You Need To Know...But Do You Want To Know?

Have you ever heard the old saying, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”?  Not sure why, or who it was in my life at the time who would say it, but I remember hearing it a lot when I was a kid.  Through the years I’ve found this saying, through personal experience and observation, severely misleading at best.  I wonder if the person who originated the phrase had “current hurt” in mind.  For example, I might not know my car has no engine oil and that the engine is going to die exactly a week from today – but today, because I don’t know it, it doesn’t hurt.  However, in a week when the car blows up and catches on fire, there is a lot that’s going to hurt.  So, what you don’t know, can absolutely hurt you, and often does…it simply may not be immediate.

Or, how about this…”You know you need to know…but you don’t know because you don’t want to know.”  And, maybe you don’t want to know because it’s easier not to know.  In other words, “I know I need to know…but I really don’t want to know because it could be costly and/or inconvenient.  So, I choose not to know.”   In our "engine oil" example, perhaps I noticed oil stains in the driveway, so I knew that I should check to see if there was oil in the car, but I chose not to because I didn’t really want to know – because I didn’t want to invest the time and $$ needed to put oil in the car.  For now, it’s easier not to know.  What ends up happening in situations like this?  Instead of investing a few minutes and a few dollars to add oil…I end up having to invest much time and money arranging for a new engine or buying a new car.  If we choose not to get the knowledge we realize we need, it can be extremely expensive and even devastating.

If you’re a successful business owner, your business is probably your biggest asset, and will play a key role in whatever represents success for you in the future (i.e., financial, values-based, or legacy goals).  You may understand there are things you need to know about how ready you are, and how ready your business is for you to leave on your own terms and conditions and successfully – but you’ve chosen to this point not to know because of the potential for added work and the additional requirements of time and/or financial investment…and because “what you don’t know, currently isn’t hurting you.”  It may not hurt now, but the hurt that comes later could much greater when you eventually leave your business when your financial, values-based, and legacy goals are not realized. 

Take steps now to expose reality and get the knowledge you need pertaining to your personal and business readiness for exit and then act on it.  And get help...because you don't know what you don't know.  

Patrick Ennis

Ennis Consulting & Conciliation, Montgomery Village, MD