Lesson Learned: Don’t be afraid of looking dumb

A word of advice for new designers entering their field, or for that matter, anyone beginning a new job or career.

Now, when I say dumb, I’m not referring to being stupid or lazy. I simply mean speaking or asking about a thought or idea that you do not fully understand.

Have I been dumb in the past? Obviously.
Should I continue to be dumb in the future? Of course!

This doesn’t mean I should stop learning, and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be learning from each time you are dumb. This article is merely a reminder that you should never sit back and be afraid to look dumb.

It is very rare that I will walk into a new job or project fully knowledgeable and have every answer I need. This is also the same time where I usually feel that I need to prove myself, and the anxiety of looking uneducated is at an all-time high. But I will have questions, I will have problems, and my job in most cases will rely on learning from others. So I had to become comfortable with that feeling of looking dumb.

But once I became comfortable with that, I began to like it. If I don’t know something, It doesn’t matter how much experience I have on the topic, I should aspire to learn more, and we should never feel guilty about that. No matter how rudimentary something is, no matter how novice, or “common sense” something is, if I don’t know it, I need to learn it. So that feeling became something of an achievement for me learning something new!

He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.

This proverb has followed me for the majority of my adult life. I will always ask for clarification whenever I encounter a new topic, since I’d preferably understand it now, versus not understand it at all.

On the other side of being dumb, don’t be afraid of pitching your thoughts or opinions either. I had a long time where I was missing out on opportunities to share my ideas just to have someone else pitch them for me or let them expire in my brain. So when you have a new idea or thought, don’t be scared share it and explore it with others so you can truly evaluate it.

So this lesson of being comfortable while looking dumb is a part of me now, and when I feel that anxiety creep up, I simply jump past it and learn something new. But I continue to hear many people, be it friends or colleagues chatter after a discussion on how they didn’t understand something or didn’t pitch their idea. So this is a quick reminder to them.

No one is going to judge you for asking a question or sharing a thought; people will only judge you if you don’t.