Default: I Don’t Know
Instant gratification… every answer literally at our fingertips…
We need not retain or think or reflect or discover and when we do, there’s often some glorious person, standing on the sidelines, judging us as weird or a know-it-all or special for having a deep interest, a passion, as sense of curiosity.
I’m reminded of mic-drop moment that Earl Nightingale shares in The Strangest Secret… that men simply do not think.
Please—we’re saying men here in generality. Substitute in “people” before you start man-bashing (or not… it’s your brain).
I watch this phenomenon in my teenage students. When faced with a task or question, they click into “I don’t know” and give up mode immediately. They don’t give themselves moment or several moments to process, think, consider or get curious.
It’s just “I don’t know” and abandon.
I don’t accept that. I reject that and guide them to choose again.
From there, I watch the look of relief and burgeoning confidence.
This happens, almost without fail, when I ask my freshmen to create accounts on a website our school uses to check the originality of their essays. They type in the web address just fine. I show them where the “Create Account” button is… and then they slam on the brakes. “I don’t know what to do here” is the default response for some because, although they are the most internet-savvy generation, they haven’t necessarily registered for something academic, formal, something with “security questions.” They want to give up and they let distraction kick in right away before curiosity and inquiry. It’s easier to just click over to another website than to take 30 seconds to figure this out.
I never yell. I don’t get frustrated. I don’t fill out the registration for them. I sit down beside every student who slips into default give-up mode and say something along the lines of, “I know that you’ve used websites before where you’ve had to log in. I know that if the hottest pair of sneakers was on the other side of this instead of a plagiarism checker, you would fly right through these fields and questions. You already know how to do this. Show me. Prove me right.” I’ve never met a student who couldn’t complete this task. Some need guidance or more time and I readily give them help. But they can all figure it out.
In little moments like this, it would be easy to just yell, “Do it!” or create the account for them… or give them a zero for not having an account. But this way uncovers a channel in their brains, clears the brush from the default path and reminds them that they can. These moments compound to empowerment, resilience, and autonomy that is often overlooked in the default ways we learn to do things.
How often do you, dear readers, stop before you even start? Talk yourself out of trying something new, a recipe, an activity, a training, because it’s unfamiliar?
Sure, it’s easy and comfortable to stay right where you are… but you can’t grow there. And I know that you have some amazing feats to tackle and gifts to share.
Working to shift the default from “I don’t know” to “Let’s figure this out!”
Learning… unlearning… relearning.