When kids don’t understand something, they ask about it. But along the way to adulthood, we become self-conscious—we fear judgment for our ignorance, so we stop asking questions. And until I started reading Mastery by Robert Greene, I never realized how much of an impediment to learning this fear can be.
With all things money, adults feel like they should have it mastered. After all, we use it every day. But did you study personal finance in college? Grad school? Did your parents teach you? I would venture to guess that an overwhelming majority of Americans would answer ‘no’ to all three of those questions. So why do we build up a wall of arrogance as if there is nothing more for us to learn?
Greene writes that humans have an unlimited ability to learn, but we also unwittingly damper the process by putting up barriers. He explains, “These include a sense of smugness and superiority whenever we encounter something alien to our ways, as well as rigid ideas about what is real or true, often indoctrinated in us by schooling or family.” So instead of asking questions, we pretend to already know the answer.
We pretend because we hate the feeling of being lost. Unfortunately, that pretense greatly impairs our ability to learn. In contrast, Greene explains, “Children are generally free of these handicaps. They are dependent upon adults for their survival and naturally feel inferior. This sense of inferiority gives them hunger to learn.” Kids have no shame in asking because they don’t feel like they are expected to know the answer.
So the next time you are confused about your finances, taxes, or anything else in your life, push back against that uneasy feeling and find an answer, even if it means asking an “embarrassing” question. You’ll actually learn something, plus, chances are that everyone else is asking themselves the same question.
Green prompts, “Understand: when you enter a new environment, your task is to learn and absorb as much as possible. For that purpose you must try to revert to a childlike feeling of inferiority—the feeling that others know much more than you and that you are dependent upon them to learn and safely navigate your apprenticeship.”
If you don’t know what’s going on, good—that’s an opportunity to learn. Replace that self-conscious feeling with a desire to absorb new information and learn something, especially when it comes to money. You’re only hurting yourself by embracing ignorance.
Josh Norris is an Investment Advisory Representative of LeFleur Financial. Josh can be reached at josh@LeFleurFinancial.com.