Known to Unknown

I had two conversations yesterday that carried a common thread. While I was the common denominator in both, the principle outlined came from my riding coach and a new business associate, not from me. I couldn’t help but notice the coincidence and I am compelled to share it with you this morning. When you understand this principle, you will save yourself a lot of wasted time and energy.

The basic principle is this: you can only move from the known to the unknown. When you get stuck or get off track, you typically have to go back a step to find the flat spot in understanding that is preventing you form moving forward, find a way to fill it in and then try again.

I’ve experienced this in conversations as well as in the development of my skills as a rider and my horse’s ability to perform as a riding horse. When you’re speaking with someone and something is said that you don’t understand – be it a word, a concept or a reference – that disconnect becomes an obstacle to the smooth flow of conversation. You might continue on, but part of your mind will be stuck and likely bumping into the wall of misunderstanding until it is either resolved or you forget about it altogether.

When training a horse, you find that difficulties in a particular gait, say the canter, are often the result of improper preparation of the horse by the rider (e.g. a poor transition from trot to canter stemming from a lack of rhythm, balance, etc. in the trot). To correct the canter you may have to go back to the fundamentals to determine the missing element in the foundation.

Some develop the habit of disregarding the disconnect and pushing through, but such an approach inevitably leads to failure when the demands are increased and the pressure intensifies. Others take the opposite approach and shut down when they get stuck. From that point forward, learning and growth cease in relation to that point.

Take note when you get stuck or are off track. Don’t dwell on it or obsess about it, just relax, wait for a moment to see if understanding comes as a result of the bigger picture in which the element is set and if it doesn’t, go back to the point of deviation and reset the foundation.

You cannot move from the unknown to the known. You can only move from the known to the unknown. It’s a simple principle that, properly applied, will make you much more effective in living.

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11 Responses to Known to Unknown

  1. Colin says:

    I have had this same experience happen to me in my education. Whether I was looking out the window when the concept was explained, or it was just something that was difficult for me to grasp, I have found that sometimes you just have to go back and start from where you left off if you don’t quite get it. Concepts have a way of building on one another, and like a tower, if you have a cracked block along the way everything above it is in peril.

  2. Kolya says:

    Excellent advice, thanks for sharing!

  3. Kimberly says:

    This would be a worthwhile principle to teach students particulaly when studing mathematics. So often you’ll find a person can pinpoint the place and year they “got lost” yet many never asked questions or for remedial tutoring. Developing the habit of admitting a lack of understanding is really a smart one! The other side is to never become impatient as others try to understand something that you already do. Helpful subject, thanks.

  4. Carmen says:

    I agree with you that in everyday life the known can sometimes lead you to the unknown. But I am discovering within myself, that when I try to move into the unknown, the known is not enough, what I find that I “know” is so limited. We can only move strongly into the unknown when we trust our inner knowing, that is not an intellectual place, no place of the rational mind, but the place of the heart, and then you can trust enough to jump from the cliff of limited knowledge into the unknown. The unknown is yet to find it’s own base of understanding. The known can lead you into the right direction, but it can only take you so far along the path you wish to travel. I believe that I am explaining this in a poor manner, but I hope that the essence is there.

    • Gregg Hake says:

      The mind, as you say, is only a part of it. You cannot have rigid opinions and a clenched heart and expect to come easily to a state of greater understanding. Wisdom is a quality that sits above knowledge and I agree, it comes from a different place.

  5. Ricardo B. says:

    Interesting observation for sure. There is great value in the waiting for some point of clarity to appear as you are looking articulate an idea or learn something new. A common tendency is to rush things and that simply creates a bad habit and a lazy mind – you simply lose your balance point and end up falling flat. I’ve seen this happen numerous times to me as I think about it, and to achieve excellence, one must be very clear in the present moment.

  6. Your words are a reminder of how relaxation, rhythm, transition, perspective and action all play a part in utilizing the principle of moving from the known to the unknown all for the purpose of effective, sound and joy of life living. Yes we are to make the best use of our time while we are living and what you have outlined is such a key. What I know now is the simple acknowledgement that I have a choice to continue to build my life on solid known ground providing the foundation upon which I may live a life of poise, perspective, timing and transformation. It is wonderful to sense that the relative unknown future can be a more greater fulfilling experience as this principle is applied rather than a future to worry about.

    • Gregg Hake says:

      Most people are afraid of the unknown for exactly this reason. They dread it because they don’t know how best to approach it. I remember my early days as a falconer were filled with a respectful apprehension about handling a wild hawk. Now that I’ve come to get to know them and understand something of their ways I am better able to anticipate their next move, which makes it much less stressful if not a joy to handle them.

  7. In meditating a little further upon this principle of moving from the known to the unknown I feel elated to have come upon this simple and applicable awareness.

    Return to what I know to be true. If it is true I will know it and not have to believe it.
    Let go of what has been a deviation. Recognize where I have deviated and acknowledge the need to let go to what I have found and am newly finding that makes sense and really does work in my living.

  8. Steven Embree says:

    I can fully relate to this. I just started my last semester of classes and in one class I felt like I was behind and really off track. I noticed that I missed a couple pages in my reading which were the foundation to what we were learning. It wasn’t until I went back and reviewed those pages until I was up to date and able to keep a solid train of thought.

    • Gregg Hake says:

      It happens more than most people think, in fact, it is one of the most stubborn impediments to what could otherwise be a constant refinement of your thinking processes throughout life. Just because you’ve graduated (congrats by the way) doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up your thinking cap!

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