One of the most all-embracing but pernicious bits of programming in human beings is the urge to stop when we don’t know something.
Over 30 years, I have seen more people stop themselves from doing both grand things and minor things because “they didn’t know” something or other.
Of course, on the flipside of this are the people who seem too willing to do anything, as long as they think they know something (especially something that suggests that what they want is easy, requires no effort and is available for four easy payments).
This… seeming terror in the face of nothing is a key driver for avoidance strategies, which use “not knowing” as an opportunity to invent nasty and unpleasant possibilities which are not actually happening, that justify turning away from whatever it is that isn’t known.
This stopping on not knowing is a hold-over survival mechanism from the earliest days of our evolution, when we could just as easily be the prey as the hunter if we weren’t extremely cautious.
Then “don’t know” could be something that wanted to eat you… or worse.
But this fear of not knowing has continued and been embedded in our culture – fear of failure, fear of not following instructions, fear of judgment, fear of… many bad things causes people to abandon actions that will be productive and profitable, but require additional work.
The fear causes these people to turn away, distract themselves from the bad feelings, and the evil thoughts of unpleasant things.
But not knowing (and knowing what to do with it) is a key that every person who has ever created a success system that was generative (able to create more and better and different from itself) has mastered.
Without this, there would be no great architecture, no great art, no great literature, no great discoveries, etc.
It’s how each of us harnesses the “not known” and makes it work to our advantage that determines how our success systems function as learning and problem solving machines, and ultimately whatever worldly successes we create through them.
New rule #1 says: Not Knowing = DO SOMETHING TO FIND OUT (now).
That means right now. This second. The instant you face the not known; it is imperative that you take action, take steps to change the situation.
If you refuse, you simply reinforce the natural tendency of the human body mind to turn away from the unknown.
If you think you are smart enough to put off the action ’til later; you are fooling yourself – reinforcing distraction activities as the way to deal with unknowns.
The habit hack here is to change the signal value for unknown from ‘bad’ to ‘great’ by changing your immediate response to it.
You must make the reaction to the unknown the immediate trigger for new and better action.
Your new action question is: “If I don’t know, who does?” and determining PRECISELY how or whom you will get assistance from.
This could be thinking through whom you know who might be able to point you in the right direction.
This might be a Google search. It might be something different.
The key point is that you make the decision and take the action AS CLOSE TO RECOGNIZING THE UNKNOWN is occurring within you or before you as possible.
The second type of unknown we face is one that every artist, musician, writer or creative of any sort faces on a daily basis and that is… the blank screen or canvas.
For prosperity habit hackers, this is another magic key to radically changing your relationship to output.
The rule is a variation on rule #1. It says:
“Blank canvas (piece of paper, block of stone, mind, etc.) = DO SOMETHING WITH IT (NOW!)”
Non-creatives sometimes say “But how can I start if I don’t know what I want or how to do it or whether I can do it or whether I am allowed to do it or whether people will laugh at me if I do it or will my mommy or daddy approve if I did it or…
WHY ARE YOU BEING SO MEAN TO ME (boo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo…)
You, taking their fears, confecting evil scenarios, projecting them on to others… very unpleasant.
If you have to write something but don’t know what to say… begin writing anyway. Write about hating not knowing what to say but having to write.
Write about the topic in general. Write about associations you have to it or memories. Just… write. Even though you don’t know… just write.
The action itself calls the resources forward. Once you’re up and going then use the writing to THINK (one of the main functions of writing is to reveal thinking in action by outputting – putting outside, of the inners).
There are many ways to begin in not knowing. The virtue of taking purposive action at the point of blankness is that the activity itself prevents your old habit system from kicking in and taking you somewhere you don’t want or need to go.
Blank canvas means start to paint. Put some paint on the brush and put it on the canvas.
Blank piece of paper means write or draw – a line, a point, some dots, it doesn’t matter.
Blank screen means type – write about not knowing if you have to but begin the mechanics of the process.
It’s not like you haven’t done this before.
Many people get out of bed through sheer force of habit, and zombie through the first 20-60 minutes of their day, acting “as if” they were sentient, conscious and participating humans, while they are actually a butterfly, or a baseball player, or having a torrid romance, or still imagining they are warmly tucked up in their comfy bed.
Get the movement going, and then join in with mind, heart, and guts.
Do this: take a large post-it note or 3×5 record card and us a thick marker to write the words: “DON’T KNOW = DO SOMETHING NOW”.
Place this card where you have to look at it while you work – mine is just above my eye line above my computer monitors.
Look at the card and think a few times each day about things you stopped doing or turned away from because you didn’t know.
Rethink now whom or where you could have found out. Anytime you are working – planning, thinking or reflecting – when you hit a don’t know in your workflow; IMMEDIATELY sort out the next step in discovering what to do and how to move forward.
This is training for “your unconscious” (actually, it’s just a decision habit).
Do it in practice and you will habituate to the skill. Do it enough and it will pop-up exactly when you need it automatically.
Do it consistently and well for long enough… and you will discover that unknowns don’t crop up as often, and eventually they don’t crop up at all – because they immediately turn into just things to find out about.
There’s more to it that we’ll discuss on another occasion but, for now, it is enough to just do it.