How what we know holds us back

It might just be that what we know is holding us back. This doesn’t sound right, does it? The conventional wisdom is that the more you know the better off you are.


This is mostly true. What I am referring to is the part that falls outside of the mostly. Something that is an actual scientific confirmed human error called: “Confirmation¬†bias”.

Confirmation bias is simply the name for us seeing what we believe to be true. More specifically, this bias drives us to seek information that is compatible with beliefs we currently hold. We will read a post on Facebook that confirms what we believe is true. We either never see or ignore those that tell us something different. This results in our knowledge about a certain subject to grow stronger.

This not a bad thing if you want to specialize in your field of choice. In fact, when I need a hip replacement, I want my friend, who is the leader in orthopedic hip replacements, to do the operation. There is nothing wrong with specialization. As long as we also acknowledge the danger of over-focusing on one subject alone.

Our brain is wired to pay attention to detail as well as be aware of the bigger picture. Specialization is the process of zooming in on only the detail part. The detail then becomes our world and we are mesmerized by the wonders and beauty of a single subject. Please enjoy this awe-inspiring experience. Just remember that there is a whole world outside that experience. Come to the surface and see the bigger picture as well.

The danger of only focusing on what you know is that the richness of life, the innovation, the solution of a persistent problem, waits for you in the field of what you do not know. Not keeping this door open while you focus on the detail, strengthens the confirmation bias and it is the bias that that holds us back. The problem with this bias is that it tends to infuse the person suffering from this bias with self-righteousness.

As we all know, self-righteous people are not very productive members of society. They usually are stuck in one place and struggle to change and adapt to an ever dynamic environment.

My invitation then for all of us to check and see if we are keeping ourselves back by suffering from what we know. Let us explore that what we do not know. Speak to those we disagree with in such a way that we have a better understanding of them and their point of view (Without necessary changing ours. Sometimes other peoples’ point of view is not that great).

Happy exploring