The More You Know, The More You Know You Don’t Know
A curious pattern that I’ve noticed in my coaching work is the tendency for people to decrease in self-confidence as they increase their knowledge or experience. You would think it would be the other way around but there is a strange confidence from not knowing what we don’t know that we lose as we become conscious of how little we know!
This is most obviously the case in my work with lecturers to improve their vocal and communication skills, and their levels of confidence. What often happens with newer lecturers or PhD students, is they have a massive crisis of self-confidence. They are so focussed on the things that they don’t know; they forget all the stuff they do know. Their research is all about asking questions and trying to fill gaps in knowledge. So, their minds are so full of the unknowns that they freeze and believe they know nothing. This is the point where I get them to think back to when they were an undergraduate — remember how much they know now that they didn’t know then!
I noticed this in myself the other day. Through my work at Cyphers Theatre Company, I run a lot of projects with university theatre groups, providing them with affordable workshops and drama training. We’d be puzzling over this work for some time, unsure what our value was and what we had to offer. When I suddenly realised, we started offering workshops and projects to students years ago when we had nothing like the experience we have now. Now, myself and one of my fellow Artistic Directors would be going to students as co-Artistic Directors of a company that has performed at leading regional theatre venues, one of us as a JMK Trust Regional Bursary Award winner and the other as Resident Director on the world tour of a major musical. We had so much to offer but we were so focussed on all that we didn’t know, all the experience we didn’t have, all the theatres we hadn’t worked in (in other words, all the stuff we want to be doing but aren’t yet), that we lost sight of how far we’d come and how much we have to offer.
So, every now and then, just remind yourself of how much you do know and how little you knew when you were starting out.
Originally published at https://www.marcus-bazley.co.uk on December 1, 2020.