As I’ve been reading Berger’s book, I’ve thought quite a bit about his focus on failure. One of the key aspects of learning and growth he speaks about is the welcoming of failure, and the fact that not knowing an answer, and not even sometimes knowing the right question to ask, isn’t a problem in itself.
Instead, the true problem comes when we assume that our lack of knowing at this moment, our ignorance, is a reason for us to stop pursuing. Instead, as Berger hammers home regularly, it is precisely our ignorance that makes us so well suited for becoming effective questioners. After all, without the presence of ignorance, there would be little to nothing for us to question to begin with!
One of the biggest growth areas for me over the last few years has been in my acceptance of my own ignorance. For any number of reasons I used to be uncomfortable with admitting my lack of knowledge. Yet over the last five years in particular, I’ve become increasingly more accepting of it. In fact, today, I even welcome it. I regularly assume I am the least intelligent person in the room, if for no other reason than it puts me in a mode where asking questions is my key goal. The search for greater knowledge, and greater questions, is something we can all strive for, and as Berger asserts, we should worry when we see ourselves as experts in any given area. Experts tend to become old news rather quickly. It is only through a belief in our own ignorance that we can continue to learn in ways that experts never allow themselves to.
In a short forty pages or so, this book has caused me to reflect on much. I’m happy to see that recognizing and welcoming one’s failure is so important to continued growth and better questioning!