I love reading. I can’t say that has always been the case. I struggled with reading in high school, both because I didn’t make time for it and because I was (and still am) an incredibly slow reader. But the genius of audiobooks has opened a new world of reading (or listening?) for me. I know that there are significant differences in comprehension (and not for the better) for those that listen to books rather than read them, but I have found that I can listen quickly and then return to books that make an impact on me.
One book that made an impact this past year is Adam Grant’s book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. The book is divided into three sections: it offers ways we can train ourselves to rethink situations, it gives tools on how to engage in rethinking in precarious interpersonal conversations, and it offers insights on how organizations can create a rethinking culture.
There are lots of takeaways from this book, but one that stands out in this moment as we start the new year is the idea of confident humility. Grant describes how easy it is for people to fall into one of two categories: an armchair quarterback or an imposter.
An armchair quarterback is someone whose confidence exceeds their competence. They think they know everything and have no problem telling others what they know (or think they know). At the other end of the spectrum are those that see themselves as imposters, people whose competence exceeds their confidence. Both types of people are not living into their best for themselves and for those around them, one speaking up too much and the other not enough.
Grant suggests that the antidote to these positions is confident humility. He defines confident humility as “having faith in our capability while appreciating that we may not have the right solution or even be addressing the right problem” (p. 47). Though the book isn’t geared specifically toward cross-cultural work, I couldn’t help but see the overlap of ideas like confident humility for us as we engage globally.
As I enter this new year, one of my prayers is that I can enter it with confident humility. There is so much that I don’t know about this year—Where can I travel? Will there be more disruption because of COVID? Violence? Civil unrest? I can choose to live in a way that acknowledges the little I know and what I can control while holding loosely that vast ocean of things I don’t know and will never control.
And that is my prayer for all of us, that we would have faith in our capabilities and that we would hold our solutions and our problems loosely. May we choose to live in confident humility.