Knowledge is a wonderful thing! Some people call my partner, Camille, and me “Information Junkies.” We are interested in a lot of topics! Many of these topics relate directly to the work we do. Other topics are clearly outside the realm of work. Either way, there are times when we need to step back and ask ourselves, “Is it possible that we already know enough?”
I am not suggesting that we – or anyone else – should STOP learning new things. It’s more about recognizing if there are diminishing returns.
Do You Know Enough to Keep Your Job?
Sometimes people have little choice about whether to learn more. In many professions, information and technology changes very rapidly. Keeping up with technology is usually not an option. If someone doesn’t know enough about the newest methods or the newest advances in their field, they may not be able to meet current job expectations. Yet, this type of skills or knowledge gap is not my focus in this post.
The focus here is on situations in which a person may actually know enough to be successful yet perceives that there is a clear need to know more.
Do You Know Enough to Do Your Job Well?
For years, most of my coaching clients needed help with a concept that we know these days as “Emotional Intelligence.” When I started helping engineers and scientists “play well with others,” clients called me “the soft skills expert.” When I asked a client what his goals were, the response was often, “I need to listen better. And, I need to be able to notice when I’ve said something that upset one of my co-workers.” At that point, I would think, “This guy is working with the right person. I know how to help him with those things!”
Today, many clients still need to know how to listen attentively to their co-workers. They still need to learn how to interpret body language. Yet, practically every week, it seems that there is new information about various aspects of Emotional Intelligence. So, I ask myself,
Would one more course, or a certification in Emotional Intelligence, make me a better coach? Or am I good enough with what I know now?
You may be asking yourself a similar question right now.
How about Knowing Enough to Enjoy Retirement?
Perhaps you are already retired. Or you are close to retirement. While we hear a lot about how much money we need to have in savings before retiring, it is also important to find a “purpose” or mission in retirement. In retirement, others are less likely to judge us about “knowing enough” than when we were still employed.
Many of the retired people that I know are happiest when they can “give back” and are useful to other people. My late father-in-law was a retired mechanic. He was happiest when he was showing other people how to change motor oil or replace a flat tire. When he came to our home, he taught me a lot about repairing things. He knew enough about a lot of things – and it helped him feel useful.
If giving back helps older people find a purpose in their later years, they need to make at least two lists:
- What things do I know enough about to be helpful to others?
- Which family members, friends, or organizations might be interested in what I have to share?
Questions for Reflection
- Are you good enough at certain things already? Is so, what are those things?
- Do you really need to learn more about all the topics that interest you? Are you reaching the point of diminishing returns?
- How much more do you want to know or learn in order to live a fulfilling life? Is knowledge itself your reward?
- What are some ways that you can freely share your knowledge or skills to help others?