I Didn’t Know That

Of all the things I’ve written or blogged about over the past five years, this message could have the most application in your life. I have always been fascinated with people. Often, I will seek out those of interest to me and dig deeper to discover what made them who they are. One of life’s great rewards is to recognize the genius in others, to see that they are special beyond description; just the way they are.

I do believe we find ourselves categorizing people; putting them into what we feel OUR paradigm of life is all about or what it SHOULD be. We find this slant in the way we hire folks, in the way we interact with them if their ideas are different than ours, in the way we eventually choose who our friends shall be. I remember a time when our company was conducting personality profiles to see whose resume’s fit into what we did. I took the test and failed. In a business I had started and grown for 20 plus years at that time-I was not profiled to succeed at it. We stopped using the test.

When my wife’s father moved in with us a couple of years ago, I was pretty upset with an issue of control that was apparently most meaningful to me; that of having “control” of the remote control. He took over control of the remote control on day one on our main level. Now, burned into the picture tube are things like Hee Haw, Jeopardy, Larry’s Country Dinner, and all other such equivalents that not only burn bad patterns into the TV screen, but also burn holes in my brain!

However, my wife’s dad is the kindest man. He talks to everyone he sees in any circle of his travels. He learns the most amazing things. He gives an outlet to those who do wish to share their voice. He amuses folks and brings a smile to their face. For the family, we’ve seen most of it before, and can usually mouth the words of what he is about to say; nevertheless, he says them anyway, and the folks to whom he is talking with have never heard those lines before. To them, they may each say sincerely in their conversation “I didn’t know that.”

I’ve seen this awful pride, of trying to fit the world into what they believe is the most relevant thought value of our time. If the idea is not the presenters, it’s no idea at all; if it’s different than what the script called for, it is off base; if it goes against the grain, you are labeled; and so on.

I one time asked the head of a company’s HR department if they wanted to hear of anything I had discovered regarding leadership. I do have a long history of this topic an am connected with some folks with pretty powerful ideas; so I thought I would share. “No,” was the immediate reply, “I’m a global expert on leadership, etc.” and so I kept my mouth shut, but my mind was also turned off at this point to listening to what they had to say. If this person had said “I would love to hear your ideas,” how much could we have learned from each other? Perhaps we could even say “I never knew that.”

This reminds me of a most powerful poem I just discovered by Alexandros Evangelou Xenopouloudakis:

They will declare: Every journey has been taken.
You shall respond: I have not been to see myself.
They will insist: Everything has been spoken.
You shall reply: My way is not complete.
You are warned: Any way is too long, any way to hard.
Fear not. You are the gate- you, the gatekeeper.
And you shall go through and on…

From the book Third Wish by Robert Fulghum

For each person on the planet, the journey is going to be different. That is the beauty of humanity. We ought to remember that when we invite those we engage with to tell their stories, share their ideas, expound upon what is in their hearts, and tell THEIR story, we will be so much the better.

I read about a person who withdrew from the cookie cutter world they knew, perhaps in their quest to discover or re-discover themselves. He thought about a couple of lines from the notebooks of Albert Camus:
“I withdrew from the world not because I had enemies, but because I had friends. Not because they did me an ill turn….but because they thought me better than I am. That was a lie I could not endure.”
From the book Third Wish by Robert Fulghum

Our pride can stand a good burial from time to time; we can become humble enough to recognize that what we have to say is not as important as what we’re about to learn through earnest listening and sincere dialogue. Perhaps we can also say, “I didn’t know that.”


Tonight when I get home, I’ll hear the voices of country twanged folks coming out of the TV tube, and as I at first silently mutter a sigh of disgust; as I proceed through the room and see grandpa sitting in his blanket with a smile on his face, I’ll focus on the kindness he shares and invites- he’s just prepping for the next friend he’ll make and learn from. This is an important part of what life is all about, did you know that?