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“Bob Burg opens the floodgates to Fort Knox.”

~ Dottie Walters, Author, Speak & Grow Rich

Posts Tagged ‘Mark Twain’

What Gets Us Into Trouble

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

What Gets Us Into TroubleOne of the most often asked questions I receive during podcast interviews is, “What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?”

This is actually one of the easiest questions for me to answer. There are two pieces of advice.

The first is, “listen a lot more…and speak a lot less.” (Both were definitely issues.)

But, it’s the second one that’s the biggie. I’d relate — with an exclamation mark in my voice — to “younger Burg” one of my all-time favorite sayings:

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.”

I don’t know who originally said that. Mark Twain is often credited. While he said something somewhat similar in one of his books, he didn’t quite say that.

Regardless, in my opinion, it’s brilliant, and it’s something I wish I’d known those many years ago when I thought I knew it all.

What a difference-maker that would have been!

At 20, I was absolutely, positively, and without question certain that I knew how the world worked and what people thought. And, why they were wrong.

It call came down to what I thought; no, what I knew. And, what I knew that I knew.

Except that it turned out I didn’t. Not even close. I ended up being so very wrong about so many things.

As human beings, we make decisions and judgements based on very, very limited information.

We tend to do this well after we are 20 years old. I did. I’m sure I still do.

Sometimes, what we know that “just ain’t so” simply fits the belief system in which we grew up. Other times it’s the beliefs and words of our friends, teachers, peer group, political party, or even those things our favorite media personalities believe.

Of course, there are times when what we know for sure is indeed true. But I suspect that’s far less often than we’d like to believe.

The good news is that the moment we become aware of this phenomenon of human nature, we can take steps to correct it.

My friend, leadership authority Jesse Lyn Stoner, tweeted:

“Instead of believing everything you think, think about what you really believe.”

Screenwriter and producer Britt Michaelian tweeted:

“Whatever it is that you resist can only be effectively transcended if you question every ‘certainty’ along the way.”

And, 100 years earlier, iconic playwright George Bernard Shaw tweeted (only kidding) ;-):

“Progress is impossible without change, and those that cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

The above quotes remind me of how my 20-year-old self absolutely knew what he knew… that just wasn’t so.

Seems we see this constantly these days on television, social media, and pretty much wherever people meet in person. And from all the various points of view, right?

Not only would I like to see more respectful and civil communication between those with opposing viewpoints; I’d like to see us questioning our own beliefs just to make sure that what we absolutely know for sure…really IS so.



True Wisdom… and False Lessons

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

True Wisdom... and False LessonsA famous teaching by Mark Twain in his Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar says:

“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it, and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again — and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more.”

Like practically all Twain-isms, this one is a gem. How often do we learn from an experience or a teaching but rather than stopping at the actual wisdom, take the lesson to a false conclusion?

A few quick examples:

  1. You buy something from a merchant and discover later that he was dishonest in his dealings with you.

    The wisdom: Pay attention.

    The false lesson: All merchants are cheats, so never trust any of them.

  2. You hear that it’s important to always speak truthfully to people when providing feedback.

    The wisdom: Communicating truthfully is much more helpful to that person than saying only what they want to hear.

    The false lesson: Your feedback must be conducted brutally, without tact or empathy. No need to frame it properly so that he or she will be encouraged rather discouraged.

  3. You learn that in sales persistence is important to success.

    The wisdom: Don’t let the NO’s get you down. Keep plugging away. Work past the NO’s until you get to the YESes.

    The false lesson: Keep calling the same person continually and annoying them.

As the Sages taught, “Who is wise? The one who learns from all others.”

Part of this wisdom is knowing the difference between the hot stove-lid… and the cold one.

What examples of true wisdom and false lessons can you share with us?

The Enemy of Knowledge

Monday, January 13th, 2014

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

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


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?