I played around with so many titles before I finalized In the Path of Light with Maa (which came, by the way, from Sai Maa, tweaked by me to use “in” instead of “on”). I called and emailed my favorite advisors, including Becky, offering and asking for options. I had one title I thought was great that would attract readers when they saw it on bookshelves: You’re Already Enlightened, You Just Don’t Know It! I felt quite content with this title, until Maa pointed out that we do “know” it. Maa’s nuanced teaching highlighted the different levels of knowing: not knowing in the conscious mind, but knowing deep down, an inner knowingness, true knowing.

I’m playing around in my life now with knowing and not knowing, what this means, what we do with our perspective about knowing, what happens inside us, and how this affects our actions. Not knowing is showing up for me right now, as I sit with what I have to offer others in the world, when I’m not completely clear, when I’m moving through states and emotions of uncertainty, nervousness, self-questioning, self-judgment. I’m reaching a new knowing about myself that manifests in what I have to offer you.

I’ve learned, and I’m still learning, how to master not knowing and the associated states and emotions, how to shift what’s happening inside me so that I take effective actions from a place of here-and-now, peacefulness, openness, wonder, engagement … culminating in vitality, passion, and power. Those actions I’m taking are within myself and with others in conversation and relationship.

I’ll speak about some of these actions so that you can see how they apply to you, how you’re being with not knowing in your life, and what actions you might take. However, as all unfolds in divine order, I’m going to refer first to Peter Bregman again who is repeatedly reappearing in my life, mainly because I’m resonating with his advice and life examples. I received another email announcing a new HBR Blog Network article he wrote on “The Emotional Adventure of Leadership” (http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2012/06/the-emotional-adventure-of-lea.html), and his third TEDx talk about the emotional side of leadership and innovation (http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxMillRiver-Peter-Bregman-I-D).

Here’s a summary of some of Peter’s comments for you to consider:

  • Being open and vulnerable, admitting you don’t know: “But coming out of hiding did ease my suffering. And that night turned out to be an exciting bonding experience for everyone on the trip. It gave us — all of us — the confidence that, even though we could get lost, we would find our way.”
  • Admitting that you don’t know, don’t have all the answers, entails social risk and vulnerability. An important lesson: “I don’t know” is the reality of life. Be honest and say, “I don’t know”.
  • The other side of “I don’t know” is creativity and engagement.
  • Employees who were asked about great leaders said that great leaders ask for help.
  • Not knowing is being on a cliff we’re about to jump off of (note: see Chapter 16 of my book, “Let’s Come to the Edge”). We need tremendous confidence, self-esteem, strength to not know something; it requires the greatest leadership, admitting to the truth and reality of life.
  • We’re to start with this truth: that we don’t actually know. From that insecure, scary place we sit in, innovation is born.

From what’s I’ve learned, we can’t learn without admitting we don’t know.  “I don’t know” is a place where beginners move through the steps of mastery. We seek advice, coaches, resources, when we admit we don’t know. Here’s another teaching I’ve had about different types of not knowing that opens me even more to admitting I don’t know and learning: there’s what we know we don’t know, and there’s what we don’t even know we don’t know. Ponder that! What we’re conscious of, and what we’re not conscious of, related to what we don’t know.

As I mentioned, I’m clarifying what my offer is now in the world, so I can communicate and promote this, create opportunities for me to actually make the offer and satisfy the inherent promises. Although I wasn’t comfortable at first not knowing what my offer is, and admitting this to others (even more difficult), I’m here to say that so much comes from being in that place of honesty, vulnerability, humility, and taking the steps to ask for support and work together to create something new. If you can accept what I’m saying here, then just move through any discomfort and take action – dare, dare, dare, as Maa repeats to us.

My inner shift in admitting and accepting I don’t know led to an outer shift: it put me in relationship with others. As a consequence of what happened within me, I realized I’m not alone and can open up to others so they can participate in what I’m creating, in this case my offer in the world. Especially at first, these conversations heightened my sense of vulnerability and associated nervousness. However, through the conversations with myself and others (PRACTICE), my inner dialogue is transforming from “It’s okay not knowing”, to “I wonder what I’ll find out”, to “It’s getting clearer and feels right”, to “Yes, that’s it and here I am!”

With each step, I breathe, relax, open, expand. I offer myself to that open space within me that I create when I say to myself and others, “I don’t know” and “Can you help me?” I allow the flow of what’s true for me, what I know deep down (that inner knowingness) to reveal itself, to unfold through my openness and vulnerability. As this freed-up energy, I now have access to new energies as information I can receive and use that I couldn’t before (i.e., I can tap in). In addition to what now shows up within me, I receive new insights and co-create statements about my offer that wouldn’t be possible without being in conversation with others who know me and what I have to offer, who see things differently or see what I don’t see, who are skilled in crafting offers, who love me and want me to succeed.

I’ll be writing more about my offer in future blogs, and what I’m learning about myself and others in conversations about my offer. Speaking of conversation, I’d love to receive comments from you about this topic – and fact of life – of not knowing.

  • What are you learning about yourself and life through what you don’t know?
  • What actions (or inactions) are you taking related to what you don’t know?
  • Do you know that you don’t know? Do you know that you don’t know all that you don’t know? Do you understand the last sentence?
  • Now what?