Finding out what you don’t know

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary during the second Gulf War, once gave a famously oblique response to a question, in which he talked about “Known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns”.

It was a diversion tactic, a deliberate obfuscation to avoid answering the question about a lack of evidence. It’s actually an application of ‘Johari’s Window’,a cognitive psychology tool used to help people better understand their relationship with themselves and others. The statement brought much publicity to the concepts and introduced them into the popular lexicon.

When you leave corporate life, there are an awful lot of ‘known unknowns’. Setting up your business, doing your accounts, your website, social media, and a million other things. There may also be specific areas of skill or expertise that you need to acquire, such as public speaking, coaching, web development, cooking, carpentry – seriously! It depends on what you decide to do next.

You can address some of these by taking training courses but choosing the right ones can be a challenge. How do you decide where to focus your efforts, which ones to master and which to outsource to specialists? It’s not straightforward but it is possible, with some thought, to decide a course and navigate your way through these ‘known unknowns’.

However, there’s a hell of a lot more unknown unknowns. Things you have absolutely no awareness of, things you have not even heard of, much less understand their relevance to you.

So how do you discover your unknown unknowns? How do you find out these things that will be crucial to your success?

The answer is surprisingly simple.

Firstly, you need to expose yourself to new ideas and people. Get out and mix in some new groups, try some new pursuits, read books and publications that you haven’t before.

Secondly, find some people who have been on a similar path, who have made the transition from corporate or are doing something similar to what you want to do. Ask them for their advice, share your thought and ideas and ask for their feedback (people love to be asked for their opinions). Learning from them will greatly shorten your own learning curve and save from you repeating common mistakes.

I’m trying to make this easier with After the Mothership. Through this blog and the newsletter, through the events, through the Facebook group, I am trying to expose you to new ideas and people; and to connect you to people who are going through this transition, fellow travellers on the path you are following.

There are many other ways you can go about this, both online and in real life. Be open, follow your curiosity, and enjoy your exploration. You never know what you will find!

Which is why they are called ‘unknown unknowns’.

Experience some new ideas and new people by coming to one of our our monthly meetings in London. Book your place for our September event “After Corporate Life – What next?” HERE

Or get involved in our private Facebook group HERE 

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