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Why Being Purposefully Ignorant Can be a Great Thing | Season 2 Ep 11

Uncategorized Jul 12, 2021

Why Being Purposefully Ignorant Can be a Great Thing

I have this friend named Heather. She knows so many things. She has renovated her entire house. She not only designed it, but she also did a lot of the work herself. When she got her new dishwasher she actually read the manual so she would know exactly how to load the dishwasher in the most efficient and effective way. If she needs plumbing fixed, she will first try to do it herself before calling a plumber. Most of the time she does not end up needing the plumber. Or the electrician. Or the Maytag repairman so to speak.

Heather knows how to tile her own bathroom. She is a great cook, cooking most of her meals from scratch. She knows first aid. She knows a ton about eating wild plants. She tends to her cottage-style garden and holds a job teaching gymnastics. She even spent a year learning circus arts at Cirque du Soleil. She went off to Mexico for a year once or twice to learn Spanish. She knows how to go camping when it is snowing. Just recently she took up hang gliding.

Heather is an extraordinarily skilled, curious, and knowledgeable person who discovers new things about the world every day and does so in a very wide variety of areas.

I love Heather. I respect her too. She is uber smart.

I am also not anything like Heather.

I don’t KNOW a whole lot about a lot of things.

I don’t know HOW to do a whole lot of things.

I also do not want to.

For example, I don’t pay attention to what is happening on the news. Sure people have been critical of me for that. People say I need to know what is going on in the world. Do I really? I don’t think so. I always say if something really big happens . . . I will hear about it I am sure. When the worldwide Coronavirus started in 2020, guess what!? I heard about it.

I also used to feel kind of bad about the fact that I was so ignorant about so much.

When I was still in university, I lived with roommates and we all made minimum wage. Despite having very little money, we pooled our resources so we could have a house cleaner. When I finished law school and eventually no longer needed roommates there was NO WAY I was giving up on having a house cleaner.

Coming from my working-class background, having a house cleaner seemed decadent and snobby. Of course, I was willing to live with the guilt of it rather than actually clean the house. I justified this decadence because I have never been a good cleaner.

The real truth is, I don’t want to be a good housecleaner. I don’t want to clean my house at all.

I used to feel kind of bad about the fact that I focused on what I knew about, but knew and did very little else.

I am a person who has earned three university degrees. Yet, I have often seen people’s eyes go round when they discover how little I know for someone who is supposedly so well-educated.

I not only lack many skills that others take for granted. I also don’t KNOW a lot of things that other people think I should. I harken back to the time when I thought Kosovo (the partially recognized state in southeastern Europe) was a hockey team. There was a war going on in Kosovo at the time. Or when Heather and I were on a rural holiday. I was looking up into the dark night of bright stars and dreamily asked “Do you think anyone is REALLY up there?” Heather says, “Val! Really?! You don’t KNOW about the Space Station?” (I didn’t). Or when I moved to Toronto and was not aware that the Blue Jays were a baseball team. The list goes on and on.

I used to feel sort of guilty about not knowing about all the things. I was simply deficient in that I could not and would not want to learn how to do oh so many things that people took for granted in terms of adult skills. Or things every adult contributing to society should know.

Then I discovered a book that took my guilt and bad feelings about what I used to see as a deficiency away. I read (actually I listened to it in Audible), a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

Now I don’t feel guilty at all. In fact, I feel GREAT about the fact that in our ever-increasingly complicated world, I am what Greg McKeown refers to as an essentialist.

My friend Heather, who is amazing, is not a divorce lawyer. She is not an essentialist. She doesn’t want to be one either.

However, if you are a divorce lawyer wanting to run a thriving practice then you should NOT be a Heather, but an essentialist.

To survive and thrive as a divorce lawyer you want to be an essentialist.

What is an Essentialist?

An essentialist is someone who knows about and does less ON PURPOSE.

Because I am an Essentialist (yay, lucky me, who would have KNOWN it could be a thing?!), this means I continue to choose to do the things I am good at, to discover the things that bring me joy, and do what is necessary, but only those things.

The rest, I either delegate, or ignore. Yep, it is that easy.

The essential (get it?!) point of McKeown’s work is that an essentialist does less, but does that less better. McKeown says that once you stop trying to do it all you can make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter in your life and for your goals.

It is after discovering McKeown’s work that my law firm stopped doing other kinds of legal work other than family law. We focused on what we are really good at. I also got others to do my legal research because I HATE doing legal research.

It is after discovering this work that I stopped feeling bad (and in fact felt quite good about) the fact that I don’t want to clean my house (or do many other chores that most people who are adulting do).

I started looking at all the other parts of my life I could simplify or delegate or not even be concerned about.

In my personal life, I hired someone to run errands for me, someone to mow my lawn, and someone to do big grocery runs.

When I got really serious about simplifying, delegating and ignoring, I had way more time to truly focus on what makes my soul sing. I do what I am really good at. I continue my work as a family law lawyer. I run my law firm. I help other divorce lawyers have ethical and successful law practices. I have time and energy for my own family and, of course, time for my health, fitness and happiness.

So, I ask, what can you delegate, get rid of, or not pay attention to so that you can focus on what truly matters?


In this Episode:

  • Let me tell you about my friend Heather who knows many things [00:00:38]
  • I am not anything like Heather [00:02:35]
  • I used to feel bad because I was so ignorant about so much [00:04:13]
  • I used to feel bad because I focused on what I knew and did very little else [00:05:40]
  • I used to feel guilty about not knowing all the things [00:07:53]
  • I discovered a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown [00:08:22]
  • What is an Essentialist? [00:09:06]
  • After discovering McKeown’s work, we focused on what we are really good at [ 00:12:51]
  • I had way more time to truly focus on what makes my soul sing [00:14:11]

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