William Liao

February 14, 2022

leave room for doubt

The most creative and brilliant problem solvers that I know have one thing in common: they presume to know the least

They possess a kind of insoluble doubt about their understanding of the world. Not the sort of doubt that is debilitating, but rather the kind that offers a seemingly inextinguishable drive to seek knowledge and new ways of understanding.

As someone who grew up feeling a sense of shame anytime I didn’t fully understand something, this was a heartening observation to make.

At a dinner party several years ago with a professor from undergrad, I’ll never forget when I expressed to her how stupid I felt about a subject we were talking about. 

Her response was swift and encouraging: “good!” she said, “there’s nothing better than feeling stupid. It’s the ultimate impetus to go out into the world and seek ways to make sense of it.” 

Pursuing and having knowledge is good; it’s what makes life interesting, fulfilling, and humorous even. 

But never presume to know enough. 

Recognize your ignorance, leave plenty of room for doubt, save space (and energy) for all that you’ve undoubtedly yet to discover about what it means to live, work, and thrive.