What is the hardest part of learning?
Learning reveals ignorance. It’s humbling. The more we learn, the more we know that we don’t know. Learning transforms black and white to shades of grey.
How do we know we’re really gaining expertise?
As I’ve transitioned through different stages in my life, each started with a level of certainty only to be concluded with an awareness of my prior ignorance.
When I graduated high school, I felt ready to conquer the world. The Army quickly corrected that assumption. I entered college as a full-time student at age 22, a relatively old man compared to most of my peers not only in age but experience. That gap magnified my awareness of the differences between my current and former self.
That process has repeated itself over and over again. Military assignments to South Korea and Afghanistan opened my eyes to how much our worldviews, even of simple right and wrong, are a result of the environments where we’re raised. Yet, each society does not hesitate to show their ignorance and declare their ideals the best. Divorce shattered my self-illusions that I could live a life free of major embarrassing mistakes and spurred a tremendous period of personal growth.
The more confident we are in our views, the more critical we need to question what might be missing. The problems of the world are like onions, yet we only observe and treat the surface level issues failing, sometimes intentionally, to see the additional layers and consequences that will follow.
The problem is the human condition; we hate uncertainty. We want an absolute answer, but quite often “it depends.” Should we allow abortions? Should we cut out all carbon fuels? Should schools be conducting themselves virtually?
While we can reply to each of those with a simple yes or no answer, we’re missing all the nuances, special situations, and different effects from each person affected by the situation, many of which are not immediately apparent.
If experts in a field, who’ve dedicated their lives to pursuing special areas knowledge, cannot definitely give an answer, what makes you so confident? So, what are we to do? Recognize there is always more to learn. Wear the awareness of your ignorance as a point of pride and motivation to keep learning.