In my professional life, I work in four key areas which are home to their fair share of know-it-alls; science, media, fitness and corporate. That’s a lot of massive egos, I can tell you. And the problem with people who know everything is that there’s nothing left for them to learn. They are unteachable. Especially when someone else has a theory, idea or (perish the thought) evidence that might challenge or contradict their current belief-perspective-paradigm.. etc. *Of course, I also work with some awesome, humble and brilliant people.
And not only is there nothing left for them to learn but, for a range of fear and ego-based reasons, many of them feel compelled to belittle, contradict and/or argue with anyone who doesn’t align with their version of the truth.
They are not interested in discussing, learning, listening or considering, no, they’re only interested in winning. Being right. Of course, they feign open-mindedness and objectivity, but it’s a show. A flimsy mask covering their non-negotiable omnipotence.
After all, when you’ve believed and espoused certain things for a very long time, you have a huge emotional, psychological and professional investment in that belief. That message. And for people who find their confidence and sense of self in their knowledge, beliefs and expertise (many people, by the way), can you imagine the courage and humility it would take for them to say to the world… “regarding XYZ, I was wrong”. No excuses, disclaimers or justifications, just “I was wrong.” It’s not often that you’ll hear an expert (whatever that means) come out and say those three words. And by the way, it’s totally okay to be wrong (part of the human condition, and all) but somewhere along their journey, some people have learned something different.
The older I get, the more I need to unlearn. Over the last ten years I’ve let go of, or realigned my thinking on, many long-held beliefs. Many. That is, I’ve unlearned. I’ve come to the realisation that I was wrong. About plenty. Everything from nutrition, supplementation and exercise, to business, leadership and the meaning of success. The need to be right is a dangerous need. It’s unhealthy, dis-empowering and socially repellent. Talking with a know-it-all is like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer; pointless and painful.
Being capable of unlearning is a by-product of being teachable, humble and open-minded. It’s also a consequence of understanding ‘who we are’ beyond ‘what we know’.
After all, I am not the message, just the messenger.