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Behind Listening: The Unknown

Somehow in adulthood, we assume that we can know, or that we do know most things.


Listening is an acknowledgement of the Unknown, and even a reverence of the Unknowable.


I use this pie chart when working with organizations. (Origin unknown) Why? Because especially in systems of influence and power, we lose sight of how much we don't know. This chart breaks down our unknowns even more granularly. It usually sparks a laugh or smile.


Epistemology—the study of knowledge—is a wonderful universe of nerdery to dive into, but let's keep it simple for now.


Outside our bubble of awareness, 91% of ocean species are unknown (or as us adults say: ''have yet to be classified."). More than 80% of ocean has never been seen or experienced (or as adults say: "unexplored."). And 71% of our planet is this unknown and unknowable ocean.


In our language, we position ourselves like the classifier, the explorer, which we are, but the truth is—we are with the unknown at every turn. Most of what is—is beyond us. And yet—inside us and with us at the same time.


The most liberating news is we don't have to know to be in relationship with, to participate in, to generate creativity and to contribute. AND, in order to be in vibrant, authentic relationship with even more epic creativity and contribution? Listening. Conscious, attentive relationship blows all alternatives out of the water, qualitatively speaking. I'm reading the incredible and recommended "The Body: A guide for occupants" right now. I know none of these facts, and yet, in the last 2 years as I've become more attentive to—listening to my body, I am able to experience health and wellbeing more fully for the first time in my life.

Even what we "know," we don't know the truth or root about. Have you seen or experienced in your life the reality of the Iceberg? (Based on Causal Layered Analysis by Sohail Inayatullah)


Margaret Wheatley of "Leadership and the New Science" helps us affirm—through the validation of modern neuroscience—the freedom in admitting we don't know. There is literally a biological, physiological, sociological unlocking of creativity and imagination that happens when the unknown is welcomed vs. the hunkering down of "knowing" or feigning knowing.

My friend Joey Ager says people—especially leaders and people in positions of power and influence—need to be prescribed poetry as a health intervention to help them embrace the unknown. How would everything change if we lived as listeners from a place of not knowing? It starts by identifying the Unknowable (and hence Uncontrollable!) as a beautiful, mysterious gift.

Go team. Cheers to real life—the messy and the beautiful.



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