Kyle Samera

The more you know, the more you know how much you don’t know

In a college finance class on the first day of class, my professor drew a small circle with a medium circle engulfing it. He labeled the small circle “what you know” and the medium circle “what you don’t know”.

He explained that at the beginning of his course, and the beginning of our finance careers, we were at this stage.

Then, he erased the small inner circle and drew a very large circle around the existing medium circle. He re-labeled the two circles, again with the inner, now-medium circle as “what you know” and the outer circle as “what you don’t know”.

This was where he was after all these years of teaching finance.

He didn’t say it, but his visual explanation was that of the Dunning-Kruger Effect—the opposite of Imposter Syndrome. It’s a phenomenon that observes that a person with a lack of knowledge or skills in a particular field will tend to overestimate their own abilities. And, in contrast, a person with strong knowledge or skills in a particular field will tend to underestimate their own abilities.

It makes sense. Years of confronting new learnings will humble you to the point where you accept that you might actually have less expertise than you actually do.

I’ve witnessed this first hand running my own businesses. My first e-commerce store had BRUTAL product photos and a lackluster website. But at that point, I thought I was crushing it.

The confidence was enough to carry me forward deeper into entrepreneurship, but that confidence has since regressed in recent years after being humbled in multiple ways (business tends to do that to you).

I’m not saying I’m anywhere near the high level of expertise that top entrepreneurs tend to have.

However, I do wish I could go back to being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, without a care for minor mistakes or imperfections before releasing a product. Because at that point, I didn’t know any better.

Now that I know how much I don’t know, it’s much harder to beat the doubtful mind when testing new ideas or strategies.

I can’t say I have a perfect solution to combatting this mindset other than the fact that it’s just a limiting belief. And usually, those can be shattered with simple proof.

I intend on proving my abilities.