The biggest barrier to new understanding is old knowledge

Sifu Joseph and Brett McDonald training at The Dragonfly Retreat
           Sifu Joseph and Brett McDonald training at Wind and Rock

The biggest barrier to new understanding is old knowledge with repetitive and often terminal consequences. This nuance, I suspect, in variable degrees makes all the difference between success and failure, winning or losing, and may ultimately determine whether your business remains open or closes down.  According to, eight out of ten entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first eighteen months.  A whopping 80% crash and burn, which shows how rare the fluid use of new understanding coupled with creative new ideas really is. The need to adapt and embrace the creative approach to organizational leadership is pressing in the highly competitive, dynamic and multivaried field of dentistry, which is why dental leaders must constantly push themselves to subvert the comfort of routine mindsets.
To us, old knowledge is the antithesis of new understanding. In society we see this repeatedly–what we think we know about a group or an idea stops us from logically and clearly integrating more effective ways of thinking and reacting. In business, when we rely too much upon untested hypotheses and outdated approaches, we fail to meet incumbent data with lucid open-mindedness. If you hold knowledge with a closed fist, that just means you need to be right and you are unable to reach for new enlightenment. Sifu Joseph often says to his students, “ask me if I am right”, “are you right?” “I don’t know.” This demonstrates the pathway needed to prevent our “old knowledge” from precluding our grasp of more adaptable perspectives.
To pursue new understanding , challenge yourself to recognize your own most comfortable and steadfast mental paradigms. Consider how these worldviews influence your filtering and interaction with new information or new people. When you encounter a novel situation or an emergent problem, try considering things from the vantage of one who is naive. Spend more time on understanding, exploration, and curious discovery, even if you are tempted to jump in with what you believe to be the answer. Sifu Joseph constantly implores his students of all rank to “embrace the spirit of the white belt”. This means you must let go of your expertise for a moment and consider taking the stance of not knowing. High performance leaders do not follow trends, they set trends and this requires innovative processing.  Such leaders are role models for the progressive mentality, as they defy the odds and engage the sustained effort necessary to see new ideas to fruition.  They lead by example, starting early and staying late, and follow a path where even course corrections have a unique outcome.
To some of you, letting go of expertise may sound as easy as falling off a log–we assure you it is not. Several forces can chain us to our expertise, and in the blogs that follow, we will be outlining each and explaining ways you can break free from the bonds of old knowledge. We will also discuss the ways in which the spirit of the white belt can propel team communication, innovation and social cohesion, so stay tuned!


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