Can I say “I don’t know”?

I think I am a person curious about things. I love facts that related to my interests. If I don’t have interest, I probably won’t have curiosity to begin with. I like to collect those little factors that you won’t miss anything even not knowing it.

Working in an academic world, or any professional world, I encountered many people who are less likely to admit they don’t know. Fortunately, I met a supervisor who told me not all professors and researchers know everything about research.

I remember a conversation I had with her, my supervisor, earlier in my research journey. I don’t remember what was my issue now. I can vaguely remember but the main message was:
“Explore. That’s your job to find the answer. I work with anything if you can give me a justification why you have chosen what you do.”

Later in my journey, she added further.
“As you travel along your journey, one day your knowledge about your research topic will probably be beyond me. I wish this become a reality.”
Part of me was quite shocked. However, these encouragements or guidance allowed me try things beyond my comfortable zone. It taught me to challenge my current understanding with curiosity, fascination, and wonder.

With intellectual curiosity the world will always full of magic and wonder.

Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Self-knowledge lead to wonder, and wonder to curiosity and investigation, so that nothing interests people more than people, even if only one’s own person.

Alan Watts

One of the quality I seek for a mentor or supervisor is their willingness to explore unknown with their students. Sometime it might not work depending on other factors. However, if it allows, I really appreciate what my supervisor allowed me to explore. Majority of times it was unrelated or unnecessary steps but it had satisfied my curiosity.

Talking with other research students, I hear a lot of “my supervisor only want me to do what s/he is comfortable with. I wanted to do xyz but s/he didn’t like it so I had to do their way.” When I hear such comments, it reminds me how fortunate I am to be supervised by my supervisor.

Recently, my niece started to ask questions to fulfill her curiosity. As my tendency, I do give her a direct answer. I am starting to learn how to explore unknown with her, instead of giving her a direct answer. That’s what I have been modelled by supervisor and I want to give my niece strength and joy to explore unknown. So, I question myself “Am I ready to say I don’t know?”

What are you exploring today?
Who taught you how to explore unknown?
Where did exploring unknown led you to?

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