Matt Knutson: Always work toward pursuing an answer

Published 10:04 pm Thursday, August 3, 2017

Things I Tell My Wife by Matt Knutson

“What’s that pink penguin called?” I asked my wife from the bathroom while I was helping our daughter brush her teeth.

“A flamingo,” my wife confidently shouted back to me from our bedroom.

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She was right. I’m not sure how I forgot the word “flamingo,” but it had clearly slipped my mind as I was trying to describe the bird on my daughter’s towel. Sometimes you just don’t know all the answers, even though you try really hard.

For me, pink penguin was a pretty solid attempt at flamingo in the midst of tricking a teething toddler to brush her teeth. She far prefers to suck on the toothbrush than actually move it up and down, but we’re seeing miniscule improvements every day. Count your blessings, right? Eventually we will have a top-notch brushing technique established and be able to properly identify our favorite zoo birds.

I find it quite honorable when someone admits they don’t know something to me. There’s a certain humility that you have to possess in order to do that, and it is something I wish more people embraced publicly. Lately it seems like everyone has an answer for everything. You discover this more when you become a parent, I think. Despite how much we may want a detailed guidebook to life, one doesn’t exist for every scenario, and even when there appears to be a concrete answer, it might change later. When Gracelyn was first born, we repeatedly heard the phrase “back is best” for how to put her down in the crib. It was a great little reminder for parents to place their baby on their back before naptime to ensure they are able to sleep safely. Many years prior though, parents were actually taught to do the exact opposite. Thankfully new research corrected this technique, but it took quite some time to spread the word.

What’s more interesting about that example is that there are likely times when no one tells a new parent “back is best,” and they could spend their baby’s whole infancy doing it the wrong way. If that person were, I’d hope I would have the wherewithal to admit that I didn’t know any better. It takes humility to accept that we may not know what’s best and to acknowledge that someone else might. Being able to take in other people’s perspectives is an essential piece in us learning and growing.

Sometimes it’s nice to find those gray areas of life and settle in when the world around you seems so black and white. When I think about the recent political debate over insurance and health care at the federal level, it’s obvious that a lot of people think they’re right. It’s less obvious who is actually right. As much as people talk over one another, I think the majority of us might be in a gray area — knowing we want something better, but not knowing how to get there. We might all be better off if we approached complex issues with the mindset of, “I don’t know, but let’s think of a solution together.”

Our world is a complex place to call home. When you’re highly specialized in one industry, you might not know the answers in another. If you’re a jack-of-all-trades, you might not have the depth of knowledge in any particular area to identify the solution. The problems our nation is wrestling with today are problems that people have wrestled with for years. If it was easy, we’d already have the answer.

And while it might be nice to live in the gray area, humbly admitting your ignorance, it’s also important to be pursuing the truth. I’ve worked at places before where colleagues purposefully choose not to learn something because they don’t want to have to deal with it. We can’t go through life like that as a society. When we have a question, we should be pursuing an answer. Maybe it’s wondering what that pink bird is actually called, or maybe it’s confronting an ethical dilemma. The world doesn’t get worse because you don’t know the answer, but it doesn’t get better without you doing whatever you can to find it.

Matt Knutson is a communications specialist in Rochester.