To uncover the secrets of success, everyone looks to industry experts and global influencers for answers. After all, they've been there and done that. However, replicating Oprah's daily habit or waking up at 5 A.M. every morning won't help you become an expert or achieve your own success.
After interviewing some of the most impressive people in the world for the Influencers podcast, one surprising admission kept popping up: Nobody knows what they are doing.
No one--no matter how talented and intelligent--starts out as an expert. Do you think Neil Degrasse Tyson was chatting about astrophysics from birth? That Stacy London has been a fashion icon since infancy?
Even after years of experience, they still make mistakes and experience failure like the rest of us. Contrary to what you may believe, their lack of certainty and awareness of it is the key to their success.
Here are three reasons why:
1. We learn more from being wrong.
Through experience and much trial and error, they've developed expertise, but that doesn't mean that they are always right or even close. In reality, most are strongly familiar with failure and being wrong, because they've had to make countless mistakes to get to where they are now.
When I chatted with Nobel Prize winner Martin Chalfie, he said, "You have to deal with failure in every walk of life." Embrace your failures and mistakes, because they could be what leads you to your greatest discovery yet.
2. It reminds us to be humble.
Despite being recognized leaders in their industries, most experts experience uncertainty and are humbled by it. As much as they have developed their expertise, there are many times when they feel like they don't know what they are doing.
At best, they've developed enough thought leadership and understanding to make smarter decisions. As they grow in their career and stature, the stakes get higher.
Being wrong comes at a greater price, so they don't get comfortable. They are constantly seeking knowledge and answers.
3. Embracing uncertainty is key to expertise.
My father used to say "The less a person knows, the more they speak in absolutes."
Extraordinary people begin with the context of not knowing. When you speak in absolutes, you are being arrogant and more likely to make foolish decisions.
One of the defining characteristics of a true influencer is the ability to admit you don't know everything. Embrace uncertainty. It is a quality that is hard to find in a world where it seems like anyone with an Instagram account is a "photographer" or anyone with a blog is a "writer".
There seems to be no honing of skills or milestones that you need to accomplish to be considered a social media influencer. This is not to take away from the effort and creative work that many of these individuals produce, but rather highlight that having a large following is no substitute for years of experience, training, and hard work.
Yet, many who claim to be influencers speak with so much certainty that it makes one wonder how much they truly know. Instead of pretending to know it all, be honest.
Uncertainty drives us to explore and discover. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Push boundaries and see what breaks. If you want to be extraordinary, embrace uncertainty, it is the greatest opportunity to learn and grow.