We Know Everything. We Know Nothing.

We Know Everything. We Know Nothing.

I once had a boss who proudly proclaimed that no matter who was in the room, he would be the smartest person there. Assuming that he was joking, I laughed. He wasn't joking and didn't laugh. He seriously believed that he was the smartest person no matter where he went.

That seems like a tough act to keep up. What happens when you're just hanging out and the Beautiful Mind guy walks in? Or Rain Man? Or Steven Hawking? There are so many people out there who are insanely smart, and you don't have to live too long to realize that you're not the smartest person. Confidence may compensate for some things but lack of knowledge isn't one of them.

We've all heard the saying, "Jack of All Trades, Master of None." Claiming to be the smartest person in the room is a lot like that. You can be great at some things or the best at one thing, but it all takes time and work. It never becomes true by simply declaring it.

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell writes that it takes approximately ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. That's a lot of time to focus on one thing! In the book, Gladwell gives many examples of this to support his assertion. Here's a couple that stand out.

Drop Out or Sneak Out

We all know how Microsoft was founded. Bill Gates and Paul Allen dropped out of college to form the company in 1975. Super simple right? Drop out of college, start company, become billionaire. Wrong! Gates and Allen had thousands of hours of programming under their belts before they quit college to found Microsoft. The co-founders first met at Lakeside, an elite private school in the Seattle area. The school raised three thousand dollars to purchase a computer terminal for the school's computer club in 1968. Finding a computer terminal was rare in 1968, even at a university, but Gates had access to one in eighth grade.

Both Gates and Allen quickly became addicted to programming. The Gates family lived near the University of Washington. As a teenager, Gates fed his programming addiction by sneaking out of his parents' home after bedtime to use the computer at the university. Gates and Allen had already acquired their ten thousand hours well before the time came for them to launch Microsoft in 1975.

Play 'Til Your Fingers Bleed

In 1960, while they were an unknown high school rock band, the Beatles went to Hamburg, Germany, to play in the local clubs. They weren't that good, so they were forced to play in some of the less popular basement clubs. At many of the better clubs, there would be multiple bands that played each night. The Beatles, on the other hand, were the only act playing at many of these clubs. This led to them playing for hours. Hours and hours of non-stop playing time that forced them to get better.

As time went on, they grew in skill and audiences demanded more performances leading to even more playing time. By 1962, they were playing eight hours a night, seven nights a week. By 1964, the year they burst onto the international scene, the Beatles had played well over 1,200 concerts together. Most bands today don't even play 1,200 times in their entire career. The Beatles had acquired the ten thousand hours it takes to master something. They became the best at it.

At Newhall Klein, our roots are deep in the world of design. Not just graphic design but also innovation design and design thinking. We love to think, dream and create, and we are good at it. Collectively, our team has over 130 years (250,000 hours) of experience. That's a lot of ten thousand hours! But even with all of that expertise, we still have so much to learn. And we're not afraid of that.

At NK, we're smart. We're smart enough to know that we don't know it all. But that's one of our strengths. We are passionately curious. We are lifelong learners who love to find out what we don't know about our client, their industry, their customers – so that we can help them best tell their story. Not knowing everything frees us up to explore, dream and create. Not knowing everything allows us to approach everything with a dose of humility. That's why we can proudly proclaim that we know nothing.

Get in touch and see how we can use our expertise in not knowing everything to serve you.

Jason Julien

Jason Julien

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