The New Year had me thinking a lot about goals, values, ambitions, motivations, life, and how excited I was to wear my new fuzzy socks. With all the talk of “look how far you’ve come in a year” and “can you believe that was only 1 year ago” I found myself even more reflective and nearly bubbling over with blog ideas – two of which involved writing about goals and values.
At my old job, we had a list of working norms – kind of like guiding values – and each day at our morning huddle, we would say what working norm we were focusing on that day. I loved that idea. I mean, obviously, in theory, you were living into every positive attribute every day you walked into the office, but how nice it was to really put your heart and soul behind one guiding value each week.
For this reason, I’ve decided to dedicate a new series of “Res” posts to my own kind of working norms – my own mini-resolutions. You don’t have to buy into any of these. You don’t have to make your own. But maybe at some point, it’ll make you think about what it would look like to radically change your life one week at a time.
Res 20: Stop Pretending to Know
When I first moved to New York City in January of 2016, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know what trains to take or that the avenues were ascending numbers moving from the east to the west. I didn’t understand the grid or the bus schedules or anything.
All that being said, I was fiercely determined to not let it show. No matter what I was doing and no matter where I was going, I walked out of the subway station with fierce confidence. Because I so often was traveling alone, I was determined to look like I knew what I was doing. You would have never known if I was lost or walking in my own apartment complex. Every step was so sure of itself. I was the definition of “fake it ‘til you make it.”
And it worked. I quickly learned the subways and busses and streets. I felt my fake confidence giving me an added boost of real assurance. I was unstoppable. So my little “pretending to know” jaunt had worked after all.
But it doesn’t always work. In fact, it shouldn’t always work. I became so good at “pretending to know,” that I felt like I had to proof something. I walked around feeling like I always had to be cool. If we talked about the city or current events or charity, I had to put in my two cents. And more than that, I felt like I had to show that I knew what was being spoken about.
I thought about some of my hobbies and passions: nonprofits, writing, running, etc. and felt like if I wasn’t an expert then I was doing something wrong. It was easier to pretend I knew everything there is about nonprofits or writing or running than to admit that someone else might have additional information that could, you know, be useful to me.
I became too proud in a number of areas of my life – and maybe I always had been. Only now it was having negative results.
Resolution #20: Stop Pretending to Know
I found a sticky note in my notebook the other day that just said, “the reason I stopped being good is because I pretended I knew everything and I stopped listening. #running.” I’m not sure why I felt the need to hashtag my notes, but the point remains.
The second you think you know everything is the second you lose any knowledge you had. The second you stop listening in the moment you cease to see. I’m realizing now that the only way to constantly improve is to constantly humble yourself in the pursuit of knowledge. To realize that you don’t know everything – nor is there any way for you to know everything. To realize that everyone you meet has something to teach you and to know that it is okay to be wrong, to not be as well-read, to ask a question.
If you really care about something, if you really love something, admit you don’t know everything about it. Ask your friends and mentors what they think about it and ask someone younger about you what you can learn from them. Every single person we meet, every single experience we have has the profound ability to shape us. We can either learn from it or we can try to prove ourselves to people who were never judging us in the first place.
Ask more questions. Then close your mouth and listen. Listen with such ferocious intent to learn that you can’t help but leave the conversation a little more enlightened. If you truly want to grow, you have to stop pretending to know everything. If you really want to improve yourself, you have to start by listening.