Known, expected and yet still unprepared! Is that you? Be truthful with yourself! That state of affairs is true of all of us and the communities within which we live – from “family-size” to “world-wide”
Society certainly seems to continually maintain that status. Of course, our self-perfecting (not!), “New Enlightenment” (Not!), Progressive Society (NOT!) has at least perfected the art of blaming someone else for anything that does not go according to plan, even down to Flip Wilson’s famous excuse,
“The devil made me do it“!
Good News / Bad News
The ancient Greek sage Heraclitus said,
“Expect the unexpected or you will not find it!”
That pronouncement is brought to you via Roger von Oech (www.creativethink.com) whose outstanding books including Whack on the Side of the Head and Kick in the Seat of the Pants, are reinforced by Nassem Nicholas Taleb’s remarkable books Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan (See the RenaissanceRules Bibliography Page at http://wp.me/PVUDj-26 ).
Heraclitus was able to clearly and simply state a stunningly overlooked and very consequential concept! If ignored, symptoms that application of the concept might unveil in life may produce a very painful reality if sufficient attention has not been provided.
True surprise, coincidence and accident cannot be completely avoided – far from it – but awareness and preparation can help mitigate those types of occurance, as well.
The unexpected almost always conceals a more dire effect upon those who move blindly along the highways of life – whether as sheep following the wrong shepherd or as self-defined, large than life, super confidence, my way or the highway folks. Of course, either life or “leadership style” usually produces a dutifully trailing herd of sheep who, therefore, won’t expect what should not be unexpected.
Former US Vice President Richard Cheney once paraphrased a few arcane philosophers when he said something to the effect that,
“There are known knowns and then there are unknown knowns. It is the unknown unknowns that we must be most concerned about.”
Whatever his actual intent at the time, the statement was not appreciated in the philosophical, historical or political senses, and he was roundly ridiculed for a saying that seemed beyond incomprehensible to many. Yet, detached from “his” and “their” distinctly different contextual viewpoints, the aphorism contains more wisdom than not.
Raising Awareness or Bumps on the Head
Look beyond that context to try for a small recovery of the original author’s intent (whoever it may have been). If we show little or no concern for a real, true, comprehension of those allegedly innocuous “known knowns” and how either benefit from them in an ethical manner or avoid liability and damage from them, the predictable “unexpected” will inflict enough damage upon us that far less reliably forecast action-reaction chains of events may find nothing left of us upon which to wreck their havoc!
Think, for a moment, of that cupboard door you left open in haste, which soon came back to greet you in a very painful manner! I am certain that doesn’t only happen to me, but your “cupboard door” may likely be something else – ranging from a book on the floor to an unchanged burned-out headlight on your car, to a neglected health issue. Name your door!
Have You Had Your “Comprehension” Booster Shot?
The study of history – whether of your life, nation, world, governing philosophies, religion, and of your own calling, craft, art or profession – is a good start toward awareness of those pesky knowns and unknowns, toward a little understanding of what really might be expected and unexpected. Reading a little von Oech and Taleb first might set the stage for a better comprehension of concepts, an appreciation for context, improved vision and receptivity to some otherwise unexpected insights!
Repeat After Me…
Acting upon lessons learned through the study of history in the context of contemporary events, socio-political structures, environment and culture has always been a wise recommendation, particularly since we all need to know how to prepare and cope with the world around us with the least negative impact. Find it compelling or impelling, but “just do it”, not to eliminate but to reduce the number of bumps on your head!
After all, those who learn from history…
are bound to repeat it – ANYWAY!