It’s amazing how often I come across people that seem to have all the answers. More accurately, they seem to think they have the answers to any question or situation they encounter, ranging from how to cook Baked Alaska (or even a Heston Blumenthal masterpiece) and which player would be the perfect signing for the New York Yankees (and also wonder why they never get called to serve as the rightful general manager), to what the next big financial investment should be (until it crashes, because the fund manager didn’t follow their strategy) and how to solve traffic problems in large metros (and yet they seem to be stuck in it all the time). My father calls them ‘I’ specialists.
More worryingly, how often do we fall prey to this ‘I know it all’ attitude? How often do we consciously and willingly adopt this mannerism? Whether we’re sitting in a conference and listening to experts in our fields (we seethe quietly at having to sit in the audience while someone with seemingly less knowledge speaks on the dais at that conference), helping our daughter with her studies (we truly believe that the people that designed the education system at her school didn’t have an education themselves), working on a team project at college (we emphasize that if our plan was accepted for the college presentation, our team would soar to success, and if it didn’t, despite our plan being implemented, it wasn’t done in all earnestness by our teammates), discussing maters on anything from movies to politics (we are certain that if we wore the director’s cap, we would produce Oscar winning movies every year, and also have the perfect response to all political matters, even if it was devoid of factual information or reason), and even in our daily demeanor (from how to arrange the crockery to how to deal with the housemaid), we tend to close our minds to suggestions because we feel we are equipped with more knowledge than others, are smarter, and therefore know best.
A know-it-all is a person who knows everything except for how annoying he is – Demetri Martin
We feel we know better than our kids, our parents, our spouse, our friends, our co-workers, our teachers, doctors, the prime minister, the national cricket selection committee, and even our building security personnel (about who is going in and out of the building daily).
Yet, somehow the bitter turn of events along the way seem to baffle us. Despite, having all the possible knowledge (at least the illusion of knowledge that we consider to be Gospel) at our disposal, we fall short on various fronts. Some of us barely notice and for those of us that do, we shirk it off as shortcomings of our environment and the people in it.
Those who think they know it all have no way of finding out they don’t – Leo Buscaglia
If indeed we did know it all, why is that we need external courses to improve our professional skills to meet the evolving nature of our work and industry? Why are we able to convert only a small percentage of prospects into clients? Why do we not always score well in examinations (Let alone obtaining a perfect score)? Why do we not win every sports fantasy tournament we participate in considering we have the best team selection process? Why do we need Google maps to help us get to locations in a city where we have lived our entire lives? How come we don’t know what our father does for a living? Why is it that we fail to understand our children (Although we tend to believe it’s them that fails to understand us, where in reality the failure to understand is likely on both sides)? Why do we often annoy or upset people (this isn’t our intention now, is it?) around us if we always know the right things to say? How come we don’t curtail our alcohol and cigarette consumption despite the health warnings on the packaging (What do the manufacturers know?)? Why is that our spouse wears a quiet forlorn look if we really know how to keep him/her happy?
We feel like scholars on every subject, but if we were to put ourselves to the test we would fail tasks we perform daily. Do we really know the correct way to hang toilet paper in the bathroom? Or how to brush our teeth with the right technique? Or how to change the gears in our car in the most optimum manner? Or even that Santa Claus isn’t real (If you’re under ten years of age, you didn’t read this here)? Do we even know ourselves well? We may be aware of trivial things like our choices in food, entertainment, technology, travel and so on, but do we understand ourselves well enough to know what drives our happiness? Do we truly understand how to use our gifts to fulfill our destiny and help others around us?
In our quest to massage our egos, and prove ourselves to be one up over others, we close ourselves to new information and lose out on the opportunity to actually assimilate knowledge. I believe we can learn from anyone and any situation. We must learn to be humble students our entire lives. It may be a clichéd statement, but it was born out of necessity, wasn’t it? An open mind leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to wisdom, and wisdom leads to common sense, benevolence, fulfillment, and happiness. Kaching!!