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How Ignorance Works for and Against You as a Young Leader


One of the challenges in leadership today is you can google yourself into a million details. And soon, you’ll realize everything you don’t know. Or you’ll get so overwhelmed by details that you won’t act, because there are 10,000 things that could go wrong.

Details matter, but you can you can easily fall prey to paralysis by analysis.

The best leadership is visionary leadership.

Want to see something fun? Love or hate Steve Jobs, there was a powerful moment at the WWDC in 1997 when Jobs had just returned to Apple (“Oh, you mean like transforming Pixar and launching Toy Story??? And what exactly were you doing?” Sorry…that was me, not Steve Jobs).

You can watch the critic and Steve Jobs’ actual reply here.

During a live Q and A, a critic rather rudely and arrogantly accuses Jobs of not knowing enough about Java Script to be an effective leader, and then asked him what he’d been doing with the last seven years of his life after being exiled from Apple.

Jobs’ response is fascinating not only because it’s uncharacteristically humble, but because he admits he doesn’t know a lot of the details, and refocuses the answer on his vision, the customer and the team. It’s also fascinating because this is before the invention of the iPod and a decade before the introduction of the iPhone.

In many ways, the critic—who focused on the details and what Jobs didn’t know—was right. And he was completely wrong.

I don’t know who the critic is. I doubt anyone does now. My guess is he didn’t quite have the impact on the world that Jobs or Apple did.

And that’s the problem with critics. It’s easy to figure out what’s wrong. It’s hard to stay focused on what’s right.

You should really watch the exchange.

Negative views almost never lead to a positive vision for the future.


So now you see how ignorance can work for you, but it can also work against you, and it can be devastating.

Of all the areas in which ignorance can work against you, when it comes to self-awareness, ignorance is deadly.

Centuries ago, John Calvin, was trying to figure out the meaning of life, he began his treatise on Christianity and religion with this line: “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.”

It’s fascinating that a man known for his theology (his thinking would later be called Calvinism) began with self-knowledge. Calvin believed that those who don’t know themselves will never fully know God.

That’s a challenge for those of us who call ourselves Christians. Sometimes Christians can over-spiritualize life. It’s so much easier to look upward or outward than it is to look inward.

To look inward—to hold our lives up to a mirror—exposes the depth of our failings, and frankly, most of us would rather focus on the failings of others. But Calvin started there.

If you ever hope to really know God, you need to know yourself.

Let me ask you a question: How well do you know yourself? Truly?


Helping leaders become more self-aware in seven critical areas is why I wrote my latest book, Didn’t See It Coming. One reader called it a game-changer in self-awareness, another said it provided outstanding insight for his personal journey. (You can sample the over 225 reviews here.)

The book is about overcoming the seven greatest challenges that everyone experiences and no one expects—things like cynicism, pride, compromise, emptiness and burnout. These are the things you can’t afford to ignore because they cap your leadership or sometimes take you right out of leadership.

Self-awareness is the master key that opens up all the doors of your life. It makes you a better leader, a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend and a better follower of Jesus.

Self-aware people understand their strengths, their weaknesses, their limits and above all, their impact on others.

If you want to reach the full potential of your life and leadership, become deeply self-aware.

You can learn more about Didn’t See It Coming and get your copy here.


We’ve developed a couple of quick quizzes to help you assess your level of self-awareness on two key leadership issues: cynicism and burnout.

To find out what your cynicism level is, take this quiz.

To learn whether you’re burning out, take this quiz.

I hope my new book will help you spot the issues most leaders never see coming.

You can learn more here.


When has ignorance helped you?

When has it hurt you?

This article originally appeared here.