3 steps to be a learn-it-all instead of a know-it-all

3 steps to be a learn-it-all instead of a know-it-all

Posted on May 23, 2017

Last week, I fell victim to the urge of being a know-it-all instead of being a learn-it-all. Because of this urge I lost a very good opportunity to learn a little bit more. You see, I had called one of my mentors to learn his insights on the market trends in our industry. It had been almost a year since I spoke to him and wanted to use this opportunity to learn as much as I can. Most of the conversation was very helpful to me and it could have been more helpful had I resisted the urge to be a know-it-all.

In my past conversations with my mentor, I always get one or two books recommendations and it was that time during the conversation to get a book recommendation. Before me asking, my mentor mentioned the book, “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. I have been a huge fan of David Allen since 2009. I have documented that on my blog and also bastardized some of his stories in my book, “Manage. Lead. Transform: A Project Manager’s Guide to Reducing Project Timelines by 50% or More.”. In that moment, I could not resist the urge to being a know-it-all. I blabbered on about David Allen and GTD for a few minutes trying to showcase my knowledge. It was totally unnecessary which wasted his time and my time.

If I did not want to be disingenuous by saying, “Hmm..sounds interesting. I will check that book out.”, I could have at least veered the conversation by asking, “Hmm, what other book have you read recently?”. By resisting the urge to be a know-it-all, I could have benefitted like I did on numerous other occasions when my mentor recommended great books to me. I am using this missed opportunity be a lesson learnt to become a learn-it-all.

So, here are the 3 steps that may help in becoming a learn-it-all.

Step One: Shift the mindset by understanding the benefit of becoming a learn-it-all.

Know-it-all mindset may give some pleasure. It may feel good to show off. But that is temporary. In the long run, a know-it-all mindset is like a cup that is full. No matter how much water you pour into it, it just overflows. Whereas a learn-it-all mindset is going to bear fruit time and time again. The advantages of this mindset which is called the “Growth Mindset” by Carol Dweck, has been well researched and documented in her book, “mindset, THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS: HOW WE CAN LEARN TO FULFILL OUR POTENTIAL.”. This book is so popular that multiple people have referenced it in their interviews and articles. Here are couple of those references, one by Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella and the other by Tony Robbins.

Now that you understand deeply that a know-it-all mindset is not that useful, you may still not be able to resist the urge and here is the next step to help you during the spur of the moment.

Step Two: Count to ten to resist the urge to be a know-it-all.

When you become aware of the urge to be a know-it-all then count to ten before speaking out. This may give you the time to not become a slave of your urges. This urge may be easy for some and difficult for others. To get some tips on resisting this urge, Google ” marshmallow test on 4-year olds”, an experiment conducted by Stanford to study the techniques that 4-year olds used to resist the urge to eat candy/cookie/marshmallow. This will give you some insights on how our brain works and how we can build the self-control muscle.

While you are getting better at resisting this urge, there is one more thing called, the “willpower fatigue” that you should remember. By resisting too many urges, you may lose your willpower and bounce back. In some cases, the bounce back can come in the most obnoxious manner at the most inopportune moment. To help in not blowing up when faced with the willpower fatigue, you may want to follow the next step of sharing your knowledge in an appropriate medium.

Step Three: Share your knowledge in the appropriate medium.

It may be a huge ask for most of us to resist the urge to be a know-it-all day in and day out. It may result in willpower fatigue. To avoid this scenario, you may want to find the right avenue or the right medium to share your knowledge. Maybe you may want to teach a class or write an article or write a guest blog post, or post reviews on Amazon on the subject/object (product) of your interest, or share a presentation on slideshare.

By doing any of the above-mentioned activities, you will find a helpful medium to overcome your willpower fatigue. In the heat of the moment, when the urge to become a know-it-all rears its ugly head, you may be able to divert your mind towards the title of your next blog post/article/presentation/review on this subject which may give you sufficient time to overcome this urge.


Sam Harris once said if any of his friends came to him to solve any of their problems then he would be able to do that in practically no time whereas solving his own problems would be a different story altogether. In the same vein, it may be very easy for some of you to follow these 3 steps but it may be not be as easy for me. So, whenever I falter, I will remind myself to come back to this page to follow my own advice. That way, I will have one less regret of “coulda. woulda, shoulda”.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!!!

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