible to being “wrong”, even Einstein.
Albert Einstein thought nothing to be faster than the speed of light. But he was just proven “wrong”, as recently discovered. Putting your ego aside and admitting you’re clueless about something opens the door to discovery.
But not if you know it all.
What else is there to learn when you know everything? Why seek new information? Why listen to people’s stories and opinions?
Why bother having an open mind at all?
The beauty of knowing nothing leaves you open to knowing everything. It’s totally zen. Like the old “empty your cup so it can be filled” teaching.
Empty your cup
So, how can you be badass instead of a know it all?
1. Think like a baby. Imagine a chubby, babbling, drooling, wide eyed, baby strolling down the street with his mother. He’s inhaling a bottle of baby formula when a loud crash makes him crap in his diaper. Both he and his mom look over to see a terrible car accident.
The mom looks horrified while the baby poops out his last turd and sticks the bottle back in his mouth.
You may be wondering, “What the hell does this have to do with anything, Tony?! – And why are babies so cute?!”
My point is that babies don’t really care. Mentally they are clean slates, which is why they learn so quickly. They don’t let preconceived notions cloud their vision of the world.
They observe, respond to situations with their instincts, and remain present in the moment.
Babies are totally zen and don’t even know it – which makes them even MORE zen-like.
In other words, babies kick ass and so should you.
2. When someone’s talking, shut the hell up! Both externally and internally. How many times have you caught yourself thinking about what to say before the other person is done speaking?
Answer: Not often.
Because you do it so naturally, it’s barely noticeable to you. Next time someones gabbing away, shut the voice inside your head up and listen.
A neat little trick to do this is to pay attention to your body. Notice tension areas and purposefully relax them. It’s easy to do and you’ll surprisingly get more from the conversation than you normally would.
You’ll also notice something very interesting.
Instead of waiting to add your two cents, you’ll ask more questions. That’s a good sign. The questions will be genuine and you’ll ask them with perfect timing.
It’ll keep conversations flowing and will forge connections between you and your new friends. It’s another very zen-like tactic that helps develop your ability to relax and be confident in your own skin.
Go ahead, give it a try next time someones talking to you.
3. Forget all notions of right and wrong. Even if someone is wrong and you’re right, who the fuck cares? You have nothing to prove so let them be wrong. Simply listen and don’t rain on their parade.
On the other hand, if you’re wrong or don’t know something – who cares?! Just admit it and ask for help.
It’s that simple.
It feels great and you’ll relieve the pressure of having to be perfect from your shoulders. Let the world know you need help sometimes. Usually, the worst that’ll happen is you’ll get the help you asked for.
Allow yourself to make mistakes and activate the learning process. It’ll be the beginning of a smarter and happier you. You won’t regret it.
People will actually go out of their way to help you when they know you’re brave enough to say three little words. You’ll also make them feel great by allowing them to teach you something. Plus you’ll gain valuable information from someone more skilled than you – FOR FREE!
Lines of communication will be wide open and your relationships will become highly productive. It’s really fucking magical. Really, you ought to try it.
I’m not perfect at this nor do I practice it everyday. But when I do, I get great results. Life just seems to flow.
You can also go back to your own world where you know it all. Go back to your pretend life of Godly wisdom. Get back on your high horse and be miserable on the inside while you have it all under control on the outside.
I dare you.
Or you can start using the three smartest words in the world and make life easier for yourself. Just think about it. How much better would the world be if our world governments, religions and financial experts started using these words more often.
Maybe we’d avoid more wars, economic downturns and religious indifferences.
I think it’s possible but it all starts with you.
So start today by working these words into your vocab. Watch your brain swell ten times larger from all the wisdom and insight you’ll gain. Feel as your popularity grows amongst everyone.
And admire how awesome you can be.
Give it a try and let me know in the comments if this works for you. I’m simply sharing something I hope will make your life easier. Will it actually work?
Simple answer: I don’t know.
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