Ignorance is a curable disease. Accurate information, knowledge, is the antidote. Many feel embarrassed to admit they do not know something, so they act as if they do know it. This can be a dangerous arrangement.
It is actually a sign of intelligence to admit ignorance on a subject and seek accurate information to fill that knowledge gap. Learning should not stop with our formal education. And not all learning occurs inside a class room. Life itself, is a continuous opportunity to improve ourselves through a commitment to life long learning. Why not take advantage of all the resources we have to expand our abilities and life experience?
I am about to use a somewhat offensive word. However, in the context of this article, it is the correct word. I believe some confuse ignorance with stupidity. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge, or having incorrect knowledge on a subject. Often we do not realize our ignorance until faced with a situation that exceeds our abilities or understanding. Conversely, stupidity is activity to the contrary of good sense or a known, better way of acting. Stupidity often occurs when someone knows better, but for some reason, often laziness, will not do better. At times ignorance and stupidity overlap, and that often results in tragedy, like pouring gasoline onto an open fire to increase the flames. Here are a few suggestions on recognizing pockets of ignorance and ways to fill them.
1) The saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Sometimes that is good advice. Often, if at first you don’t succeed, question your methods or understanding. Be sure your assumptions are accurate. A systematic approach helps to insure accuracy and allows you to repeat or alter the process based on observation.
2) If you ever feel that you continually get the wrong answer or wrong result, ask yourself; “Am I asking the right question?” Be sure there is a direct connection and relationship between what you do and what you expect to happen as a result of your actions.
3) If you find that your information or depth of knowledge is only superficial, investigate. The internet, libraries, and subject matter experts are all resources that can help us increase the depth and breadth of our knowledge on a subject. Dig deeper. Don’t settle for topical information. Keep asking, “Is there another layer to this? Is this all there is?” In general, the wider the audience of a publication, the less specific the information will be. Also, it is difficult to fully understand a topic by only reading bullet point type articles about it (including this article).
4) In situations where you feel overwhelmed, lost, or continuously behind, suspect ignorance. Perhaps you have enough information on the subject, but you don’t have it as readily available as others. This calls for more frequent review and practice working with the information. Perhaps there are gaps in your knowledge base on the subject. You know and feel comfortable with parts of the topic, but not with everything. Here, a little research and perhaps diagramming, to tie the parts together, will help you gain confidence and fluency.
These are just four basic ideas to help you recognize the symptoms of possible knowledge gaps. See how many personal situations you can add to this list. The point is, willingly recognize and admit there are situations where you lack knowledge. Then, commit to filling those gaps. This practice will broaden your exposure, your perspective, and your working knowledge base. And all of those are the positive qualities of a successful person. Ignorance is not bliss. It is costly and often dangerous!