What is the key to success?
Answered by Richard Saul Wurman
  • Richard Saul Wurman

    Richard Saul Wurman

  1. Richard Saul Wurman Architect, Author, Designer, TED Conference Creator


    I think, by 76, you make up somewhat apocryphal fables about yourself. That allows you to live in this world, and give quick explanations to people on airplanes. So I've said, often, that my life is driven not by my abilities but by my ignorance. That my power comes from my knowledge, and embrace, with that ignorance. That I know more about my ignorance, than you know about yours. You're equally ignorant, but I embrace my ignorance.

    And when you embrace your ignorance -- and that everything you know comes from your ignorance, curiosity, and desire to understand things -- you have an unlimited repertoire. What's hammered into us in our life is to work out our expertise. Gain expertise. Become a better architect, a better writer, a filmmaker. Work yourself up in the company by doing your job better -- showing that you have expertise. Well, by that, you've limited your repertoire to your expertise.

    Now, if I say, I have no skillsets, and I'm ignorant, I have no repertoire. Therefore, I can do anything. I am not selling my abilities. I am selling my inabilities. And each of the tasks I do… is the journey from not knowing, to knowing. That's the journey of curiosity. From not knowing (curiosity), asking a question (to knowing). That's the fundamental diagram. That's the backbone of the searching person.

    It's uncomfortable at a meeting to say, "I don't understand a word you're saying." It's uncomfortable to tell your boss, you don't understand him. It's uncomfortable to tell somebody, "That was a lousy speech. I couldn't understand a word you said." It's uncomfortable to read a book, not understand it, and then blame yourself. Or a newspaper, or a TV show, or a news show. And yet, we don't understand most of what comes over our television.

    And we fill up the space with saying, "Keeping busy?" "How you doing?" "How you feeling?" "How's it going?" You can't answer any of those questions. Those aren't good questions. But we never have a course at any school, in curiosities, in ignorance, in the question. Well, my whole life has been a series of self-help-taught courses on curiosity, my ignorance, and the question.

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