Self Development February 27, 2020

Getting comfortable with not knowing it all

Rosie Sherry @rosiesherry

There's something about the world today that is so exciting yet so fast moving and full of uncertainty.

I think it's my character to listen and ask way more than speak or share. I love hiding in the background, observing, taking mental notes. I've done this online and in real life.

I still feel uncomfortable trying to come across as someone knowledgeable, perhaps this is something I need to work on.

Observing over taking the lime light

In my years of running conferences at Ministry of Testing, I've refused to get up on stage. I would happily take joy in providing people the stage to help them succeed, help them share their work and become better for it - as individuals and as a community. I honestly believe my work there was never meant to be about centering on me. And really, I knew that I did not know enough to take on those roles. Instead of trying to learn them, I chose to trust in others to do the learning and sharing. And we became stronger for it.

Of course, in hindsight, this is what makes someone good at community building. Once a community relies on a single or small group of people for leadership or knowledge it can turn into a space where people start to feel comfortable with the fact they know enough.

I think deep problems can develop when people think they know it all. Our minds can easily close when we think know what we are talking about. Mostly it becomes all too easy to stop looking at the stories and reasons behind why people do what they do.

Looking back at my journey

I can go back to when I first started out indie hacking:

  • I discovered communities
  • oooh, marketing, this is interesting
  • ooh, meetups are so cool
  • I was clueless about conferences, let alone taking them to new countries
  • I had never run an online business
  • I had never run a remote team
  • I had never built a SaaS
  • I had never handed over running of a business to someone else

I've been in a constant state of not knowing really how to do things. I will naturally explore, learn and get better at certain things, but there will always be new challenges to take on board.

My current state is that I now need to view myself as an 'owner' of a business, I have no clue how that will turn out. But I'll keep my mind and eyes open for options.

How can I seek to understand what others know and where their actions are coming from?

I am currently thinking about my own mental model of accepting that we don't know it all, yes I know it sounds like an obvious kind of statement. Of course no one knows it all, but some people behave like they do. Or we think we are experts in a specific field and as a consequence close our minds to new ideas. By having that constantly in the back of my mind it means I approach things with a view seek understanding.

So if I come across a situation or a person, before jumping to a solution I will ask myself, what do I not know and how can I empathise and try to find out more?

For example:

  • who is this person?
  • what is their background?
  • do they know something I am not aware of?
  • is there a back story?
  • why is this person saying this?
  • have I encountered a situation like this before?
  • what's the best outcome I can get in this situation?
  • where can I find more information to help me make a better decision?
  • am I making a rushed decision?
  • am I doing what is ethical?
  • how can I ensure the best outcome for everyone involved?
  • why, why, why, why and why?

Asking questions instead of offering advice

The moment I start to think I have enough knowledge will be the moment I will fail myself.

Even when I started helping building the community here at IH, I had built a 'successful' indie business, yet in the back of my mind it was still overwhelming how much I did not know. I could have come in thinking I was hot shot and knew what I was talking about, but it has been all of you have helped me grow even more.

And many of my contributions here at IH are not necessarily offering advice, but figuring out what are the right and relevant questions to ask.

Community managing here for a year has been like an intensive training program. I've come here with an open mind and have learned so much from all of you.

I thank y'all for that!

  1. 2

    god, i love how you share so openly your lessons-learned! i’m learning a ton just observing your care of folks here! 😍

  2. 2

    Great post! Especially love your questions for generating empathy. Always very useful when interacting with new or even people that you already know! :)

    1. 1

      I'd like to develop a better list, I just wrote those off the top of my head. I'm sure I'm missing stuff.

  3. 1

    Nassim Taleb's Antifragile is all about how understanding is not necessary for success. We don't fully understand how planes fly, for example! Or the mechanism of action of many many drugs!