I hate not knowing the answer to something. While it does not happen that often, I do get presented with questions or situations that leave me completely stumped. I absolutely hate it!
I write this on the heels of submitting my last blog entry “Saving Face,” so it is no surprise that I should want to touch on my lack of omnipotence. Knowing everything is impossible. I know that. It does not, however, prevent me from feeling like I am at some sort of disadvantage when it happens.
Since childhood, I have always had a hard time “throwing in the towel” or admitting I could not do something. I received a stereo system for Christmas one year when I was thirteen and literally spent half a day hooking the thing up until it, finally, worked. The directions it came with were of little help. My parents kept pushing me to call the support line to get some technical assistance, but I had to do it myself. Admitting I could not do it would not have made that much of a present, now would it have?
My approach to things has not changed that much over the years, but I do feel like I know when to concede ignorance when other people are involved. Many of my past jobs have been administrative, so admitting I do not have all the answers has become less foreign to me. Defending my ego at the cost of my staff’s or organizations’ well-being was never an option; therefore, reaching out for input or answers was often necessary. Now, if it were only as easy to do that in my personal life.
When I think of my father, I associate him with having all the answers. He always seemed to whenever I needed help. That is what fathers do, right? They guide us, lead us, and fix our problems. I suppose that is where my need to know it all comes from. That is what men do, after all.
Not knowing the answers directly challenges that narrative and that makes me very uncomfortable. Things are different now, though. There is too much information floating around. Life is more complicated. Having all the answers would be impossible. How I handle NOT having all the answers is more indicative of my “manhood” than anything else, really. I can either make answers up, dismiss the question/situation as irrelevant, or admit I have no idea and find the answer elsewhere. If I remind myself that how I respond impacts the lives of others it becomes clear that the third option is the only real choice.
If life and work have taught me anything, it is that one person cannot do it all. Having all the answers is not possible and is not a viable goal to try and attain. If anything, knowing where to get the information I need is now the order of the day. This means taking the focus off me and what I do not know and putting it on the people and networks I have available to me to get the answers and support I need to get the job done. Sometimes it really does take a village.
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