People who think they know everything
are a great annoyance to those of us who do.
– Isaac Asimov
Looking for inspiration this morning, I stumbled upon this quote form one of my favorite authors when I was young. I loved Science Fiction in high school in spite, or maybe because ,of it’s reputation as low-brow and trivial. I was unimpressed with the criticism. I read everything I could find by Heinlein, Bradbury and of course, Isaac Asimov. They created a future brighter and more interesting than the boring present I faced back in those days. I loved the twists, the unimaginable possibilities and fell in love with the future. Back before the dumbed down special effects burdened future of Starwars, those early SciFi masters created a future that excited and engaged my mind. Long before the force engaged the universe, learning about psycho-history could change the world- or at least help you deal with it.
College put the damper on my SciFi passion. Scientific reality blinded me to the truths contained in Bradbury’s Martian stories and even the clever Asimov was no Jane Austin when it came to developing character. I began to accept the conventional wisdom that SciFi was a second rate branch of literature. The cocksure heroes of SciFi were not blessed with wisdom, fortitude and plucky determination, they were pigheaded, dumb and lucky.
The death of Ray Bradbury made me remember how important these writers were in my young life and how much I may have lost by leaving them behind. And the quote above from Isaac Asimov helped me see why my life got derailed. In high school I was open to ideas with no real authority figures to steer me. I had some great teachers in high school but outside of their classroom expertise, I didn’t give them any more credence than I did my parents. The were by and large nice people but they didn’t have what I wanted and so their advice and approval was not a requirement.
Asimov would have ignored them, Bradbury would have seen through them and Heinlein would have kicked their asses. I let them control my thinking and limit my life. Looking back, it is clear to me that I had a pretty good handle on life when I first arrived at college and that without the college experience I might have gotten control of my life far earlier. I didn’t know everything then and I don’t know everything now but what I do know is that people who thought they knew it all certainly did me no favors back then. I now understand that they didn’t know it all. I wasn’t smart enough to be annoyed at the time. I didn’t know enough but I should have.
Bottom line, people who think they know everything are not just annoying to those who do know everything. They can do great damage even to those who don’t. This poses a great difficulty when you are trying to decide whether to follow advice from others. My advice based upon years of experience is this. The only people in my life who have been willing and eager to tell me what to do are the people who think they know everything. The ones who actually do know everything will let you figure it out for yourself.