Years ago I visited a spa where 4 magnificent macaws stood on individual perches, each with a long, not necessarily heavy, chain around one of its legs. Yet the chains were not attached to anything: if the birds had known what they didn’t know, they could have easily flown away.
I was reminded of that recently when sitting with a close friend starting up a company. I suggested he write down 1. What he knew he knew; 2. What he knew he didn’t know; 3. What he didn’t know he didn’t know (This being impossible, but the column needed to be there as you’ll see.). A long-time friend, James was always up for my mischief. He promptly began writing a list of what he knew that he knew. As I looked on, knowing him as long as I did, I noticed two items I knew for certain he did NOT know.
I told him I had doubts about some of the items he thought he knew and that they belonged in the ‘don’t know that I don’t know’ column. I asked him how he’d know if thought he knew something but in fact was mistaken.
“Oh. I guess there’s no way to know unless I fail. Without knowing there’s any other option, I wouldn’t even know when I need help or the kind of help I needed.”
A similar situation came up recently when a colleague explained how his sales team ‘truly cared’, and ‘truly served’ prospects. When I asked him what skills he was using to care and serve, he rattled off the same skills he used when selling. And even though we’d known each other for some time and he’d read a couple of my books, it never occurred to him to contact me to learn additional skills he knew I’d developed specifically for what he was doing. Why? Because his results were ‘wildly successful’ – a close rate ‘higher than others’ (10% success vs 5% industry standard – but still a 90% failure). He never stopped to consider that he could have been much more successful with additional skills. He didn’t know what he didn’t know.
So how do we know when we don’t know what we don’t know? We don’t even know how to think or consider something outside our assumptions or beliefs, or something not already in our neural makeup. There’s just no way to know what outcomes, risks or rewards, skills, comparators, or thought processes are possible. So how do we attain the courage to do something different when we have no way to even think about it?
Let’s consider how we do anything at all. Our brain instigates our actions, thoughts, what we hear, how we decide and choose, how we behave. When we have an idea or goal, hear a lecture or are given a directive, our brain
In other words, whatever we think, hear or read enters our mind as sound vibrations that end up being (mis)translated through some conglomeration of synapses, pathways, circuits, etc. and we end up ‘hearing’ little more than something we have previously experienced, regardless of the facts. And our brain doesn’t tell us what havoc it’s played: we just assume what we think we heard is accurate.
I was once meeting with a couple who were licensing some of my material. I made a comment that John interpreted what I said as X when I actually said Y. I carefully explained, again, what I’d said. Here is what followed:
John: You didn’t say that! I heard you say X with my own ears!
SD: No, John. You misheard. I said Y.
Wife: John – she really said Y. I was standing right here. You heard her wrong.
John: YOU’RE BOTH LYING!
And he stomped out of the room, and never spoke to me again.
Listening is a brain thing, causing us to interpret incoming sound vibrations according to where among our 100 trillion neural circuits the sound vibrations get sent. [See my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?] Indeed, we hear some rendition of what a Speaker means to say, and rarely ‘hear’ accurately. Let me explain.
The way our brain turns signals into behaviors, ideas, or thoughts, determines everything we hear, think, and do. Usually it’s a good thing. It’s how we know to get up in the morning, put our slippers on, and brush our teeth. It’s how we make our decisions, go on our diets, make our New Year’s resolution. But it’s restrictive. In fact, and I still get annoyed about this, our brains automatically pretty much keep us doing what we’ve always done and we have very little say in the matter.
Indeed, we live our lives restricted and directed by how our neural circuits translate for us. And certainly, that provides a lifetime’s worth of choices. But: our curiosity, our ideas, are restricted by what’s already there.
I’ve developed a model to make it possible to change habits and behaviors by consciously adjusting your unconscious hierarchies and neural pathways. It includes wholly new skills, tools, and thought process with a hands-on learning and Belief change process.
Can we know what we don’t know that we don’t know? Because when we can’t, we’re left with the results of fewer choices with no way to know what to look for if we need to add something new.
WHAT’S IN THE WAY OF ENCOURAGING ‘NOT KNOWING’
Don’t get me wrong. none of us ever intends to mishear, or misunderstand, or restrict ourselves. But we’re basically out of choice, never told what our brain has edited or deleted, or what other choices were possible if our brain chose different circuits to translate the incoming vibrations.
Let me share my thoughts on some of the reasons I think people have a hard time getting beyond what they know (or don’t know they don’t know):
Net net, due to our lazy brain and idiosyncratic personalities, there’s no way to naturally recognize when we don’t know what we don’t know. This makes it quite difficult to learn anything new until we fail and it becomes obvious.
Here are a few ideas that might lead to more choice:
Entire fields are missing information and doing nothing to discover what they don’t know:
So I leave you with these questions:
– How committed are you to having the full set of data you need for success?
– How willing are you to forego your ego and Not Know?
– What would you need to know or believe differently to recognize when you don’t possess the full data set you need?
Imagine how successful we could all be if we knew what we didn’t know and had the right attitude to find out.
Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at email@example.com.
Sharon Drew Morgen February 6th, 2023
Posted In: News