07 October 2011
I can see now that I should have been strong enough to conquer myself. Conrad Veidt

Learning to embrace the following two phrases was one of the most important things I learned post-college. Before starting work, I thought saying these things implied weakness. Now I know they imply strength. The phrases are:

“I Don’t Know”

Weak and insecure people think that if they don’t know something it reflects poorly on them. Sometimes they are correct; not knowing something that you should know can reflect poorly on you. However, it is a sign of strength to be able to admit that you don’t know something, especially if it is something that you should know. Regardless of whether not knowing something looks bad, admitting it freely generally more than compensates for the lack of knowledge in the first place.

It looks terrible if you admit reluctantly, after someone senses some wishy washiness in your answer, and after a few questions you have to eventually admit you don’t know.

This used to be difficult for me. I used to think it was a sign of weakness not to know something. I subsequently realized that it is a sign of strength to freely admit when I wasn’t sure about something.

 “It’s My Fault”

Many people, when something bad happens, do whatever they can to shift the blame away from themselves either to another person or to circumstances beyond their control. This is a mistake.

Firstly, it doesn’t do what you want it to. People know who is responsible. Making excuses and shifting blame does nothing except relieving you of the discomfort of facing the fact that you screwed up.

Only people who are willing to take responsibility for failure are able to take credit for success. Instead of shirking responsibility, the way to deal with failure is as follows:

I screwed up.

This is what went wrong.

These are the reasons it went wrong.

These were the mistakes in my thinking.

This is how I will deal with something similar in the future.