The 3 Most Powerful Words

When nothing is certain anything is possible
— Many Hale

When asking important questions, one of the best answers we can get is…

”I don’t know”

Why is this so powerful?

It’s like opening a door to a new pathway.

 The pain of thinking you know...when you really don't.  He would have been much better off answering "I don't know if that's a glass door" ( source)

The pain of thinking you know...when you really don't.  He would have been much better off answering "I don't know if that's a glass door" (source)

Now of course we don’t want to hear this answer to certain simple questions.  We don’t want the local to tell us “I don’t know” when we’re lost and asking for directions.  We don’t want our financial advisor to say “I don’t know” when we ask him if our investments are doing well.  We don’t want our physical therapist to say “I don’t know” when you ask him why breathing is important.  

There’s definitely a time and a place for the “I know” answer.

But maybe for some questions we should look for the “I don’t know” answer.

I Don't Know.jpg

What is the best meal for me in Asheville?  What should I do for a living?  How much money is enough to make me happy?  Why does ice cream taste so good?

There’s no single solution to those questions.  But there might be a discussion, or a collaboration, that can help lead to a meaningful answer.

“I don’t know” leads to a path.  

“I know” points in a direction.

Directions can be useful, but only if we already know where we’re trying to go.  If we don’t know where we need to be, then how can someone else “know” for us when we ask them?

 You might miss some good stuff if you only focus on the directions to the destination...

You might miss some good stuff if you only focus on the directions to the destination...

To find where we need to be, we should find someone that has the compassion and wisdom to answer with “I don’t know”.  

It may not be as comforting as getting a short term answer, but the process will likely be much more effective in the long run.

So the next time you find yourself asking a question (or answering one), stop and acknowledge the uncertainty instead of grasping for an answer.  Get more comfortable with not knowing.  

In the end, you might not only find a better question, but a better answer as well.

Dig Deeper

“A subsystem cannot know the system that is meta to it” -Ram Dass

We'll see...