Embrace Feeling Dumb

I don’t know. Great!, that’s where you want to start, I said.  Society rewards experience, expertise, having all the answers. But better answers aren’t found in the domain of old ideas, they’re found when we actively question what we think we know and venture outside our field of expertise.

I know many people who are afraid of venturing outside their area of expertise. The reason? Feeling and looking dumb. Their self-confidence comes from their expertise, not from within. You see, all the work they put into being experts creates a false sense of confidence which comes from their knowledge, not their mindset.

Your fear of looking and feeling stupid is holding you back. How so?

True self-confidence comes from within; not from what you know. Self-confidence comes from saying “I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out”; this is the beginner’s mind mindset.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki

What does this mean?

When you are a true beginner, your mind is empty and open. You’re willing to learn and consider all pieces of information, like a child discovering something for the first time. As you develop knowledge and expertise, however, your mind naturally becomes more closed. You tend to think, “I already know how to do this” and you become less open to new information.

There is a danger that comes with expertise. We tend to block the information that disagrees with what we learned previously and yield to the information that confirms our current approach. We think we are learning, but in reality we are steamrolling through information and conversations, waiting until we hear something that matches up with our current philosophy or previous experience.

How do you switch your mindset to a beginner’s mind?

Fixed versus growth mindset

A fixed mindset is the belief that one’s abilities and characteristics are fixed and cannot be changed. People with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenges and may give up easily, because they believe that their abilities are predetermined and cannot be improved.Feeling dumb or ignorant can be a difficult and uncomfortable experience, but it is a natural and inevitable part of learning and growing. Here are a few ways to embrace feeling dumb:

On the other hand, a growth mindset is the belief that one’s abilities and characteristics can be developed and changed through effort and learning. People with a growth mindset embrace challenges and see failures as opportunities to learn and improve.

Research has shown that people with a growth mindset tend to be more successful in various areas of life, because they are more open to learning and are more resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks.

Developing a growth mindset involves shifting your perspective from a fixed belief in your abilities to a belief that you can grow and develop through effort and learning. This can involve adopting a more positive and proactive approach to challenges and setbacks, and seeing them as opportunities for growth and learning rather than as failures.

5 Ways to Embrace Feeling Dumb

Feeling dumb or ignorant can be a difficult and uncomfortable experience, but it is a natural and inevitable part of learning and growing. Here are a few ways to embrace feeling dumb:

  1. Recognize that it is okay to not know everything: It is impossible for anyone to know everything, and it is important to recognize that it is okay to have gaps in your knowledge.
  2. Embrace the opportunity to learn: When you feel dumb, it is an opportunity to learn and expand your knowledge. Embrace this opportunity and approach it with curiosity and a desire to learn.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: It is better to ask questions and clarify things that you don’t understand than to pretend that you know something that you don’t. Asking questions shows that you are engaged and interested in learning.
  4. Seek out learning opportunities: Seek out opportunities to learn and grow, whether that means taking a class, reading a book, or asking a knowledgeable friend or colleague.
  5. Be patient with yourself: Learning takes time and practice, and it is important to be patient with yourself and allow yourself the time to learn and grow.

Remember, feeling dumb is a normal and natural part of the learning process. Embracing it can lead to personal and intellectual growth.

Tactically, to embrace feeling dumb: Hang out with people who think differently from you and that operate in different domains. Consume, read and listen to information which you know nothing about. Take on a task, project, responsibility which will challeng you to stretch yourself intellectually.

Bottom line: What you know limits what you can imagine. Embrace feeling dumb and be open to possibilities. Cultivating a beginner’s mind helps us discover the joy of learning.