I know nothing. Except that you should read this.

I Know Nothing

Anything is possible.

From a young age, we are brought up to believe that we know things about the world, but the truth is, we know nothing. Truth is an illusion and a perception that changes not only from moment-to-moment but also from person-to-person.

For example, mothers often advise their children not to touch the flame of the stove as to avoid burning their hands. But will they really burn themselves? People are able to walk across burning coal without burning their feet.

We learn and believe “rules” about the world that may or may not be true (by the way, the world is not flat, people). We believe that the sun will come up tomorrow, but we don’t know that. One day, a long time from the time of writing, the sun, like any other star, will burn out…or at least that’s what we expect will happen.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

There are two types of reasoning humans utilize to make sense of this complex world: the first, inductive; the second, deductive. Inductive reasoning is the process of making assumptions about the world based on patterns recognized from our past experiences. Inductive reasoning is the thought process we use to assume that the sun will rise tomorrow.

There is “good” inductive reasoning and “poor” inductive reasoning. For example, in the series: 1,2,3,4,5, it would be a “good” inductive guess to claim that the next number is 6.

But the truth is, we don’t what the next answer is. The answer could just as likely be 7. For example, the pattern may tell us to skip a number after every multiple of 5, making it 7. There are, in fact, an infinite number of patterns that may dictate what the next number should be.

We don’t know.

This nerdy example parallels how we go through life. We go through life making assumptions about what is coming next based on our past experiences and future expectations. But the truth is, we often don’t have access to the necessary information to make the correct decision…if there even is one.

Truth is, we don’t know what tomorrow holds or if there will even be a tomorrow.

Making the wrong decision is better than making no decision at all.

Considering we know nothing about the future, isn’t every decision at least somewhat arbitrary? The past is a set of experiences and perceptions, and the future is some unforeseeable event that may or may not be there. And yet that is the best basis of “truth” we have to peruse when making decisions.

We make decisions continuously, and each decision leads to a new set of possible decisions. For example, if I choose to go to graduate school, that opens a different set of opportunities than does starting a business. There really is no “right” decision, just two different decisions that will lead to different outcomes.

The struggle is that we don’t know what our future selves will want, making it effectively impossible to make an informed decision.

Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

And yet, in the wake of all of the confusion and uncertainty, we go through life generally okay. We are resilient beings, with an incredible capacity to find positivity and gratitude in our current situations.

I admittedly know nothing, so take my advice with a grain of salt. But also be sure to always do the following:

  1. Recognize that life is a byproduct of your decisions — both large and small. Small, repetitive decisions are arguably more important than major life decisions, but the truth is they all have some impact.
  2. Recognize that you know nothing, which will inevitably lead to regret and mistakes. When you find yourself in the presence of regret or mistake, pivot. It’s not the end of the world.
  3. Always do the best you can do given the limited amount of information you have. But don’t stress out over your decisions. There are few decisions that are permanent.
About The Author

Nicole McIntyre

Nicole believes that everyone deserves to be happy and enjoy their lives. Her mission is to make the world a little happier and a little less stressed through meditation, education, and thought. Join her at http://facebook.com/groups/outsmartinglife.

2 Comments

  • Dom

    Reply Reply February 14, 2016

    Great post. I think we are all really hard on ourselves. This is a great reminder to have some good perspective.

    • Nicole McIntyre

      Reply Reply February 14, 2016

      We are hard on ourselves! Life is tough, but that’s the beauty of it :)

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