It is healthy to remember that there is always more you can learn
This is both the title of a very funny, under-rated Bill Murray film made in 1997 and a contender for the title of my biography should it ever be written, which is very unlikely.
The Man Who Knew Too Little, the movie, is a spoof of The Man Who Knew Too Much, a Jimmy Stewart movie made in 1956. In the original version, Jimmy Stewart plays a physician who decides to take matters into his own hands when assassins planning to execute a foreign diplomat kidnap his son. In the spoof, Bill Murray is mistaken for a world class spy when he unwittingly stumbles upon a plot to assassinate world leaders.
I don’t want to spoil the respective endings for you if you have not seen these movies, but I will say that the outcomes are similar despite the vastly different and circuitous routes that were taken to achieve them. This leads me back to the book.
The Man Who Knew Too Little, the biography that will never be written, is a direct reference to my wonderment at the immensity of life. Despite spending a considerable amount of my time studying everything worth studying, from people to books to subjects to theories and virtually everything in between, I am amazed at how little I have actually learned compared to what I could potentially learn. For me, this realization is both a blessing and a curse.
It is a blessing because it motivates me to keep learning and to be open minded as to what else is out there that I have yet to comprehend, let alone consider. It is a curse because I often find myself feeling awkward in a new situation despite having spent so much time preparing contingency plans and thinking about how I might handle the unexpected should it arise.
Given the choice, however, I would rather be a man who knows too little than a man who knows too much…with a few key disclaimers.
I certainly don’t want to be the man who knew too little during a crisis or a time when others are relying on me to come through for them.
I absolutely don’t want to be the man who knew too little about his loved ones, friends, and colleagues.
I would never want to be the man who knew so little that he wasn’t able to recognize new opportunities or continue to evolve as a person.
That said, I think it is healthy to remember that there is always more you can learn. For me, that knowledge helps to make me a better listener. I have always been interested in people and in learning about their individual stories. If I think that I can learn something from that person, I am even more interested in hearing what they have to say.
I have also found that I am less likely to jump to conclusions and much more likely to seek input and new ideas when I approach problem solving from the angle of gathering information and seeking knowledge. When getting educated is my priority, I am a better decision maker because I tend to be more complete in my analysis and more thorough in my investigation of data that is pertinent to the decision I am contemplating.
As far being a man who knows too much is concerned, I only have one question. Have you ever met one that you wanted to spend any time with whatsoever?
I continually determine that the more I know, the more I need to know, but my pursuit of knowledge often leaves me with a feeling that I am swimming against the tide. Today, more than ever, people tend to find their version of knowledge in the places that are simplest to find. A text or a tweet or a post becomes the new gospel regardless of the source or the validity and credibility of the statement contained within the text, tweet, or post.
Discussions, and therefore debates, are becoming less frequent and giving way to a much more casual form of interaction. Just like raising your voice does not help a person who doesn’t speak your language to understand you any better, exchanging posts with people via social media does not and should not replicate the nature of person-to-person conversations.
Healthy debates take place when the participants understand enough about their own thoughts and ideas that they can articulate them with supporting evidence and reasoned logic. Those same participants also care enough about each other that they take time to research each position to either better argue against it or find some common ground.
Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? It is. It’s no wonder, then, that so many people prefer to limit the extent of their engagement to an on-line post or a snap chat photo. It is far easier, and it requires far less thought. Eventually, meaningful explanations, valuable insight, and the overall quality of experience that we will gain from interacting with each other will either become extinct or suffer greatly. The healthy debate will become a lost art.
If that occurs, we will all know too little, but we will each have taken a different route to reach the same outcome. Some of us will know exactly how we got there and have done all that we could to minimize what we didn’t know. Others will be mistaken for being experts, but unwittingly stumble toward the same result.
Either way, we all know too little. The question is what are you going to do about it?
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.