Thinking back on my middle school years still, makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. It is such a time of change and transformation. (Why don’t they have a movie that explained you’re supposed to be awkward then, that plays in health class?) As my peers and I geared up, from leaving the “elementary nest” to transition into our high school years, we began to see, think, and understand the world in a whole new way.
I remember sitting in the second row in Mr. Cote’s advanced math class. I looked around at the room. It was made up of upperclassman, specifically, boys who made me feel different than they did before, math posters, and a licorice, which was given to us upon answering a question correctly. Glancing back towards the chalkboard, I caught Mr. Cote’s eyes knowing I would be the victim of his next question. I can’t remember what it was he asked but in the next 5 seconds afterwards I will always remember my response. All of the sudden my body was warm, my palms sweaty, I don’t know I thought! Ask someone else? Why me? As I sunk into my chair I spouted off an answer I knew very well wasn’t correct encouraging him to move on to his next target. Phew, that was over, I thought. And returned my gaze to the page where it sat for the rest of class.
I can’t remember what it was he asked but the next 5 seconds after the question I will always remember. All of the sudden my body was warm, my palms sweaty, my heart rate increased, as my eyes raced around the room making contact with my peers.
I don’t know I thought! Ask someone else? Why me?
As I sunk into my chair I spouted off an answer I knew very well wasn’t correct encouraging him to move on to his next target. Phew, that was over, I thought. And returned my gaze to the page where it sat for the rest of class.
Why couldn’t I just say: I don’t know?
These three words are more difficult to say than we think. But why? We will surely all be asked a question we don’t know the answer to.
Fast forward 10 years to my first year working in finance, where I had a mentor address the issue. She -one of the most successful individuals at the firm- said at a seminar one day:
“Each of us will be surprised with questions we don’t know the answer to. And that’s okay. The response is, however, very important. Be confident and simply tell them, hey- that is a great question- I don’t know but I will do my best to research it and find the answer for you. What would be the best way to get that to you after I have discovered the answer?”
With such grace, she admitted to not knowing it all. And rather than shrinking in the moment, embracing it. Because a curious question will keep the mind exploring new and creative topics, in turn, keeping us healthy as we formulate new neural pathways.
Okay, so we don’t know.
Let the mystery transform into curiosity. Be willing and able to explore new information! All while admitting, hey I still don’t know. Because it seems as adults the more we know the more we realize we don’t know.
Be confident and embrace the “unknown”. After all, this world is unknown. What will happen next, tomorrow, next year is really a mystery. As much as we plan for, schedule out, things happen. And rather than being afraid of the unknown, or slouching at the response- “I don’t know”, can we embrace it and live in the excitement of the mystery.
Forever curious. Forever learning. Forever growing.