How to get to an idea quickly


How to practice “not knowing” in order to know

Someone hates “I don’t know”

Your ego hates “I don’t know”. Because its job is to know, at all times - your ego is the one that thinks that it knows. When you think you know something or believe that you know something, you’re shutting yourself off or limiting the ability for new information to come into view. Your mind is like “oh, you know? Oh, okay, byeeeeeee.” and your mind moves onto something else. You may be wondering, what about intuition? Shouldn’t I pay attention to that? My quick answer to that is there’s a difference between something you feel in your gut, and something constructed in your mind.

What do you really know?

The question is - do you really know if that person meant what they said, do you really have the insight in order to move forward, are there more questions that can be asked? Do you really know what’s going on? You may have heard of Socrates' famous saying “I neither know nor think that I know". Considering that he was then and is still today regarded as one of the wisest men that ever lived, perhaps it’s worth thinking about this more deeply and actually, see what happens when you practice it.

“I don’t know”, and know a lot better

When you practice “I don’t know” the answers show up, or a direction shows up. You’ve experienced this and may not have realized it. When wrangling with a situation or a question and you decide to give it a break (or give it up), you get an answer. Or when you genuinely are not informed on a topic and admit it, you get ideas on where to seek the answers. Or when you are a blank slate, a newbie, all of a sudden you’re actually the smartest person in the room because you’ve said something insightful that no one else could see (because they were frantically trying to prove how much they knew). 

It’s all because you acknowledged that you don’t know. The beauty of practicing ‘I don’t know” is that ideas and answers that are bigger than what your mind could conjure appear. Inspired ideas, answers that clarify everything. Your ego’s job is to keep you in what it knows. It can’t see what it doesn’t know. There’s a really good chance that what you don’t know is bigger than you could have imagined.

how to practice “I don’t know”:

  • First, take a post-it and write “I know that I don’t know” and put it somewhere to remind you

  • Think about some of the things you’re tackling at work, a problem, or a situation, write them down

  • Say in mind, I don’t have the answers to these … and truly accept it.

  • Go about your day or week, as usual, try not to force an idea or judge yourself for not knowing

  • Something will come up, an idea, or a possible solution, or someone who can help - follow that thread!

A more advanced practice:

  • Practice “I don’t know” in front of people - if you really don’t know something, say so. 

  • If you’re really brave, practice “I don’t know” with a team. Have the team collectively acknowledge they don’t know how to solve a particular issue. 

Give yourself and other people permission and psychological safety to say, you know what, “I don’t know!”.

interested in having an “i don’t know” workshop?

How I recently practiced I don’t know and what happened.

I was stuck for a couple of months on a part of my business that required me to generate big ideas. I kept procrastinating about it, mucking around with irrelevant pieces of information and tasks and collecting how-to content, all in order to avoid the big issue at hand. The truth was - I didn’t have any ideas. It wasn’t fear actually, I genuinely wanted to do this work - more than anything! And it was work that I knew I was really good at. 

I kept trying to analyze why I was stuck and doing that actually generated more problems and things for my ego to chew on and keep me very busy. At some point, I had to accept this is just what was going on with me and be ok with it. Then I remembered Socrates. So one day when I was back at it in my head, beating myself up because I wasn’t moving forward with any ideas, I just mentally threw my hands in the air and said “I don’t know. I just don’t know what my ideas are.” And I accepted it.

Not even two days later, I’m sitting eating my lunch when an inspired unique idea showed up, then another, then another! Then how to organize the ideas appeared in my mind and then how to execute on them appeared. As a matter of fact, what you’re reading right now is a direct result of that!

Bottom line:

Be comfortable in not knowing, practice “I don’t know” with yourself or your team, not knowing is bigger than knowing, be ready for answers show up.

for other philosophy practices you can try at work and with your team