Saturday, August 28, 2010

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so. ~ Mark Twain

It is funny because I actually think that sometimes it is what you don't know that gets you into trouble. I recently started noticing how what we know or don't know can actually set us up for failed expectations, miscommunication or learning and growing in ways we never could have deemed possible.

The first scenario is: You don't know what you don't know. That is, that when people don't know something they often assume that something is bad or isn't possible.

I have been experiencing and watching this a lot lately. Starting my own company is one example. As I have gone all over and talked to many different people about what we are creating, I notice that everyone either a) tries to fit it into a framework that they understand (and then hence, they aren't actually capturing the true essence of the innovation we are creating) or b) look at me incomprehensibly as though to let me know that what I am creating isn't possible.

I have also witnessed that if people don't know and are faced with the unknown, they are often pushed to their limits of what their experiential minds can comprehend. When this happens
they often turn what they don't know into something bad or they immediately go to... oh, well this isn't possible. It is a funny trick the mind can play on us and it limits us to believe that if we don't understand or don't know how, then it isn't possible.

Rather, I would suggest that at exactly the moment that we hit this point of the unknown we force ourselves to recognize it and dare to ask ourselves, ok, this isn't something impossible, it is just something I don't know. In that moment, if we can push ourselves beyond to say, just because I don't know it, doesn't mean it is bad or I won't do it or I don't know how. Instead, what if in that moment, we pushed beyond our limits to forge into the unknown. Sometimes we may do this by ourselves and other times we may reach out to others and ask for support, because sometimes our unknowns are not the same limits as others and we may become instrumental to each other in breaking through any fear or doubt in overcoming the unknown.

Another scenario is: You don't realize that what you know, others don't know. This one has come back to bite me a lot in my life and to teach me some truly valuable lessons.

We all come knowing, sensing and perceiving things in different ways. We all come from different backgrounds, different families, different societies and so on. We all have strengths in certain areas and weaknesses in others. I used to think that everyone knew what I knew and had the same gifts that I had. It lead me to a lot of unintended frustration and miscommunication. When I worked with clients, I would see things in certain ways. I was often told I could see things at a global level and then take that down to the detail. For a long time, I didn't realize that this was something unique to me. So when I worked with others, I thought they could see what I saw. But when I'd get into meetings and they wouldn't get it, or they would get frustrated because I jumped from one thing to the next, I never fully realized that perhaps they weren't seeing the same thing that I saw, which lead to my own frustration.

For a long time, this lead to my own "shrinking." That is, when you have enough experiences where people don't get you, you start to think, well what is wrong with me. I know for several years, my confidence significantly dropped as I felt like no one really got me, so I must be wrong or must be misperceiving things. It took me several years to realize that actually what I was perceiving was right, for me. I began to get a whole new understanding of assessing what I know and don't know and what others know and putting that into perspective when I work with, relate to and interact with others. It also gave me a whole new sense of empathy and understanding for others. I started to drop my expectations of others, because I realized that expectations were merely my perceptions and perspectives given my own unique lens of how things should be and didn't in any way take into account others views. So I began to let go of what I thought and have really begun to listen, learn from and empathize with others.

This brings up my final scenario that: Others know what you don't know. That is, because we each have our own unique perspectives, limits, boundaries, fears and also knowledge, gifts and expertise, we all have so much to learn from each other, if we are open to and allow it!

It is when we open up to allowing for different perspectives and valuing each other, but also valuing ourselves and our uniqueness and authenticity in the process, it allows for a whole new world of possibility to open overcome our fears, to surpass our limitations and hurdle our obstacles; to look to, listen and learn from others; and to trust our own inner guidance and share our gifts with others.

This is the magic of our unique existence and our connected co-existence with each other!

You can find me at and and twitter @pilarstella.

1 comment:

  1. What you are doing IS possible. Even though I sit on the outskirts of society and the busyness of media life, I believe in YOU. All the quarks will work themselves out, keep your trust. Maybe by listening to those whom are perplexed by the jumping around and by accepting where they see things can help realize the end result on a more unified time-line. Knowing the path is one thing, walking it is a totally different experience. We must use the tools before us to create our own path, if the tools are uncertain; changing ones own mind of what the tools are can help others to see the path a bit clearer.