Tips on How to Succeed at Work When You Understand Nothing

A book review of «How the Hell not to Show that You Understand Nothing» by Howard Jenkins. This is the second edition of the bestselling book for top managers, heads of departments and those who are just starting their careers.

2 mins read
The cover of the book written by Howard Jenkins.
Review of second edition of Howard Jenkins's bestselling book.

The book, on which more than one generation of brilliant managers, administrators, officials and specialists grew up, has now gained a second wind thanks to the new edition and it’s coming soon to bookstores! The «How the Hell not to Show that You Understand Nothing» book by Howard Jenkins gives amazing answers to the question of how to make your ignorance help you build a brilliant career.

The book consists of 7 chapters. It includes both the theoretical part and practical examples from the life of modern office plankton. The book provides examples from the communication of employees of large international corporations and small progressive firms operating in different industries.


  1. Introduction: Why is it better to pretend that you understand everything?
  2. How to use silence to your advantage, nod your head and smile properly when you don’t understand what they are talking about?
  3. Business terms you can use even if you don’t know what they mean.
  4. How to keep up a conversation when you don’t know what they are talking about.
  5. How to answer questions when you don’t know the answer or how to effectively bluff.
  6. How to avoid embarrassing situations at work when you don’t understand what’s going on.
  7. Additional tips for leaving the false impression that you are an expert in your field.

This is the book that many professionals keep in their bedside table instead of the Bible, and which is considered the reference book of every serious specialist. Not understanding anything, but at the same time pretending that everything is under control – this is the real recipe for success in any business. After all, who among us wants to admit our insecurity and weakness, but almost everyone wants to move up the career ladder, right?

For example, the author gives a very clear explanation of how to behave in meetings.


“Just keep nodding your head and saying “Ahhh” when your boss or colleague is talking about something you don’t understand. When it’s your turn to speak, the most important is not what you say, but how you say it. Be self-confident while speaking, at all times keep the appearance that you know what you are talking about, pronounce words clearly and make meaningful pauses. Do not forget to use trendy business terms – this immediately gives you additional bonuses in the eyes of your colleagues and the management team. Remember, colleagues who ask you questions also most likely do not understand anything. Therefore, do not hesitate, most likely general ignorance will only help to strengthen how fruitful the meeting turned out. Follow these tips and you’ll be fine! Then, after the end of the meeting, just forget about everything and do what you see fit. After all, who’s going to figure out what’s really going on?”

Howard Jenkins, bestselling author.

As you can see from the passage above, the author emphasizes the use of terminology and insists that you remember to use exactly those terms that no one understands. This immediately gives the feeling that you know what you are talking about, even if you do not. The author recommends to be surrounded by terms, if you do not have a strategy, to say not what you want to say, but only what they want to hear from you, but do it as ornately as possible.

In the end, the author confidently proves to the reader that in the business world this is exactly what is important – not knowledge, but the ability to look confident and competent. Just nod convincingly, shake hands and say things that seem logical – that’s the recipe for success! This will help you break through to the top rungs of the corporate ladder, where fame, wealth and power await you!

Last Word

“Avoid numbers and specifics. Speak vaguely, show with your whole appearance that you know everything and understand everything. This is better than being branded as an incompetent dunno, asking colleagues what their words mean, getting confused in figures and facts. ” – the author sums up.

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