Don’t Be Afraid To Say What You Don’t Know…You Know?

By: Katherine Itacy, Esq.

WARNING — Ego check now in progress. Proceed with caution.

Here’s a question for you: Up until now, has your way of doing something (i.e., performing your job, taking tests at school, maintaining a work/home life balance, maintaining friendships or relationships, etc.) gone perfectly, without fail, 100% of the time?

No?

Didn’t think so.

No judgment or need for shame here. Just pointing out that there’s room for improvement.

My stepson told us the other day that he no longer needs to attend basketball practice, because he “already know[s] how to play.” He’s seven.

Of course, my husband and I tried to explain to him that even the best NBA players practice for several hours a day, so he might still be able to learn something during his third season playing the game.

I also pointed out Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that in order to be considered a master at something, you typically have to invest at least 10,000 hours into working on it. Although, to be completely fair to Mr. Gladwell, he wasn’t saying that anyone who puts in enough time at something is going to be amazing at it. As he clarified in 2014, “I could pay chess for 100 years and I’ll never be a grandmaster. The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.”

Eli seemed to get what we were telling him, so the conversation ended soon after that.

But a few days later, I started thinking about E’s belief that he no longer needed to practice something that he’d been practicing a few hours a week, a few months out of the year for the last two years. And I began to reflect upon my own behavior and beliefs.

It didn’t take long for me to feel like a complete hypocrite.

I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) for almost 31 years at this point, and for a majority of those years, you couldn’t tell me shit about the disease. I bucked the most well-intentioned (and well-informed) advice and guidance from a myriad of sources about how to better my T1D management.

How ridiculously ballsy of me to think that I know all there is to know about my disease, just because I’ve lived with it for over three decades. Sure, I’ve learned a fair amount over the years, but during the entire time I’ve had T1D, I’ve never gotten it under “perfect” control.

Here I am with my favorite nurse of all time (besides my Mom), Cindy, at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

On the contrary. I’ve really fucked myself over because of how I mishandled my condition. I’m also not a trained medical professional, and have yet to attend any scientific conferences regarding advancements in the treatment of T1D.

Simply put, merely existing doesn’t make you an expert at anything (except maybe breathing in and out).

So it got me thinking — If your child came up to you and said that they didn’t have to study anymore because they already knew everything about that subject, how many seconds do you think it would take you to send them back to their room to keep studying? Not many, I’m guessing…

As an attorney, I always tried to let my clients know when and if I didn’t know something about the law. It would’ve been unethical for me to pretend like I knew.

But when it comes to me acknowledging a lack of knowledge or skills regarding something in my personal life? I have a much harder time admitting to myself that I could know more or do better.

So why do we tend to use that line of thinking as adults? Why do we let our ego and/or lack of time/motivation keep us from learning more about ourselves or about the world? Is it just because our parents (theoretically) can no longer tell us what to do? A resounding chorus of: “You’re not the boss of me!” is sounding off in my head…

Whatever the reason is, I’d suggest we swallow our collective pride and refuse to let our egos keep us from bettering ourselves, our lives, and the lives of those around us anymore.

Whether it’s learning to be a better friend, a better partner, a better worker, a better parent, or a better citizen, let’s re-enroll in the school of life and be more open to learning as adults.

Me, I’ve decided to invest more time into learning how to be a better writer and a ‘better diabetic’ (a relatively suggestive term, I know). I recently enrolled in a subscription to MasterClass, and I just started reading “Sugar Surfing” by Dr. Stephen W. Ponder and Kevin L. McMahon. I’m less than one hundred pages into the book and already, I’ve learned four or five new ways to maintain better control over my blood glucose levels (BGs). That’s more new information about my disease than I’ve learned in the last 10–20 years!

Now, I know not everyone is as stubborn as I am/have been up until now, and there are many adults out there continually working to better themselves. Hats off to you! But I’m willing to guess that each and every person out there would like to be better. Better informed, better prepared, better situated.

And it starts with first acknowledging what you don’t know. What I know is that I don’t know much about most things. So let’s go! School’s now and forever in session, my friends!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate is a disabled former criminal defense attorney living with her husband in Detroit, Michigan. Her memoir, From National Champion to Physically Disabled Activist: My Lifelong Struggles with a Diseased Body, and the Lessons it Has Taught Me Along the Way, is currently being considered by literary agents for representation.

She hopes that the book will empower young men and especially young women, with or without physical disabilities, to strive towards their goals and to view life’s obstacles as opportunities for self-growth, not as barriers.

You can email Kate directly at contactkate@katherineitacy.com.

To follow Kate on social media, visit and subscribe to/like her blog, Instagram page, Tumblr page, Twitter page, Google+ page, or her LinkedIn profile.

In addition to her blog, Kate also hosts and produces a podcast entitled: “Hear Me Roar — with Kate Itacy.” You can find the podcast’s website at http://hearmeroarpodcast.com.