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    What If You Weren’t Such a Know It All?

    Daily Stoic Emails

    You’re smart. You went to college. You’ve read lots of books. You’ve seen a thing or two.

    So you know a lot. When people have questions, you’ve got answers. When stuff happens, you’ve got opinions. When there are problems, you’ve got solutions. 

    This is great, right? Maybe. 

    Epictetus reminds us that “it’s impossible to learn that which you think you already know.” To the Stoics, particularly Zeno, conceitedness was the primary impediment to wisdom. Because when you’ve always got answers, opinions and ready-made solutions, what you’re not doing is learning. What you’re not doing is looking at things objectively, clearly, with fresh eyes. You’re just relying on instinct and preconceived notions. 

    Ego is the enemy for a reason. It blinds us. It distracts us. It puffs us up and prevents us from learning. The less of a know it all we are, the more we can actually get out and discover. The more open we’ll be. The wiser we’ll become.

    Remember, the key to Socrates’ philosophy was his admission of ignorance. It was his desire to ask questions, his willingness to be proven wrong, his interest in having conversations—with anyone about anything. He was smart because he was humble, not conceited because he was smart. 

    This is a skill we have to practice. We have to prevent ego from cutting us off from wisdom.