How feeling stupid and failure free us

My niece sent me an article this week on the importance of stupidity in scientific research. It’s a great article – here’s a link. Basically, when we encounter a lot of stuff that we don’t know, we feel stupid. And it’s a good thing when we admit it, because we are then free to get up out of our seats and move about the cabin. The article focuses on how that works for scientists, freeing them up to research things that they don’t know, set up experiments, fail, try something else and keep going…because even the experts don’t know everything and feel stupid frequently.

I’ve always phrased it slightly differently. I don’t think there are any real grown-ups, just little kids in grown-up suits playing at knowing stuff. But the point is the same. If there aren’t any real grown-ups, then we might as well step up to the plate ourselves and take a swing, instead of waiting for the “real leaders” to come along and take responsibility.

When we tell our ego to shush, and we look at the vastness of what we don’t know, it is strangely calming. And freeing. We don’t have to have all the answers. If we had them, we wouldn’t be here. (I just spent a few minutes daydreaming about where I would be instead.) Same with failure. If we knew how to do everything perfectly, there would be nothing new to try, to learn. If we never failed, we either never tried or we’re off in that not-here place.

The article also dances near another one of my favorite topics – antivictimologyhood. It goes like this: just because we don’t know the answer doesn’t mean we have an excuse to sit and steep in confusion. If we don’t know, we get to go do research and see if we can find out. We don’t get to be victims of our ignorance, we have the responsibility to go learn.

Okay, well, we can be victims if we want to be. No one can take away that inalienable right. But we know what that looks like, right? Misery. Woe. Despair. Powerlessness. And other not fun ways of living.

It seems to me that the certainty that I will try stuff and fail, that I will encounter a lot that I don’t know and don’t understand and I am going to feel stupid – that certainty makes me feel strangely free and a little bit brave.

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!

Love and light,



I’ve got a new program coming out soon, combining Color Thinking and leadership development. Schedule a call if you’d like to chat about it. I’d like to hear your ideas. I have a couple of spaces in the pilot still open.

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