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“Strum, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know”

You_Dont_Know_What_You_Dont_Know-300x223Today’s Struming repeats one of the top 5 most read Strumings of all time (of almost 500). Perhaps it is popular because Strumings readers already know that I don’t a lot. But as it states, the key is not knowing everything, but merely finding someone who knows what you don’t (and listening to them). Enjoy.

Alas, those words (”Strum, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know”) were shouted at me by the late Bob Ellis years ago at BBDO. It was the late 70s and I was a young AE on the Pine-Sol account at BBDO, which was and still is one of the world’s largest ad agencies. Bob was an Executive Vice President at the agency and part of the BBDO’s senior management. People were scared of Bob (I know I was). He was tough and brilliant. I admired and respected Bob and he pushed me to be a better account guy by grilling me on Pine-Sol’s business details (share of market in Chicago, share of advertising spend in LA, etc.). My job was to know the details. There were no PCs, no internet. I had a good memory and carried around a lot of details in my mental hard drive, a trait which served me well on the way up.

However, I was too full of myself and my supposed knowledge of their business and the way advertising worked. I became a bit too arrogant and Bob called me out. Bob rightfully gave me an well-deserved attitude adjustment while drilling me a new *#$ -hole. I was humbled and crestfallen when he screamed at me. I was upset, defensive and I remember thinking that Bob was way out of line and 100% wrong.
Of course he was 100% right, and however painful that day was, he did me a favor. He made he pause and think about what I really knew vs. what I thought I knew.

Interestingly I realized how little I really knew as I rose through the management ranks and then ultimately became the head of two ad agencies. I learned that the goal is not knowing everything. That’s unachievable. The goal in business and in life is simply this:

Knowing What You Don’t Know

And over the years as I’ve gotten wiser and more experienced (and yes somewhat grumpier), I’ve come to realize I don’t know a lot, but I’m more than OK with that. Wise leaders surround themselves with brilliant people who do know a lot. And the talent of a leader is having the wisdom and self-confidence to go to others to seek knowledge and wisdom.

Today I can happily say that while I still don’t know plenty, I am indeed now on the road to knowing what I don’t know.

As I age I now realize that The More I Know, The More I Don’t Know. And I’m more than OK with that. Thanks for chewing me out, Bob.




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