May 26, 2021 | by Budi Tanrim
There are two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the young fish swim for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”
—David Foster Wallace
We don’t know what we don’t know.
That is precisely why we need to be lifelong learners.
You subconsciously hold a viewpoint—it’s how you see the world. Mainly your background and life experience influence your viewpoint.
Here’s the thing: Our viewpoint, no matter what level we are, is always incomplete or inaccurate. We simplify the complex world because our brain can’t hold all the details from reality. It’s known as “mental models”.
Knowing we have an incomplete viewpoint doesn’t mean we should be insecure. Insecurity can slow us down from learning.
Instead, you need to acknowledge that you come with an incomplete viewpoint. Being in the beginner mindset and have the humility to learn. Your goal is to expand your viewpoint.
For example, when a junior designer enters the industry, she will come with an incomplete viewpoint in her early career. She would assume there is a clean process. Such as the popular five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. This is her viewpoint. Then she meets the messy reality and becomes puzzled when her model didn’t work.
Confusion is not a bad thing. What you can do here is to reflect. To question your viewpoint critically.
If what you believe didn’t work, perhaps there’s something you need to change about the way you see the world. Reflect and update your point. If there are too many missing puzzle pieces, write down the question you have. It’s exhausting to readjust our beliefs continually, but it’s necessary.
Reflection is an essential part of a lifelong learner. To continually observe, gain new knowledge—even though it’s conflicting with our view, and update our view.