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Learn to Say "I Don't Know"

Over the course of the next few weeks, I'm providing 10 free lessons on helping you achieve your dream life. Click through the lessons below to follow along:

Some of the best discoveries in recent history have come because someone challenged ‘conventional’ wisdom.

People say that the hardest three words in the English language are I love you. Personally, I think it’s much harder to say I don’t know. But this is the only way to discover the unknown.

Why? Because you have to admit that you don’t have all answers. And society tends to reward those who guess more than those who admit their ignorance.

Lesson 6: The Power of the Unknown

I remember once in the 3rd grade I sat in a math class and the teacher pointed to a clock on the wall.

She posed a fantastic question. If the school suddenly lost all power and the clock on the wall died, how could you tell exactly what time it is?

Hundreds of answered were shouted across the room by children eager to solve the problem. “Look at the sun,” and “compare the broken clock to a different clock.” Or my personal favorite, “use a watch.”

Assuming that nobody had a watch, the teacher finally stood at the front of the room after a full hour of brainstorming and revealed the correct answer--you can’t know.

So why is it so hard to say I don’t know?

For me personally, it makes me feel stupid. I also tend to think about what others will think about me if I admit my ignorance.

But until you can admit what you do not know you will never be able to discover something new.

Take the stomach ulcer for example. Doctors believed for ages that stomach ulcers were caused by a mixture of spicy foods and stress. This caused the acid in the stomach creates painful sores. Doctors also believed that no cure existed for the painful disease.

Then in 1982 Barry Marshall and Robin Warren discovered the existence of bacteria H. pylori in stomach ulcer patients. They asked what others were too afraid to wonder--could the bacteria H. pylori be the hidden cause of some stomach ulcers?

After cultivating the bacteria and infecting himself with it, Barry used an antibiotic to cure his stomach ulcer. He proved that stomach ulcers were not caused by spicy foods and stress and that they could be cured.

Start with a question

When we admit that we do not have the answers it opens up a whole world of possibility. It takes previously impossible tasks and makes them achievable.
Until you can admit what you do not know you will never be able to discover something new.
There is something confining about the word known. If something is completely known there is nothing left to learn. The possibilities are in fact limited. The outcome even is certain.

The unknown can open the door to continued revelation.

Admit what you do not know. Take ownership of a problem and learn to ask the right questions. It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to learn is to start with a good question and search for answers.

Life is a giant mystery.

Learn to embrace the unknown in a quest for truth.

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