How to Stop Living Under a Rock
Stop Living Under That Rock and Come out into the Sunshine
Someone I love has lived under a rock for years. She was riding out in the country with a carload of people when they passed a sign that said, "Rabbits For Sale — Live or Dressed." An avid bunny lover, she exclaimed how adorable that was, then prattled on about what types of costumes the bunnies might be dressed in (e.g., top hats and tuxedos, ballerina outfits).
Her audience sat slack-jawed until someone explained that "dressed" actually meant slaughtered and eviscerated with the head and feet removed. Twenty years later, she's still trying to live that incident down.
We all know that one clueless person who seems to have a congenital case of naivete. Regardless of educational level, basic facts and terminology seem to have escaped their attention. They have little notion about the culture they inhabit. Slang befuddles them.
While you may wonder how they dress themselves in the morning, usually someone blurts out a question only slightly more subtle: "How do you NOT know that?"
If you're the one who has been hiding this way, then you've come to the right place for help. There's hope for you, my unworldly friend, but only if you're willing to invest some effort.
So whaddaya say? Stop living under that rock and come out into the sunshine!
Tell the truth: Are you living under a rock?
How to Tell If You've Been Living Under a Rock
The fact that you're questioning is a positive sign, right? Cluelessness is not exactly the type of thing people can keep secret for long. It's not like others aren't on to you.
Indications that you might be a rock dweller:
- selective—and by that I mean exceedingly deep and narrow—interests like the genealogy of your own family
- sticking with familiar favorites in your routine rather than ever risking anything new
- socializing in a small, tight circle of like-minded others—same race, religion, age range, values, and socioeconomic background.
If you're beginning to suspect this might be you, perhaps you also wonder how you got here. There are many paths to cluelessness. The underside of rocks become welcome shelter for many people, including those who
- play too many video games
- spend years in graduate school navel gazing
- watch FOX TV and listen to Rush Limbaugh ad nauseum (or their far left equivalents)
- give up television entirely
- take up sleeping as a hobby
- are home schooled
- allow their work to consume them or
- live in an isolated area and never venture far.
Oh, stop being so sensitive. Half of that list describes me, too. The struggle is REAL. It's an ongoing process!
Let's Get You Curious: Climbing out of Cluelessness
Take a breath and let's get your head out of that dark hole where you've been hibernating all these years. (I say this out of love.) You'll find that the advantages of knowing what the hell is going on in the world will be a richer social and inner life. If that doesn't thrill you, then what about people no longer shaking their heads at your cluelessness? Nobody really wants to be that guy who has to have everything explained to him.
To get you out of the rock crevice where you've been seeking refuge, we need to get you curious about the world around you. If it doesn't come naturally, then fake it 'til you make it.
Being curious might take heavy lifting on your part, but here are some ideas. Seek out people who have different values, beliefs, and backgrounds from you. It's okay to take baby steps at first. Eat lunch with one of these differently-minded others on occasion, just to mix things up. Start conversations. If you can't do that, at least smile or acknowledge them for starters.
You know Steve at work with the arm sleeve tattoos? (No, actually you do. You've worked together for six freaking years.) Anyway, if asked, he would probably love to describe the process of acquiring his body art, what the symbols mean, how and why he chose them, and his plans for additional tattoos. The good thing is that you don't have to technically like tattoos to be curious about them. Display an ounce of personal interest by prompting him to talk about himself (people love to do that, so it won't be that hard). Absorb the stuff he says, and ask follow up questions. You're well on your way.
No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don't ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.— Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist
Don't stop there, however! To further climb out of cluelessness, also practice asking others more open-ended questions. If a friend is going to Machu Picchu on a family vacation, one option would be to admit you've never even heard of the place. However, another would be to ask what inspired her to pick the location and what she plans to do there. (Be sure to Google "Machu Picchu" later.) You never know when this "useless" information could come in handy.
Now, really heave that rock aside and get climbing by requesting that people share what they know on a topic or teach you skills they're good at. (Return the favor and teach them something, too, if you can.) For example, my daughter delivers Chinese food for a restaurant owned by a classmate's parents. Her friend also works there, and English is his second language. It's an excellent opportunity to learn a few Chinese words and phrases. Imagine being able to make small talk in Chinese!
More Tips for Climbing out of Cluelessness
There are lots of other practical ideas for staying curious about what the hell is going on in the world. Stop hiding and
- look up unfamiliar vocabulary terms when you run into them
- use the Urban Dictionary to learn new slang terms
- turn to myth debunking websites to settle (or learn about) urban legends
- browse Wikipedia, trivia sites, and famous quote sites for general information you may or may not need to know.
That's the thing about so-called "general knowledge": you never know when you'll need to know it. So be proactive.
Speaking of reading, I suspect you don't do enough of it. (No need to answer.) Rely on a variety of reading sources, not just your narrow range of usual favorites (assuming you have favorites?). Start, for example, with the Best Seller's List—fiction or nonfiction—so that you can offer up something interesting in conversation.
To bask in the sunshine once you're no longer rock dwelling, stay updated on news highlights. News cycles are so short that no one can keep track of what's going on, but you can at least be familiar enough to have an opinion and know what questions to ask. And never get your news exclusively from one source, especially if it's a channel that claims it's "fair and balanced."
Look to learn something new by turning to podcasts and in-person events, social media platforms, and museums. Find a new in-person group to hang out with on Meetup and share new adventures. Try that race car driving, sushi-making, or escape room experience on Groupon. Volunteer in your community or online. I found a volunteer opportunity to remotely judge a college scholarship essay contest. It made me feel much warmer than lying under that rock for a week.
Living under a rock is safe, predictable, and involves little effort. I get the benefits. However, you'll find that the more often you climb out into the sunshine, the more fun you'll have being formerly clueless.
Summary of Tips for How to Stop Living Under a Rock
seek out people who are increasingly different from you in values, beliefs, and backgrounds
watch a variety of television channels, not just your one favorite
request that people teach you a skill they're good at or share what they know on a topic
keep up-to-date on the news highlights
ask follow up questions
check out podcasts and attend live events on a variety of subjects; learn something new
look up unfamiliar vocabulary on the spot
use Urban Dictionary or ask when you don't know a slang term
read, read, read
browse Wikipedia and trivia sites
join a group and/or volunteer in your community or on-line
try various social media sites that will expose you to new ideas
limit your pursuit of any one specific activity (tv watching, video game playing, extra napping, etc.)
when you hear an urban legend, turn to one of the myth debunking websites (e.g., Snopes, TruthorFiction)
It's All About Balance
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