Why killing your inner “I don’t know” is a good idea

One day, one of my students (let’s call him Yuta) had a problem. As part of home project his class was asked to think of any extraordinary school rules which they thought were too harsh or drove them bananas. If you ever attended a public school in Yuta’s home country, you will instantly know what this project was designed to uncover.

It appears that Yuta initially couldn’t figure out what to think of because his last school fortunately had rules that were “nothing special”. Instead of saying “There’s nothing I can do about this project”, he decides to tell a little story about his classmate who was apparently the legend of rule-breaking in the school. [Principle #1: “Any idea” is way better than “No idea”].

The moment Yuta revives his memories about his rebellious classmate, he soon realizes that this story should be told in some other way. So he picks up a few pencils and starts drawing comics-like images of his classmate to help his audience experience what he’d experienced [Principle #2: Personal Stories Stick]. One caveat is that Yuta is doing it because he loves doing it and the prospects of having a high score in class is probably the last thing on his mind [Principle #3: When you do what you love doing, then someday they too will love what you’re doing].

That simple idea of deciding to tell the story eventually turned to become a great success (as far as I am concerned), because those three powerful mini-slides that Yuta created represented not only an ingenious way to share a simple story, but to me, it was all about Yuta’s resolve to tackle his inner “I don’t know”. [Principle #4: “I don’t know – full-stop” sucks. “I don’t know but I am willing to find out no mater what” is the only way forward].

By the way, for the neurons in our brain that hear the words “I don’t know” or “I have no idea”, they sound like a green light to go into intellectual hibernation. On the contrary, the most mind-blowing and seemingly unsolvable discoveries of our world had started with “What ELSE could I do to solve it?”.

Back to Yuta’s story: it is both hilarious and thought-provoking. Yuta’s classmate didn’t like the school rules, so he would do something every week to remind the whole world (and his teachers) that reality was negotiable. [Principle #5: Well, actually reality is negotiable].

(1) Yuta’s classmate secretly grows vegetables in the school’s veranda and … sells them to other students during lunch break.


(2) It was forbidden at Yuta’s school to ride a bicycle from station to school.

He instead used a kick-scooter to come to school which angered the school admins, and eventually got him suspended from all classes for a few days.


(3) Because now he had plenty of time, Yuta’s classmate invited his girlfriend for a ‘shabu-shabu’ date (Japanese hot-pot dish) to be cooked … inside a vacant classroom.

Veggies for the shabu-shabu? You guessed it: they cooked the ones he’d grown in his school’s veranda.