'I Don't Know' Is Sometimes The Smartest Thing You Can Say

'I Don't Know' Is Sometimes The Smartest Thing You Can Say

I personally started saying "I don't know" because of how often I was wrong.


One famous Shakespeare quote says that "a fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool," but I'm not going to lie - reading that headline made me feel like I lacked a little backbone. Maybe I do. Who knows. But one thing I've started to realize, the more I've grown up, is how much I don't know, whether it's about the world, or about other people.

My belief systems have evolved, but they have not dismantled. What I've realized, however, is that it's incredibly hard to learn when you think you know everything. I take a lot of stock in bottom-up stories instead of top-down ones that use a lot of labels, so one story written by someone named Robert Galbreath on The Guardian struck a chord with me for the past two years. Robert worked at Walmart as a temporary job before he got hired by a non-profit or got his manuscript published by Random House.

He never did - he ended up working at Walmart for nine years making $6.40 an hour, much to the dismay of his younger self. His great fear, working at Walmart, was becoming a "lifer," someone who worked at Walmart for most of their lives.

The article starts with a compelling line: "'You don't know shit!' is a hard lesson to swallow, but it was one of the first things I learned." The author learned this lesson when working with a co-worker named Nathan, a "lifer" and a "right-wing nut" whose political beliefs did not align at all with the audience of the article. Nathan believed that any federal intervention into his life was "communism," that any idea of foreign policy was to "blast the Middle East into one big, gleaming sheet of glass."

For Robert, myself, and the overall audience of The Guardian, these are views that we abhor. But when Nathan grew up, his parents passed away, leaving him with crippling property taxes and a mortgage on the family property. That meant he never got to go to college and worked for a while in a local lumber factory.

One day, Nathan and Robert had to move pallets from the truck to different sections of the store, and I've worked at Walmart for a summer, so let me tell you that the pallet jack is one of the most impossible things to maneuver in the world. Nathan and Robert have a major disagreement about how to move the pallet, and Robert was hellbent that he was right and that he knew what he was doing. Nathan screamed back at him:

"You don't know shit!"

Immediately, Robert threatened to report Nathan to the manager, but a box of grape juice falls on Robert as he slips and falls on his face, his pants are soaked, and his pride is deeply wounded. Even though the two had been arguing, Nathan helps him up, asks if he's OK, and never says a word of the embarrassing incident to anyone else.

"Over the years, I learned that Nathan was quick to forgive, and would drop everything to assist anyone who needed help. Despite his not-so-politically-correct, rightwing remarks and jokes, Nathan greeted and talked to everyone he encountered with genuine respect and kindness, regardless of that person's age, gender, or ethnicity."

I've written about this before as to why I stopped talking politics, and I've used almost the same description of the article in this shameless attempt at self-plagiarism. But the article struck a chord with me because of that mantra - "You don't know shit." That will not be a mantra I'll ever impose on other people, but it is one that I've said to myself whenever I'm trying to learn something or study - how can you really learn when you know everything?

Saying "I don't know" is sometimes the smartest thing you can do because you become more open and malleable. When I'm at work or in a simple conversation, saying "I don't know" encourages other people to speak up and voice their opinions. I've learned that listening, rather than doing all the talking, is profoundly more rewarding the majority of the time. I had an English class that was the most challenging, yet rewarding class I've had in college where my professor flat out did very little of the talking and challenged us in a seminar-like classroom by playing Devil's advocate. To this day, I have no idea where he stands on certain issues in the class, or what he really believes. His job was to teach us, not impose his views on us, and at the end of the day, that's what he did more than any other professor I've had.

Saying "I don't know" admits a certain vulnerability about yourself, an uncertainty about how you're going to navigate the next thing you do. I personally started doing it because of how often I was wrong : a lot of the people I made preconceived notions of in college ended up changing my life. A friend I initially thought was too scathing and abrasive ended up changing my career plans, while another friend I initially thought was a "Bible freak" ended up putting me on the path to change my religion.

Francesco De Marco Photography on Instagram: “Angolo di Campo Imperatore che sembrano usciti dai libri di favole. #abruzzo #francescodemarcophotography . . . . . #500px…”

It would be a lie for me to say that I don't know anything, or you don't know anything. We're all right about a lot of things. But that's not the point, or even the most important thing at the end of the day. Saying "I don't know" is more of a mindset to keep yourself vulnerable and open-minded about the world, about your future. It's a way of keeping humility, patience, and respect, because what saying "I don't know" also does is that it forces you to wait before you make a judgment about someone, and a lot of the times, you'll learn something about the person that flies in the face of that judgment you were about to make.

What do you call someone like me, who openly admits that I don't know shit? Am I people pleaser? Yeah, I think so. But that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. The more I say that to myself, the more I can step back and actually learn, because God knows I have more than enough of that to do.

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.

When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...


"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"


Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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