The Magic of Unknown Unknowns

One of the most powerful mental shifts a person can make is when something goes from “what they don’t know, they don’t know”, to “what they know, they don’t know”.  Bit of a brain-pretzel, right?

Allow me to explain. There are three attributes to knowing:

  • What we know (known)
  • What we know we don’t know (known unknowns)
  • What we don’t know, we don’t know (unknown unknowns)

We go through life acquiring knowledge. From grade school, high school and college to life experiences. Additionally, what we know provides a basis for what we know, we don’t know.

For example, when you started a new class in college and you received your syllabus, you’d see all the classes you’d be taking. Throughout the semester, knowledge would shift from what you knew you didn’t know, to what you know (assuming retention of the subject matter…wink).

So that leads me to the mysterious unknown unknown. What is it exactly? How do we explore it? Why would we? Who cares?

United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave a response on this topic to the U.S. Department of Defense on February 12, 2002, about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. [1]

Rumsfeld stated:

“But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”[1]

How does one explore unknown unknowns? My journey started with the Landmark Forum in June of 2014.

Since then I’ve hired multiple coaches and joined a mastermind group. Each experience has helped me redefine the very nature of what’s possible for my life and it has helped me explore extraordinary results in service of my dreams, and a Purposeful life.

You see, I believe there is more to life than having a job, owning a car/home, being in a relationship and making a living.

I believe that each of us have a hidden desire to impact the world. We are here to create and dream, most just don’t spend any time talking about these things…they lie dormant in our mind.

Imagine if you spent 30 minutes each week ideating by yourself or with others about your dreams? The trajectory of possibility would shift in a massive way from just those 24 hours, because possibility is exponential.

That leads me back to unknown unknowns. Why care about them? Well, because if you dare to be one of the few that intentionally explores your dreams then inevitably you will see shifts from the ‘unknown unknown’ space to the ‘known unknown’ – and you can take action when something is a known unknown!

What lies in unknown unknowns? It has been my experience for the last 5 years that it is possibility beyond our wildest dreams.

Once you begin exploring this intentionally, there’s no going back.

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