The power of ‘I don’t know!’

By Jolly Mokorosi
Photo courtesy of

Occasionally as leaders we are embarrassed to say we don’t know something. We do not want to admit this to our superiors,  clients, colleagues or our nearest and dearest (dare I say even to God!). Much of this has to do with pride but sometimes it is rooted in the fear of being ‘caught out’, looking stupid and other times a need to control. None of which are from God. What is from God is:

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.”– Proverbs 4:7-9 

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” -James 1:5

God does not expect us to know everything, that is His job and His alone. He does it with excellence beyond any human comprehension. What He does expect is for us to ask when we do not know and be open to receiving and acting on His wisdom. I sometimes have to tell people that I do not know the answer and will get back to them soon. As a person people look up to, it is tempting to think that this is a ‘career limiting move’ but this has seldom hindered me and to my surprise has increased people’s respect for me.

I actually started a whole business around helping those seeking wisdom and knowledge. This is how the seeds were sown. I was a junior employee in a big insurer and fund manager when I started getting invited to the more important and strategic meetings. There was a new financial instrument the chief actuary kept referring to, a Sicav. I knew nothing about it so I asked one of the senior consultants what it was. The response – an instrument listed on the Luxemburg Stock Exchange. I asked another senior person and another and another. The answer didn’t change.  That’s when it dawned on me. Most colleagues didn’t know what it was and were too embarrassed to admit it so proceeded to brush me off as quickly and politely as possible. How did I use this experience? Firstly I found out what a Sicav was with the help of the great world wide web. Then it dawned on me that there must be others like me. Fired up by the experience I passed on my knowledge by training and designed a whole introduction to institutional investing program for one of the divisions at work. I was eventually encouraged to join another company as a trainer and ultimately left to start own consultancy. Today I often start workshops by relating my story. Every workshop also starts with a disclaimer about the limitations in my own knowledge.  I put people at ease about my deficiency in knowledge therefore giving them the freedom to seek knowledge in a ‘safe space’ and add to the collective wisdom with their input.

I have for a while now quit trying to look like I know it all and actively discourage this belief. You lose the freedom to ask for help and to learn something new from someone else. To add to this the feeling of isolation created by this burden can be rather unpleasant. Do I always get it right? No. I sometimes stumble too but there is grace and the freedom of not having to perform is so liberating. I also find that people want to put you on a pedestal and force you to remain there. They lavish you with praise which can puff one up and create unrealistic expectations. When you fall from grace it is both painful and humiliating, even if it is in private. This is neither God’s heart or wish for you.

I pray that as you read this you have been released from the desire to perform or please others, seeking God’s wisdom in everything will become first nature to you and you would attain fulfillment and satisfaction in doing His bidding in every situation of your life.

About the Author

SMokorosi39Jolly is the Founder and CEO of Mokorosi Financial Consulting, in the recent past she was acting CEO of the Municipal Councillors Pension Fund. She has a passion for members’ rights in the pension fund industry and a desire to see women shine in the business arena. She is based in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she resides with the husband of her youth, Sam. They have five children, a grandchild and several pot plants.

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