Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Power of "I Don't Know"

It was the perfect answer when I was a kid. The phrase "I don't know." What a perfect way to plead ignorance and hopefully get out of trouble. Of course, I pronounced it differently then. More like "Aaahh dunnooo."

My mom would say, "Cliff! Who left the barn door open?"
"Aaahh dunnooo."
"Cliff! Why aren't these dishes done?"
"Aahhh dunnooo."
"Cliff! Why is your sister emotionally scarred for life due to the pranks you used to play on her involving darkness and rodents you found in the field?"
"Aahhh dunnooo." (This is a more recent example)

As kids, it was such a convenient phrase. As adults we see it differently though. We tend to feel that saying "I don''t know" is a sign of weakness or inferiority in many situations. We like to feel that we know and hate to admit we don't, even to ourselves. We tie our egos to our knowledge in many cases. That is when it gets very hard to say "I don't know."

In reality though, saying "I don't know can be a very powerful tool. Here is how:

1. It opens doors to learning.
We all know the guy who pretends to know everything. There is nothing you can tell him because he knows it better than you do! From football to knitting to the JFK conspiracy theories, he has all the answers. Don't you get sick of that? Do you want to share anything with him when you know he is just going to pretend to know it already? Nope. By pretending he knows everything, he really limits his chances of learning anything new. 

If you are the kind of person that can admit when you don't know something, then you are the kind of person people will want to share information with. The humility shown in saying "I don't know" is something that almost everyone will respect. At the same time, these people will be excited to share what they know with you. Why? Because you make them feel smart, and we all like to feel smart!

2. You gain credibility and trust.
The moment you say, "I don't know." you prove your honesty to your listener. As soon as you admit to not knowing something, then they can trust that you are confident in everything you have said up to that point as well as anything you tell them in the future. Why? Because you just proved that you are smart enough, strong enough (and dog gone it, people like me) to say that you don't know something instead of trying to make up a bunch of BS to attempt looking smart. 

The phrase, "I don't know" is not a sign of weakness, it is a declaration of strength. The person who can say it is strong enough to know that no one knows everything. Admitting that, first to yourself and then to others, can open up some wonderful doors of learning and deeper relationships.

Embrace the power of "I don't know"!

In the next blog, I will interview recording artist Shaggy regarding the power of "It wasn't me." Heehee

(Just one caveat: If you should know what it is you don't know, you may want to prioritize preparation over this technique. I.E. If my doctor says "I don't know" when I am on the operating table, I won't be putting more tryst in him.)

Friday, 3 August 2012

Rags to Riches - Inspirational Examples

"Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most won't, 
so you can spend the rest of your life living the way that most can't." 
Author Unknown

A friend sent this quote to me the other day. It really caught my attention and gave me a great sense of pride in being an entrepreneur. 

Think of all the great business builders who have experienced that "Mac and cheese for dinner again on that ratty old couch wondering if you have enough gas in the car to make it to the next 3 appointments which just might result in a sale" stage. 

Oprah Winfrey - From living in absolute poverty as a child, taking an opportunity on a radio show as a teen and building into the empire she has today.

Robert Hejavek - Arrived in Canada with his parents as a child with barely enough to live on. Worked 2 jobs at a time in order to learn his craft and now is a multi-millionaire with a spot on the Dragon's Den.

Arlene Dickinson - Also a Dragon, Arlene went from struggling single mom of 4 to a marketing mogul and self made multi-millionaire.

Richard Branson - Starting off as a poor student not doing well in school, he started a small magazine with the help of his friends. Growing this into the Virgin group of companies, he is now flying people into space and lending a helping hand anywhere he can in the world.

Chris Gardner - A bad turn of circumstances saw him sleeping in a subway station with his young son. This motivated him to break free of poverty and eventually have his own stock brokerage and a movie inspired by his life. 

Andrew Carnegie - From working in a cotton mill to a titan that changed the steel industry.

Examples like these have always inspired me when the road of building a business gets rough. All of these people took a tough situation, accepted that as their beginning and worked hard to change their circumstances. So, the next time you are feeling like your life is in a bind due to trying to build what your passion has got you building; follow the links above, read their stories and find the inspiration you need. 

These are the examples I look to for my inspiration, who else could we add to the list? Share the example you use for inspiration in the comments section!