“Dare To Be Naive” Buckminster Fuller

Beauty is in the not knowing. That was a thought that came to me upon waking one morning. I think it sounds poetic, but is it useful? Because it’s comforting to think I know, to think I have the answers. So, if not knowing is beautiful and knowing is comfortable, will I choose beauty or comfort?

This presupposes it has to be one or the other. I don’t think it does. Through an act of will I can become comfortable with the discomfort of uncertainty and experience beauty through discoveries which can only grow out of not knowing.

It seems to me it takes courage to navigate uncertainty. There is danger in embracing “I don’t know”. Friends in the corporate sector have shared stories of colleagues being fired on the spot for saying “I don’t know” when their boss believed it was their job to know. And indeed, it probably was. So, when it comes to uncertainty how do we navigate? That’s the trick.

I see a distinction here between ‘I don’t know’ and ‘not knowing’.

‘I don’t know’ has an ‘I’ of the mind at it’s core. And this I tends to invite others to the mental party; ‘I need to know’, ‘I should know’, ‘I’m desperate to know’, ‘I’m stupid for not knowing’…..and on and on. One by one they crowd in until the mental chatter overwhelms us. In this sense I see ‘I don’t know’ as deeply constricting. Through the expression ‘I don’t know’ we shrink.

In contrast, ‘not knowing’ has no egoic identification at its core. So what is it? We could see it as a dynamic process of unfolding – out of not knowing emerges clarity. We could see it as a space we exist within – we have to enter not knowing in order to be clear. We could see it as a magical realm where entities – ideas, concepts, solutions – appear and disappear. In this sense I see ‘not knowing’ as deeply liberating. Through not knowing we expand.

It seems to me, in order to embrace not knowing, we may need courage (to fight against conditioning), but more than that we need a healthy dose of curiosity and humility. Not knowing is incredibly humbling and when we meet it with childlike curiosity we are enriched. When we are courageous, curious and humble there is much to gain from not knowing. So much.

But I don’t want you to take my word for it. Believe nothing, test everything. Next time you think ‘I don’t know what to do’ or ‘I don’t know the solution to this problem’ or ‘I don’t know how to….’, turn your attention away from that ‘I’ of the mind (refuse to be the host of that mental party) and be ok with not knowing – just for a few moments – sit in the feeling of discomfort you may experience and with childlike curiosity pay attention….out of not knowing emerges clarity. Discover what is true for you.

And in this fast paced world where we need answers now, the more we can practice not knowing – as an art – the quicker those answers will emerge and the more they surprise us in their elegance. That’s my experience.

So, my invitation when navigating uncertainty is to cultivate courage, curiosity and humility.

There is beauty in not knowing. It’s majestic.

We have to enter not knowing in order to be clear.

About the Author

I coach high achievers in the performing arts and music industries, together with entrepreneurs and leaders in corporate. I'm drawn to work with pioneers and innovators. "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes" Marcel Proust

One Response to Navigating Uncertainty
  1. Very true. I like the distinction! I find this something I forget and learn again and then forget and now learned again. Thank you!


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