Enlightened Conflict

the limits of the world

June 24th, 2015

== i do not know list


“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”

Arthur Schopenhauer


“Nothing is lost if one has the courage to proclaim that all is lost and we must begin anew.”








We all have limits.


Limits as to what we can do, what we are capable of and what we know.




limitations ignoreSorry.



I believe what I just wrote is contrary to pop psychology wisdom. We are supposed to believe the only limit we have is in our minds and that if we believe in something and work hard enough anything is attainable.









Let me focus on one aspect of this “limits versus no limits” discussion which is infringing upon our typically sane way of thinking in business <and Life I imagine> … and that is the use of “I don’t know.”



There is a wacky new coaching perspective suggesting that it is not good to say “I don’t know” in business … or, if you do, you always need to attach “but I will find out.”




Wacky in fact.




There is a limit to what anyone can know. And when you arrive at that limit <which can even be attached to something as specific as a task or project> you just … well … don’t know.





Let me discuss “I don’t know” for a little bit.



“I don’t know” when used truthfully is simply a measure of a limit. A boundary for which the things you do know … stand at. I also assume most of us want to cross that boundary in search of what you don’t know.i really do not know



But, suffice it to say, in general … not knowing, or “I don’t know” is at best an uncomfortable feeling … at its worst?






Things you don’t know:


<about curiosity>in a




Scary for a variety of reasons but it is scary the most because basically it reflects your current “limit” in a very clear line.





Here is where all the wacky advice starts coming in:




“‘I don’t know’ is not an answer.

The correct answer is, ‘I don’t have enough information to answer your question.’”





This is basically the whole “don’t just present a problem but offer a solution” type advice everyone is given.


What bullshit.



bullshit detectorIt is such a crazy answer that if someone gave it to me I would start smelling ‘bullshit’ in the air … and thinking asshole thoughts about attacking the silly indirect answer with something like “well … why don’t you have enough information?”



Suffice it to say we are starting to coach our business people to think that in business there should never be an “I don’t know answer.”



This is crazy.


I would almost suggest “fucking crazy.”



Somehow saying to people that you don’t know something or aren’t an expert in it is seen as a sign of weakness.

Holy shit … nothing could be further from the truth.



If you are seen as taking your work seriously and you are responsible … saying “I don’t know” is responsible not weak.



If you do not know you do not know.



That doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of knowing nor does it mean you cannot go running off and “know” at some point … but it just means in the here and now … well … “I just don’t know.”



And while I would love to point a finger at some wacky business coach or business expert I am actually going to point my finger at something I very very rarely blame – society.



We are completely out of whack culturally and in society with regard to “I don’t know.”



As soon as something happens someone gets skewered for “not knowing” … or gets jabbed over and over again with “why didn’t you know?”








There is a limit to what you know.



I don’t care if you are a National Security expert, email storage expert or any expert … there is a frickin’ limit to what you know.


But today … if you say “I don’t know” you immediately lose your expert status.



“How can you be an expert if you don’t know?” people scream.





“you are incompetent and should be fired if you don’t know!” people scream.




<note: I don’t have enough fingers on my hands, and yours, to count the number of times I would have been fired if “I don’t know” actually equaled “incompetence>



Society has made it almost impossible for the best people to honestly say “I don’t know.”






Politicians are the worst.


“I don’t know” becomes grounds for some witch hunt for someone to blame or someone to explain why someone didn’t know <something that was mostly likely difficult to know in the first place>.



And, we the people, are buying it. we stand in line waving our pitchforks screaming for the blood of anyone who says “I don’t know.”limits simpsons-villagers-pitchfork-torches




This whole bullshit thought process has bled into the business world.




The moment you say “I don’t know” someone in the room starts smelling blood … you are weak … you are incompetent … you aren’t prepared … geez … the truly crazy thing? … if you say “I don’t know” you may actually be the most confident practical ‘stand up’ person in the room.






All the “never say I do not know” advice may sound fabulously appealing to business people with a desire to lead or rise in an organization … but teaching this answer soon grows into an urge for you to ignore or dance around ‘truth’ in all your answers and responses.


I call it the slippery slope of mediocrity <or bullshit>.



I personally believe “I don’t know” is powerful.



I call it a ‘period’ type statement.


i do not know fence

I don’t know … period.


It is a statement with no bridge word.
It is declarative of your comfort in what you do know and what you will honestly assume responsibility for. It does not mean shirking responsibility and it doesn’t mean avoiding finding out what you don’t know.



What it does mean is you own the statement … place the period … and I can guarantee you own the space immediately after an “I don’t know.”





Waste the space at your own peril.


Own it and people will look at you as honest, confident and reliable <not a bullshitter>.



I am not reconciled to what seems like the inevitable decline of ‘I don’t know’ in business



I do think it will be difficult because society doesn’t seem in a rush to release their stranglehold on ‘I don’t know’ witch hunting.



what do i chooseBut business, in general, needs to get out of the over thinking bullshit business and focus on integrating some authentic honest dialogue in business <not posturing>.



I believe this whole “never say I don’t know’ bullshit is just one more aspect of the “you always have to have a clear stance, an idea or some valuable words to share.”




“Why always expect a definite stance, clear ideas, meaningful words?

I feel as if I should spout fire in response to all the questions which were ever put, or not put, to me.”

E.M. Cioran






I am certainly no wilting flower in a business environment.


And I certainly do not advocate saying “I don’t know” every minute to every question.



But let’s be clear … an honest answer always wins.



Really ? <you say … because it sometimes does not seem that way … >i dont know post it





Because you win.

You have no bullshit stuck on the bottom of your shoe for the rest of the day and you have your sense of self to fight the fight the next day with your ground rules established.



Bottom line.


Just say “I don’t know” when you truly do not know.

Enlightened Conflict