“Everyone you meet knows something you don’t know.” This was the text of Facebook post I saw recently. And, my first thought was, of course they do, they know their name, address, hometown and many other personal details. But, as I thought about it, I realized how true this is on many levels. Everyone has a life story that is much deeper than that one has on a surface level. It might be that the barista at Starbucks was a highly skilled and effective lawyer before retiring to a simpler life. The person cleaning your hotel room might have been a doctor before being forced to flee oppression in their home country. The handyman you use for household repairs knows how to take engines apart and put them back together. When one goes through life as a “know it all,” they miss the opportunity to learn from others. Maybe that is what scares them – that they might not know it all. I think this reminder that everyone you meet knows something you don’t is wise. It is a reminder that we can learn from others, especially if we can put aside egos, conflicts, or political differences and have a conversation. In our world as trial consultants, it means for our trial lawyer clients to open their ears and listen to what “normal” people think about the issues in their case. It is not possible, nor wise, to assume one knows what others are thinking. Hearing their thoughts in words is critical.
David’s writing reminds me of the childhood taunt, “I know something you don’t know.” It’s true; I do know something, many things, you don’t know. It is equally true that you know something I don’t know. It isn’t possible for any of us to know everything about everything. Meeting someone in one’s field of study or profession who is always better at the task at hand is a certain reminder of this truism. I became aware, at times, painfully aware, of this fact when I was in graduate school. From the time I was in kindergarten until I earned my college degree, I thought I was pretty smart. Compared to the other students with whom I shared classes, my grades and standardized test scores convinced me that I was “miles above” most of them. Well, this all came to an end when I met Bob, or as he is more formally known, Dr. Robert K. Bothwell. For the first time in my life, I was merely in second place. If I got a score of 98 on an exam in graduate school, Bob got a score of 100. Time after time after time. Bob evidently knew something I didn’t know. In fact, he still knows a lot of things I can barely comprehend. Another way to convince oneself that one has something to learn is to attempt to master a new skill. As I have written many times before, playing the bass guitar has been a wonderful exercise in humility for me. Being exposed to a plethora of fantastic musicians, who have been kind enough to befriend me, an average (at best), bass player has been all the proof I need that I have a lot to learn and further, I will never know everything there is to know. Pay attention, keep an open mind, and maybe you will learn something from someone you never expected would teach you!