"Monday 5 Things" with D. Paul Graham


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Photo: D. Paul Graham

Monday 5 Things…..I Don’t Know…..

The Pudden’s, who were likely in their 70’s at the time, lived next door when I was a precocious and curious 8-year-old. Mr. Pudden had an inordinate amount of forbearance for the then-sun- bleached white-haired, pasty-skinned kid that asked a lot of questions. My questions, intermittently convergent, frequently divergent (to anyone but an 8-year-old) more often than not opened the conversation to further questions… all of which were followed by Mr. Pudden’s patient, well thought out answers, typically followed by ‘but why?’ from me. This back and forth of question-answer-why, inevitably lead to Mr. Pudden saying, “well I don’t know about that, let’s go do some research.” We would spend hours looking through his vast collection of books, dictionaries, and encyclopedias in our quest to find answers to my most vital queries of the moment. Mrs. Pudden always seemed to have a fresh batch of cookies or banana bread, and hot chocolate to sustain us during “research time” in his library. Years later, I realized the importance of what Mr. Pudden taught me; that no question should ever be ignored, that patience is needed to find answers, that learning is exciting, and saying ‘I don’t know’ can lead to all sorts of new avenues of growth. Today’s M5T takes a look at why ‘I don’t know’ is so important.

1. Wisdom

Saying ‘I don’t know’ requires wisdom. A decade or so ago, I was either too proud or too afraid to admit there were things I didn’t know. It was only by admitting to not knowing that led to teachable moments. Reflecting back on some of the conversations that I had with Mr. Pudden, I recognize that he probably knew the answers to a lot of my ‘why’ questions, yet he realized that by saying ‘I don’t know’, and having me look up the answers, I would be taught something.

2. Power

There is power in being able to say, ‘I don’t know’. It allows others to see you as human. It balances relationships. It takes the pressure off of being perfect all the time.

3. Leadership

Whether at work, home, or in other relationships, saying ‘I don’t know’ equalizes objective accuracy over subjective immediacy. When a leader says, ‘I don’t know’, he or she is saying ‘help me figure this out’. It prompts discussion, builds team unity, and creates an environment for considered decision. “I don’t know’ can fill gaps in knowledge and gives pause for considered decisions.

4. Pause

Saying ‘I don’t know’ creates a change of pace when making important decisions. It can decelerate and stabilize an out-of-control discussion. Saying ‘I don’t know’ shows humility, a strength of character, a sense of self, and shows you are not glib in your answers.

5. Learning

Accepting that I can’t possible have every answer for every situation is not only freeing but allows for opportunities to learn and mature. It leaves one’s mind open to other answers, other perspectives and other possibilities. Embracing ‘I don’t know’ has led to many a discovery, new adventure or experience.

Here’s to Mr. Pudden, and to your week of appreciating and embracing how much you don’t know.

© 2019 D. Paul Graham, all rights reserved.

D. Paul Graham is passionate about people, culture, photography and business. He has embraced his wanderlust with his travels around the globe and is at peace with his need for spirited drives in all things automotive.

You can find M5T each Monday here on www.southmag.com and by friending D. Paul Graham on Facebook. Paul is also a contributing photographer to South Magazine. His photographic work can be found on Instagram @dpgraham and at www.imageGRAHAM.com. Your feedback is always welcome. Email Paul at dpg@imagegraham.com