In The Trenches

I don’t know

Published on September 25, 2017 Back to blog
Messy Garage Shelves

This past Sunday morning, after deciding to do a small home improvement project in my garage, I headed out to the hardware store to get the necessary materials. Not knowing what I needed, I asked a kind man wearing an orange apron for help. About 30 minutes and a cart full of materials later, I headed home excited to begin. 

Using my new 1/4” drill bit, I made a hole in the cement wall for the new steel anchor to help secure the new shelving unit. But the hole was too small – he gave me the wrong sized bit. Frustrated, I headed to a different hardware store where an associate informed me that I didn’t even need steel anchors – I just needed to drill a hole for the cement screws. He showed me exactly which drill bit I needed and I went back on my way. This time, I began drilling a new hole in the cement wall, but got nowhere. The drill bit wasn’t meant for cement. So I drove back to the hardware store to where another associate directed me to the proper one. 

Back home, I was now moving at a good pace and getting closer to a more organized garage. However, as I put one of the new shelves onto the newly installed brackets, I figured out that the brackets were not the right size. Determined to get the job done, I made my 4th trip to a hardware store, exchanged the materials and headed home to finish the job. At 9:30PM, I finished the job.

I share this story with you today not because I want to brag about my newly organized garage. Instead, I share it to stress the importance of admitting and saying “I don’t know.” If the helpful associates at the hardware store simply said “I don’t know” after rushing to help me, my day would have gone much more smoothly. However, for some reason, these three words prove challenging for many of us to say. 

The next time you feel inclined to give guidance or advice when the more appropriate response should be “I don’t know,” consider these benefits of saying these three words:

  1. Gain credibility – When you admit to not knowing something, others will be more likely to trust you when you tell them that you do. 
  2. Learn something new – The first step to learning something new is admitting what you don’t know. Ask others for help, and you may even learn something.
  3. Don’t be wrong – It may feel good to be right, but it does’t feel very good to be wrong. When you admit you don’t know something, you won’t be.
  4. Save someone a lot of trips to the hardware store – Misinformation often has negative consequences for those who trust it and act upon it – often much worse than a few extra holes in a wall and trips to the hardware store. 

If you need help organizing your garage, I’d be happy to share what I learned. In the meantime, I’ll stick to what I know and enjoy learning what I don’t. I hope you do the same.

Have a great day!

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners