Leaving Empty Spaces
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Several weeks ago, I got the opportunity to hear an actual Nobel Laureate speak. To be honest, I had never heard about her before…all I knew was that when a Laureate came to speak, it was advisable to attend as it was a nobel rarity. So I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed on an early Saturday morning and headed down to the conference room to listen to Leymah Gbowee speak. Leymah is a civil rights activist and has been a vocal voice for the empowerment of women in Liberia. She responsible for leading a women’s peace movement that brought an end to the Civil War that almost crippled Liberia. Her activism in this area subsequently led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia, the first ever African female president. Her talk was riveting and pulsating her tales of rescuing abused women from their violent husbands and standing up to Liberian dictator Charles Taylor made my skin pores perk and sent jolts of inspiration through my heart. She spoke with a light sweet carribean accent which added a certain spice and vigor to her message of hope, determination and controlled anger. One of her salient quotes where the words “find what makes you angry and do something positive about it.” Her entire speech delivery was admirable and intellectually sound, it was as if she knew everything about politics, about the world and about human rights. But I was wrong,
she did not know everything and actually she told us that she did not know everything. As a Nobel Laureate she informed us that she gets bombarded with dozens and dozens of questions everyday because people (especially reporters) expect her to be sound on all issues pertaining to African Human Rights. But she stated that one of the things she has learnt over the years was the ability to utter three simple words “I don’t know.” Especially when asked a question in a subject that she was not familiar with. Others in her position would have felt a need to answer those questions, but instead she does not waddle in them. And that is one of the secrets to her success, she stays within her knoweledge realm and builds on it.
If only that same line on thinking can make it’s way into our life and work. Too many times people feel pressured to show how intelligent they are, rather than admitting a lack of knowledge or deferring the question to an expert they plunge on in areas they are not familiar with. Ironically this is encouraged in the workplace. It is that type of thinking, according to them that shows initiative and wisdom, but to me it shows pride and arrogance! More importantly it could lead to future problems stemming from poor answers from a non-expert or a company might never fully optimize its ability because they are feeding off subpar answers. This is not to say that people should not expand their knowledge or stay stagnated in one knowledge field. All I am saying is that because you have been asked a question does not mean you have to answer the question or create a bulls### answer to show how smart you are. In the same vein just because you have been given blank pages to write does not mean you should write on every single one of them.
When I started out writing my first ever book How Stupidity Saved My Life I was stuck on the number of words/pages to have in the book. I wanted it to be as long as the Malcolm Gladwells of the world who wrote 80,000 to 100,000 words in their thick fat books. I felt that my 20,000 words was not sufficient enough convey my message…so I kept on searching for more and more information to pad up my book and soon I found my self lingering in areas that I did not understand and writing things that did not make sense to me. But one day I happened to stumble upon an article on the internet that talked about the number of words required to make up a book…and the answer was simply “as many words as is needed to be to drive home your message!” That was powerful because I realized that my message had been reached with 20,000 words and thus I did not need more than that to get my message across. That was an exonerating moment for me, much like the advice from Leymah Gbowee it made me realize that I needed to state within my box of knowledge and write only what I needed to write.
You see it is never about the Quantity, which is how much we claim to know, but rather about the Quality…how well we know what we know. Understanding this is powerful…because sometimes it is okay to leave empty spaces. Empty spaces are admirable, it show humility and above all it shows wisdom.
Ofili is an award winning motivational speaker, author, success coach and entrepreneur who blogs about life, success and entrepreneurial excellence. Follow him on BB pin:32A137F8, twitter ,facebook or subscribe to his blog for more success TIPS!” His latest book is titled HOW STUPIDITY SAVED MY LIFE, to find out how it saved his life click ofilispeaks.com/read-book
Wishing You Extreme Success,
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