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Sure, You Know it All!

By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

When Andy was young and cocky, he thought he knew everything. If there was anything he didn’t know, he brushed it off as unimportant. Who cared? He was busy having a damn good time, living his life.

Now that Andy’s 48 years old, with a wife, 3 kids, a house and an important job, he’s not only aware of what he doesn’t know, he’s also cognizant that there’s much he doesn’t know he doesn’t know. (No, that’s not a misprint. Read it again, if it’s not making sense).

What happened to transform Andy from cocky kid to confident adult? Here are the four categories of thinking that sparked his metamorphosis...

  1. What you know you know
    This one is most cherished by people who think they know it all. When Andy was in high school, that’s exactly the way he felt. He knew what the world was all about. Any other concerns were dismissed as beside the point. This way of thinking worked for him because he had parents who were taking care of all the stuff he had no interest in.
  2. What you know you don’t know
    When Andy graduated from college, he was hit with a huge world of uncertainty. What was he going to do now? He realized he didn’t know diddly-squat about getting a job, earning a living, finding a place to live, obtaining insurance and 101 other concerns that are part of the adult world. So Andy is now back living at home with his parents, feeling confused, insecure and anxious. He now knows how much he doesn’t know. And he doesn’t like it one bit!
  3. What you don’t know you know
    After cruising through college, Andy returned home to find himself an unemployed, unmotivated kid. Feeling sorry for himself, he spent the better part of his days sleeping late and playing video games. Sure, life is guaranteed to knock us down from time to time, but what happened to the self-confidence he used to feel? Why couldn’t he put his honed skills to work in this new adult world? He had been well liked in school. He had gotten good grades. It was time for Andy to remember who he was. And what he knew. To use the skills he had. Yes, he had to learn how to put his skills to work in this new adult arena. But he wasn’t starting from scratch. He had learned a thing or two in his 22 years on this earth.
  4. What you don’t know you don’t know
    This category seems contradictory. The greatest danger of not knowing what you don’t know is that you don’t understand the risks involved with an action you take or neglect to take. A young child does not know that running with scissors is dangerous. An adult may not know that an online backup service will secure his hard-earned work.

    Andy, at 48, doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Yet, he’s open to learning and to new challenges. He is curious and confident. He listens and learns. He reads and reflects. Hence, whatever he doesn’t know now, he has positioned himself to know in the future.

As we progress through life, many of us go from being secure about how much we know to being insecure about how little we know. Hopefully, we can appreciate that learning is a lifelong process. It’s critical that we maintain respect for education and enlightenment. As well as appreciation for those who teach us, whether they’re schoolkids, seniors, simpletons or scholars.

Copyright © 2018: Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.
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