Friday, November 13, 2009

The First Barrier to Learning (or doing business); Thinking You Already Know

We are all guilty of it. Colloquially it's called "knowing enough to be dangerous" or "having enough rope to hang yourself" or some such other expression. But in business, such a barrier can mean the difference between doing a deal, and going home.

I used to think I knew it all. Then, as I matured, I realized I didn't even know what I didn't know.

This is acutely true in business. I can't tell you the number of times I was on a deal, thought I had it under control, only to realize (sometimes begrudgingly) that I had no clue what was going on, what the seller or my buyer were talking about, and I had to go research just to keep up.

If you’re lucky, no-one will find out until after the deal is done, and you've been paid. If you are unlucky, no-one will do business with you from that point forward.

It's hard sometimes to "eat crow" or "swallow one's pride" or "admit one was wrong" or "didn't know". But I think the most offensive and disingenuous action a person can take, is to continue to assert their "rightness" or "knowledge" even in the face of overwhelming proof to the contrary.

It takes "a big man", courage, to admit you are "wrong" or "really don't know what you are talking about".

I run into this scenario often in my practice. It happened again just yesterday (and continued today). A perhaps well meaning "broker" (an unlicensed "investor" and "entrepreneur" I might add) spouting off his "knowledge" when it was obvious that he had KNOW IDEA what he was talking about. At best he was erroneously forwarding someone else’s false "knowledge" or false data as true, at worst he was just unintelligent, and arrogant.

I know I've certainly made the same mistake. Perhaps still do. But I have learned to be humble in the face of contrary data that clearly demonstrates that I was "wrong" or at best "was missing data".

In fact, I have as a standing rule, that if anyone can prove in writing my data to be false, I will humbly "eat crow" and admit I was wrong. I would rather KNOW than be "RIGHT"!

So a lesson to us all (and lest one think I think I have all the answers, I KNOW I do not). Have the courage to confront the truth. And even more, know when you are "in over your head" and seek to learn, not assert your "knowledge".