There are a lot of people in technology, particularly startups, who think they’re really smart. Super smart.
Some of them are.
But the really, really smart ones, the ones I’ll always have time for, are the ones who don’t think they’re the smartest person in the room.
They know that’s there is always more to learn from others. There’s always something they didn’t understand. There’s always an assumption that should be challenged.
Those are the people that you want to make your employees, your network and your friends.
Because you’ll never stop learning with them, and they’ll never stop learning from you.
Bret Victor said it very well in his talk, “The Future of Programming”:
“The most dangerous thought you can have as a creative person is to think you know what you’re doing.”
It’s possible to misinterpret what I’m saying here. When I talk about not knowing what you’re doing, I’m arguing against “expertise”, a feeling of mastery that traps you in a particular way of thinking.
But I want to be clear – I am not advocating ignorance. Instead, I’m suggesting a kind of informed skepticism, a kind of humility.
Ignorance is remaining willfully unaware of the existing base of knowledge in a field, proudly jumping in and stumbling around. This approach is fashionable in certain hacker/maker circles today, and it’s poison.
Don’t think that you know it all. Don’t be afraid to start over. Don’t be afraid to be challenged by others. Start from a position of humility and then learn. Don’t assume you know everything.
Don’t assume you’re the smartest person in the room.