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  • Bob Burg

“You've basically revolutionized the way we are doing business. . . Your teaching style is very, very effective.”

~ Thomas J. Bartosic, SVP, Career Sales, G.E. Financial Assurance

The Enemy of Knowledge

January 13th, 2014 by Bob Burg

The enemy of knowledgeThe brilliant, Dr. Stephen Hawking said:

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

Profound.

One person commented that — in their opinion — the two are the same. My friend, Alice Flanders explained the difference:

“One person is ignorant, they do not know. the other person thinks they know, but they don’t know either. The person who is ignorant might decide that he needs to know and find out. The person who thinks he knows, but doesn’t, will act on the knowledge that he thinks he has instead of finding out the correct answer.”

I loved how Alice explained that.

In my opinion, it comes down to — as do so many things — our belief system; the lens through which we view our world.

If we already believe we know a “thing” and are not interested in exploring an alternative view, then we might be right…or we might not be.

That can be a problem in terms of living up to our full potential and effectiveness.

Or, as the amazing thinker and wordsmith, Mark Twain said:

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” :-)

The older I get, the more I continue to be amazed by how much I think I know that just ain’t so.

What about you? Do you find the same to be true for you? And, if so, do you find that to be scary? Encouraging? Perhaps, a little of both?

18 Responses to “The Enemy of Knowledge”
  1. ~ Wise people seek “truth” and are open to “correction”!

    Seek much council and wisdom mastermind groups.

    It’s definitely helped me.

    So has the book of proverbs.

    Thanks Bob, have an exceptional week!

  2. Hi Bob!
    I would like to add a Swedish poet to your cites, Alf Henrikson. I have done the translation myself, so I hope it makes sense:

    The lapses of memory
    There’s so much one forgot when somebody asks
    and so much one remembers when nobody asks
    and so little that one forgot that one knows
    and so much one knows that one has forgotten.

    Best Regards from a Snowy Sweden!
    Åsa

  3. Yoav said at 9:23 am on

    I’ve grown to be very afraid of people who think they know but actually don’t have a clue.

    Specifically those that think they know everything.

    And what’s interesting is that some of the more accomplished people, freely admit that they don’t know a lot about a lot.

  4. Bob Burg said at 10:39 am on

    Pete: Great points, all. Thank you for sharing with us!

  5. Bob Burg said at 10:49 am on

    Yoav: And, one could hardly blame you. Those can be the most dangerous kind. :-) And, yes, regarding your last sentence, that tends to be the way it is, isn’t it? Those who actually know the most continue to operate with a learner’s mindset, an awareness that there is much they don’t know. They also tend to speak less and ask a lot more questions. Thank you for sharing with us!

  6. Bob Burg said at 10:50 am on

    Asa: Thank you so much for sharing Mr. Henrikson’s wisdom. I have a feeling you translated that beautifully. Stay warm, my friend!

  7. Bob, I’m not sure I grasped the definitions by Dr. Hawkin or Alice Flanders (way over my head). However, the quote from Mark Twain hit home—maybe a little too close to home :-) Enjoy your tips and proud to share them as I’m doing so right now!

  8. Bob Burg said at 1:19 pm on

    Mitch: LOL! Unfortunately, I think I relate to Mr. Twain’s quote a bit (and, when I say a bit, I mean, a lot) too closely, myself!! Thank you for your always kind feedback, my friend!

  9. Bob Choat said at 1:56 pm on

    Bob, one of things I learned as I’ve gotten older is that what I really don’t know is what I know. Despite having a multitude of college degrees up to two PhD’s, I really don’t know as much I one might think I would know. So, I’m always challenging what I do know. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we think we have to know perfectly before taking action on anything and that is something I do know that is wrong.

    So, instead of assuming that what you think is right is right, make sure that it’s right by asking the right questions to the right people, right? Or am I wrong? LOL!

    Thanks Bob for sharing your insights!

  10. Bill Ellis said at 2:55 pm on

    Another very succinct yet powerful post. I love your comment about realizing that you know less as you grow older. I’ve blogged about this myself (here http://bit.ly/L3g94W ) based on a plaque my father had on the wall as I grew up – “We get too soon old and too late smart”. Brilliant.

  11. Kumar Gauraw said at 5:04 pm on

    Hi Bob,

    What an amazing thing! Both the quotes are indeed “scary”. The more I learn, the more I know for sure. But I am not sure if what I know is sufficient to say, “I know this” :-)

    And as Mark Twain said, I have found myself in trouble many many times because I thought I knew it all only to realize I actually didn’t know it well enough :-)

    Thank you for this thought provoking post today! You are awesome!

    Regards,
    Kumar

  12. Bob Burg said at 7:44 pm on

    Bob: Well said. And, it sounds pretty right to me! :-) P.S. Wow – two PhD’s is quite impressive!!

  13. Bob Burg said at 7:47 pm on

    Bill: Thank you for your kind feedback. I enjoyed reading your very first blog post. Great info. And, a very wise Dad!

  14. Bob Burg said at 7:48 pm on

    Kumar: Greatly appreciate your kind words and comments. Hope you had a great vacation!

  15. Doug Wagner said at 9:53 pm on

    I am thinking that no matter what we know or think we know we should always challenge these beliefs periodically; even the ones we are taking on faith.

    The goal isn’t to disprove them but to be open to that possibility.

    By the way, I am pretty sure the world is flat and it is an illusion is isn’t.

    Great post Bob.

  16. Bob Burg said at 6:41 am on

    Doug: Indeed, I’ve never bought into this “world is round” thing either. Next thing they’ll be telling us is that donuts are fattening!

  17. Tom Hawkins said at 1:25 pm on

    Bob,

    Your belief system DOES make a difference. However, there are “beliefs” that are provable. Take a current political issue like income tax rates…where there is a nearly even split view. You can prove the fact that lowering income tax rates…to a point…INCREASES tax revenue to the government. This is provable by using economic principles/calculations. However many smart people don’t believe that due to their ideological viewpoint.

    However, I also believe that the world was created about 6000 years ago by God as the Bible says. However, I wasn’t there, so I cannot prove that. I think the evidence is pretty overwhelming, but I cannot prove it. That goes for those who believe in the fairly recent theory of evolution. That is not provable and I believe the the way “evolutionists” try to convince people that it’s true is silly. But yet…it’s my opinion ONLY…based on faith. Because neither can be proven.

    It is so interesting how ideology has essentially substituted “knowledge” for many.

    Thanks for the great post, Bob.

  18. Bob Burg said at 5:54 pm on

    Tom: That we as human beings are run by a set of subjective beliefs doesn’t mean there aren’t objective “truths.” There are just far fewer “truths” than what most of us most likely imagine to be true. From a human perspective, the truth is that “gravity works.” Someone has the right to believe it doesn’t, but that doesn’t change the truth about gravity. Thank you for joining the conversation.

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