Humility In Growth
April 8, 2023
The physicist John Wheeler, who helped develop the hydrogen bomb, once observed, “As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.”
This is the Paradox of knowledge. The more experience and knowledge you gain, the more you realize the extent of your ignorance.
How does this idea play out in our lives?
As we grow through life and career, we encounter new situations and face not the same problems but new problems.
- For a student, the ninth-grade syllabus is more demanding and more challenging than the eighth-grader syllabus.
- The salesperson who graduates to become a team leader has to contend with how to manage and plan, and the sales leader who gets promoted to sales manager must figure out how to manage stakeholders, track performance and deal with office politics.
- The founder who sees success in the start-up must learn how to scale, delegate and manage the board.
- The bachelor who marries must learn to adjust and share.
At every stage in our lives, while we become more experienced and competent, we also bump into new situations, challenges, and problems that we have not encountered before.
But unfortunately, as they grow through the ranks in an organization, some people start developing an ego thinking that they have attained the position because of their knowledge and capabilities. As a result, they stop learning and become blind-sighted to their ignorance of all that is there to know in their expanded roles. Fuelled by ego, many start pretending to know and understand more than they actually do.
Parents are particularly susceptible to this fallacy where they assume they know what is right in all situations just because they are older, without understanding the child’s situation.
Socrates, the wise, said that true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.
Humility must accompany growth of any kind. Humility to acknowledge that you know less, even as you grasp more and more.