Sunday, November 9, 2008

How do we know we know and what is the attitude required to know?

When I was a kid and I wanted to get a burger I thought it was a simple process. I just needed to ask my parents, they would get it somehow and an hour or two later I was eating my burger. So what do my parents do…send the driver, he goes to the shop buys the burger and brings it back.

However when I grew older and had to get the burger on my own (while living in a different city) the process was a little more complicated.

One of the basic things I had to do for example was to get to the burger shop. This in itself would be a big challenge for a kid.

So I thought I knew, almost had a gut feeling, but did I know really?

Other examples are starker. Running a family seems a simple job too when you are a kid. When you run your own house you realize the number of things that have to be managed. It is quite a task to master and takes sometimes quite a bit of education and then some experience at work to be able to start a family.

So at some point in time we ‘thought we knew how to get the burger or run a family’, but we didn’t quite know!

So how do you know that you know, let’s say to get a burger or run a family?

The answer is that if you really know then you can articulate it completely. The more you know the more comprehensive the articulation.

And herein is the big lesson: No matter how old you are you might have a strong gut feeling about something but that feeling might just be an illusion just like it was for the kid. If you cannot articulate the thing you think you know then you are just like that little kid as to the matter at hand and this illusion can be a most dangerous thing.

To be careful that we are not a victim of such illusions the only thing we can do is this: “make sure we are not careless!”

Once this is clear the path to enlightenment is most clear: Anything you ever wanted to do, you can do, the only effort required is to get the knowledge of how it is to be done; and test it by articulating it.

Two brilliant examples of articulation of things most common:
1. The Prince by Machiavelli about how a prince running a kingdom should secure his kingdom. It could very well be applied to running a political party or in the corporate environment.

2. The Art of Love by Ovid about how a man should win the love of a woman and more.

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