The Unknown

March 1st, 2023

Here is a very famous quote on the “unknown” by Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense for the US.

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know.  We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.  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 tends to be the difficult ones.”

It may at first sound like gibberish but I think he makes a good point for levels of unknown.  Perhaps only standard thinking in national security and intelligence where analysts often use something called the Johari window to take stock of situations.  Perhaps wise to review the four questions that the Johari puts forth.

  1. What’s the part of us that we see, and that others, see?
  2. What’s the part of us the others see, but we’re ignorant of?
  3. What’s the part of us that we intentionally hide from others?
  4. What’s the part of us that we’re not aware of—and neither is anyone else?

These questions are steps to divert attention into the larger range that house potential but most folks don’t attend to this relatively unknow territory.  Yes, we celebrate explorers and welcome their reports but prefer, for ourselves, to stay safe within reach of our blanket.  Encouragement to take the risk is very counterintuitive.  We humans are very effectively wired to our redundant proven habit for safety within a small defined range of movement and thinking.  

What we know of early human type people is that life span in the beginning (and for many years after) was very short; perhaps 30 years or less.  But we are social creatures and lived in groups, families or tribes so that association offered a better than random chance to survive.  We learned, even with that original small brain, and applied knowledge to weapons, team skills, and improving relationships.  Don’t discount this success, because we still struggle with the difference, for example, safety or health as value versus potential.

What we learn and integrate becomes our habit for success and survival tomorrow.  At times those big lessons are gained from wars, famines and/or diseases.  The “rule” of evolution is that if you can’t change, learn to adjust for change or excel ahead of the current state of change, you are history.


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