Confidence Amidst Ignorance?

Can we be confident even when we feel ignorant? The simple answer is “Yes!” Before we get into the rationale for this answer, let me share with you what triggered these thoughts.


This blog post was triggered by a biblical reference “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?” Since I’m not a biblical scholar, I’m not going to attempt to interpret this message. But the message did trigger another memory. This one from the David Carradine Kung Fu television series.

In one of the episodes, David Carradine, a novice monk, was instructed by his blind teacher to close his eyes. When he had, the teacher asked “Do you hear the grasshopper at your feet?” The novice’s eyes shot open in amazement when he saw that there was indeed a grasshopper at his feet. These two seemingly contrasting ideas triggered some valuable lessons for me.


Lesson 1

I can learn from everyone. The blind teacher raised the bar for the novice by demonstrating an ability that the novice didn’t yet possess. The lesson was delivered in a way to encourage the novice to pursue higher levels of awareness. The novice learned that while fully-sighted, he was not able to “see” as much as the blind teacher…yet. But that he could indeed develop this ability.

Lesson 2

Do we, in demonstrating superior ability in some area, encourage others to do so as well? Or do we make them feel inept, inadequate or ignorant? Each of us has the power to encourage or discourage others. When we encourage, we elevate others and in doing so increase their desire to elevate even more people.

The converse is true as well. When we discourage others from pursuing greater knowledge and awareness, greater skills and abilities, we create in them a sense of futility, hopelessness and victimology. These are the roots of attitudes of scarcity, protectionism and, in the extreme, violence toward others.

The choice is ours. What we choose dictates the world in which we live.

Lesson 3

Don’t trust blindly. Pay attention to the signals you’re getting…aka trust your gut. Over the years I have at times ignored my gut only to regret it later. Whenever you feel that you’re being taken for granted, manipulated or lied to, establish a safety net…a plan of action that prevents you from becoming a victim of someone else’s personal gain.

If it later turns out that you misjudged the other party, you can still benefit from collaborating with them. If, however, your concerns are well-founded, you’ll avoid a painful and potentially costly mistake.

Lesson 4

I am more ignorant than knowledgeable. There are far more things that I know little, if anything, about. Yet I’m able to remain confident because I, like you, have the ability to learn and adapt.

One of the things that I find distressing in our education system is the reliance on a student’s memory to evaluate what they’ve learned. Our testing system is, to great measure, is designed to test a student’s memory of what they’ve learned. As someone who has taught both college courses and spoken to much younger students in classroom settings, I’ve always been more interested in seeing how effectively a student can find the answer than whether or not they know the answer.

Encouraging a student’s awareness of their ability to find the answers they need, much like the blind monk did for his novice, is how we enable others, of all ages, how to be confident amidst their ignorance.

Each of us can more readily admit our ignorance when we are comforted by our knowledge that we have the ability to learn whatever we need to learn to deal with any situation we face.

Lesson 5

The only dumb question is the one that isn’t asked. Confident people don’t hesitate to ask questions because they have no fear of looking stupid. They are fully aware of their ignorance and readily admit it.

They are equally aware that they have the ability to learn whatever they need to learn to deal with any situation they face. That’s why confident people don’t hesitate to ask questions. It’s also why they make fewer missteps. They get the information they need to deal with whatever situation they’re facing because they are confident amidst their ignorance.

Lesson 6

Awareness that we don’t need to rely solely on our own ability. Over the years I’ve come to understand that our subconscious minds are our connection to a higher power…God, a Spiritual Nature or the Universe…depending upon your beliefs.

This awareness has been reinforced more times than I can count by the broad array of issues with which I’ve been able to help others. I am fully aware of my ignorance, yet I have repeatedly been able to help others with issues I never faced. The only explanation, in my mind, is that, in those moments, I’ve become a conduit of a greater wisdom than I possess.

Even more amazing to me, yet simultaneously affirming of my belief that I’m a conduit, is the fact that in the vast majority of cases I’m able to offer a solution during the discussion with the individual. I don’t have to wait until later for the solutions to surface, they come to me during the conversation.

Yes, there are times when an even better idea surfaces later. In these instances, I simply reopen the discussion and share the new idea. But that’s more the exception than the rule.

For you

It is my wish for you that some of these lessons will help you:

  • Be more open to ideas from all sources.
  • Use your superior knowledge and ability to inspire others.
  • Trust you gut. And protect yourself in doing so.
  • Readily admit your ignorance, while relishing your ability to learn.
  • Discover that we are all conduits of a wisdom greater than ours. And we can tap into it consciously and at will.

For our kids

Teach your kids that:

  • It isn’t so important that we know the answer as it is that we’re able to find the answer.
  • The only dumb question is the one that isn’t asked.
  • We are more ignorant than knowledgeable, for that awareness promotes humility.
  • Our ability to learn and adapt quickly overwhelms ignorance.
  • They use their abilities to encourage others to higher levels of awareness, skills and abilities.
  • There is a greater wisdom than their own and that they have the power to tap into it consciously and at will.

If you’d like to develop the skills to teach confidence as part of your role as an educator, coach, consultant, trainer, leader or other professional, check out my professional development and certification programs at Certification/PD.

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