I Did Not Know That

by Bob Schwartz

Rabindranath Tagore
The Nobel Prize-winning poet and playwright Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “If you shut the door to all errors, truth will be shut out.”

There is a corollary: If you think you know it all, truth will be shut out.

Smart people are busy people. They gather knowledge for a lot of reasons—to help complete projects they are working on, to help solve puzzles that perplex them, or sometimes, simply because they are curious and interested in people and the world. But busyness demands a sort of instant knowledge filtering, where information is quickly classified as something not helpful or, frequently, something already known.

That last one is a funny thing. It may seem that what you hear or read is knowledge you already have, and easy to dismiss. But maybe there’s a small spin, a tiny different take, a detail that sheds surprising light on something you thought you knew. No matter how smart you are—or think you are—it can happen.

That’s why, as far as practical, one of the more enlightening ways to go about is ignorant, assuming you know little or nothing. Of course you know things, some very complex things, and that helps you get through your days and your life. You want to build on your knowledge base, and with limited time, you can’t spend it hearing about what you already know.

And yet…that person or thought you are tuning out, because it is something you think you already know, something you can’t waste your valuable time hearing, might be just the thing to advance your work, to solve that puzzle. Think about it. All you had to believe and say is this: I did not know that.