A three decade plus journey in the business world has helped me better comprehend what works, what doesn’t work and what’s important at work and in life. Among the many insights I’ve gained is that curiosity and ignorance are greatly underrated.
Our culture of “doing” is rewarding and has great merit, as well as some limitations. Taken to an extreme, it all becomes about doing. We get so wrapped up in the bottom line, that we often forget to focus on what is required to create and sustain the very results we desire; we seek answers and results without asking the right questions along the way. We pronounce bottom line solutions without taking the time to explain our reasoning to those who are responsible for executing them.
There are several inherent risks in all of this. Among them, the unintended consequence of treating others as “vehicles and conveyances” of our ideas and solutions, versus seeing them as human beings. “Just do it” works for Nike, Doing it well, however, requires preparation, focus, attention to detail, feedback, repetition and discipline. You don’t take one karate lesson and go clean out the bar!
When it comes to curiosity and ignorance, there are a few things to consider. Being curious reinforces your ability to practice one of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits: “Seek first to understand, before you seek to be understood”. Questions about the work (and more importantly, the people doing the work) is a form of recognition. When you ask about someone, you are messaging your interest and concern for them as human beings – not human doings. You’re conveying that their ideas and opinions matter and that they are valued for both who they are, as well as what they contribute.
As the old saying goes, “ignorance is bliss,” but not for the reasons you may think. The conventional meaning is that not knowing about something means not having to deal with it.
The leadership version reveals a different connotation: The more I know, the more the world unfolds before me. The better I get, through repetition, the more I comprehend how continued learning and different application of ideas will improve my impact and effectiveness. For leaders, every day should be “celebrate your ignorance day”.
Finally, about those priceless gifts.
Every bit of meaningful work we achieve or benefit from in this world in our careers, communities and life environments, is accomplished through relationships. Engagement is critical and required to do good and great things.
The true rewards from meaningful engagement and from a life well lived do not have a price tag: You cannot walk into a store and ask for the price of a box of dignity, a carton of respect, or a gallon of love, gratitude, patience or trust.
The things that matter the most in life cannot be purchased, owned or acquired. They can only be created, nurtured and given freely to others.
Isn’t it rewarding to know that vast and untold wealth is within reach? Merry Christmas.