The Advantage of Being Naïve

Be stupid.

Not knowing what you’re doing and not knowing what you “should” know, and being just a little bit dumb or naïve is sometimes a good thing. Knowing too much can be a bad thing.

Whether it’s in sports, business, or whatever, knowledge often limits what you do.

The examples are many: Entrepreneurs who jump in and make new ventures work despite many people with much more knowledge and experience saying it won’t work. Athletes who accomplish things because they didn’t know they shouldn’t be able to. Scientists not listening to what others have said and coming up with breakthroughs.

I love coaching young race drivers. Why? Because they don’t know what they can’t do; they think they can do anything. And so often, they can. They do things that many drivers with more experience would say can’t or should not be done. Things like driving through a corner with their right foot flat to the floor on the gas pedal, when others with more experience would tell you “that can’t be done.”

Many young drivers get sponsors to pay for their racing program for one reason: They ask for it. More experienced and knowledgeable drivers wouldn’t ask because they’d “know” they had nothing to offer. But being naïve meant these new racers weren’t limited to what they should or shouldn’t ask for.

I know a salesperson who doesn’t always do things “by the book.” But he makes things happen. And that’s because he isn’t limited by what others think. I’m not saying he’s dumb. In fact, he’s very smart. But he doesn’t let the rules, what others think is the right way, get in the way of getting things done.

So, how do you use what you know without that knowledge getting in the way? Without it limiting you? The trick, of course, is knowing when to trust your knowledge and experience, and when to turn your brain off and just go for it.

Try it. Turn off your brain; stop thinking about what can and can’t be done; stop thinking about what the “right” way is to do or think about something; stop listening to people that say you can’t do that… and just do it. Try it for a while. The problem is that you – and most everyone else – have been programmed to think in a certain way. So, until you consciously change the way you think, you’ll keep thinking the way you’ve always thought.

Consciously and deliberately act naïve. Expect to do the unexpected. Just do.

By the way, one of the most naïve businesspeople, in terms of not following what others say or what the norm is, is Sir Richard Branson. Did he do what others thought was the smart thing to do? No. And look where it got him.

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