Your Happiness Equation 3: The Power of Ignorance

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“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.”
-Margaret Atwood

“Uncertainly is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.”
-Voltaire

“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.”
-R.L. Fitzhenry

Let me ask you a few questions.
1.) If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done?
2.) What color will a Smurf turn when strangulated?
3.) If the professor on Gilligan’s Island can make a radio out of coconuts, why can’t he fix a hole in a boat?

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you have the answer to these questions. They’re ridiculous and unanswerable. The only reasonable response is, “I don’t know.”

For some reason, a lot of people have a serious problem with speaking those words. It can be almost painful. Many of us have been programmed by our teachers, our employers, and our peers to believe that admitting ignorance is a display of weakness, stupidity, or incompetence. We were led to believe it constituted a a personal failure—and failure of any kind is unacceptable.

Whenever you’re tempted to save face by faking your way through an explanation, remember this: if the person asking you the question knew the answer to begin with, they probably wouldn’t be asking you the question, right? So, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” You aren’t admitting failure. You won’t be letting anyone down.

You are not Google.

Nobody has all the answers and for someone else to expect you to have all of the answers is unfair, unrealistic, and unreasonable—so release yourself of that burden and enjoy the bliss of ignorance when necessary. Embrace it.

Uncertainty leads to speculation and speculation leads to innovation.

Creating theories opens up the room for productive discussion. At the same time, it communicates to others in your company that it is okay to not know. If you’re a salon owner or manager, your employees need to learn this and you need to be the one to demonstrate it. Show them that you’re willing and able to admit your limitations so that they can feel more comfortable doing the same when necessary.

Uncertainty stimulates growth and jumpstarts creativity, so instead, turn the question to your team. Ask them for their thoughts and ideas. By removing that burden of expectation from yourself and your employees and introducing speculation and thought experimentation, you are cultivating an environment that encourages confidence and inspires others to learn.

Don’t fake your way. It is far better to risk looking incompetent periodically than to be exposed as a fool regularly. Don’t risk losing the respect of your colleagues and don’t allow others to burden you with their high expectations. Doing so will kill your happiness by causing stress and uncertainty—neither of which you don’t need in your life.

Eliminate that pressure. It’s weighing down the result of your Happiness Equation.

Click here to read Part 1 of Your Happiness Equation.
Click here to read Part 2 of Your Happiness Equation.

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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.

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