Whether you’re talking about free markets vs. government intervention, Peloton vs. Soulcycle, or who qualifies as the best rock band of all time, everyone seemingly has an opinion. Some more educated than others.
Yet most people have no more idea what they’re talking about than your well-meaning friend who has the answers to all the world’s problems, if only the world would come to his basement and hear him out. (There are a lot of these people in crawlspaces and parents’ attics on social media now. The strength of their opinion would seem to derive from years of hard study, though scratch their surface and it’s more the adoption of peer group discourse than any hard-won research.
In this age of big data and internet everything, one may think they can google, quora, reddit or wiki the answer to every question instantly. But more is learned by experience and exploration than reading a post on social media. And even then, we still have no definitive answer on how the universe began, or how many galaxies in space hold life forms equal to or greater than ours, or whether baseball would be better if we shortened the game further.
For some reason, humans have a very hard time admitting that there may not have all the knowledge in the world. It’s hardwired in our DNA to never admit we’re clueless or wrong.
And yet, the strength, the wisdom and the relief in saying “I don’t know” may be the smartest thing one can ever communicate — no matter what their age, sex, race, or position in society. Is it any surprise that our most effective leaders are those flexible enough to change their opinions based on the latest intelligence, rather than fearing the appearance of indecisiveness?)
It takes a big person to say “I don’t know” (and different sized people to wear it on a t-shirt.) Self-awareness and confidence are required as well. But how refreshing it is to hear. And how exciting it is to live in the mystery rather than the answer.*
*As author and rabble-rouser Ken Kesey said, “Once you have the answer, you stop thinking.” And who wants to do that?