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That moment when you only want to say truth

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Come, blessed ignorance.

Early in my writing life I let on that I knew more than I actually did.

You did too. We all did. We all do.

It’s part of the human condition: the word or name dropped, the subtle nod that hints we are in the know,

“…and, yes—please—carry on…certainly I get it.”

Whatever it takes to not appear stupid.

I tried impress Madison's potato vendors with my potato knowledge. I failed.

I tried to impress Madison’s potato vendors with my potato knowledge. I failed.

 

I learned this subterfuge early in life: laughing at my big brothers’ jokes and then stopping by the dictionary later to sort that word they used. Thankfully, there was no Urban Dictionary back then.

I squandered educational opportunities by pretending to know. Maybe my early undergrad years were perfectly set up to encourage the ignorant to remain so—and I jumped into that. It wasn’t until later in school that I went for broke and displayed my ignorance. That’s when I started learning.

One benefit of writing copy for a living is you get to ask the stupidest, most ridiculous questions. Questions to which everyone in the room obviously knows the answer. And actually that is when the fun begins, because the answers that pour forth are often strikingly dissimilar and uniformly telling, in that everyone has a different expression (and possibly a different idea) of this commonplace.

At some point stupid questions become a way of life: after you realize you’ll learn a whole lot more if you just admit you don’t know something. It turns out there’s really not that much to lose. Maybe you lose face with the boss. If so, your boss probably wasn’t that great. Maybe you gum up some well-greased process. If so, your question from the edge may actually open new ways forward.

The benefits of ignorance realized are immense:

  • The dumb questions is a verbal mark in the sand. And on the other side of that mark you get to actually start learning.
  • It is highly likely others have the same ignorance. You do everyone a favor by asking your question.
  • Asking the dumb question often unearths brand new, productive ways of looking at something.

Please—for the sake of humanity—ask your stupid question today.

Do us all a favor.

###

Image credit: Kirk Livingston

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