Ep 112: What You Know, What You Don’t Know, and What’s Impossible
There are three things at the heart of all transformation: what you know, what you don’t know, and what is impossible. Adam Quiney gets to it and points out the distinction between the three and how it affects you as a leader. He shares clear examples of resistance of some leaders when challenged with the term impossible and then discusses reasons why the three domains matter to a leader and what a leader can do about it in order to reach the heart of all transformation. Transformational leadership does not only exist in the mind by knowing but from conversations that truly cause leadership.
Listen to the Episode Here:
What You Know, What You Don’t Know, And What’s Impossible
We’re going to be talking about what you know, what you don’t know, and that which is impossible. This episode’s distinction is the heart of all transformation. There are three things we’re going to distinguish. I’ve already shared them with you. You’ve gotten the spoiler, but they’re what you know that you know, what you know that you don’t know, and then that which is impossible for you. That last one is what’s at the heart of transformation, but we’re going to begin by defining those first two, and then we’ll go from there. We’ll talk about how these play out. We’re going to talk about the challenge in this. We’re going to talk about why it matters as a leader and what you can do about it.
What You Know And Don’t Know
We’ll begin with the first two. The first two are what you know that you know and what you know that you don’t know. This makes up your entire worldview, everything that you conceive of, all of the possible results. Even those that you haven’t yet created exist inside of the realm of what you know that you know and what you know you do not yet know. What you know that you know and/or what you know how to do is the sum total of all your knowledge. Everything you already know and everything you already know how to do includes all the things you’ve learned in the past and everything that you hold in your head. It includes the swimming lessons you took as a kid, the way of riding a bike, all of that stuff, everything you went through in your degree.
Second, we’ve got what you know that you don’t know and what you know you don’t yet know how to do. This represents the remainder of your knowledge. It’s everything that you already are aware of not knowing. This is all of the things you know that you don’t know about, but you also know that you could go and learn about them if you chose to. It’s all of the things you don’t yet know how to do, but you know you could go and learn how to do them if you chose to. For example, I’ve never hang-glided but I know that if you said, “Adam, go and hang-glide,” that exists inside my realm of possibility. I’m like, “I don’t know how to do that but I know I could probably hire an instructor and they could teach me how to do that. I could jump off a cliff and then I could hang-glide and then it will all work.” It exists inside that bubble of possibility.
Hang out with these two things for a sec because everything contained in these two domains represents everything that’s possible for you inside your context, your worldview, the way you experience, view, and frame the world around you. Every achievement, every goal that you aim towards, everything you agree to do will come from inside what is contained in these two domains. When checking to see if you can commit to making a result happen, you’ll first check to see what you already know. If the result is not available, if the result exists inside that, like, “I know how to do that. No problem,” you’ll be willing to commit to it, possibly, but you’ll know that you can do it. If the result is not available within that set of knowledge and know-how, you’ll check to see if it’s contained inside of what you know you don’t yet know but could learn. If it’s contained in that second domain, you’ll factor in the time required to learn and all of that, and then you’ll say yes.
If you came to me and said, “Adam, I would like you to hang-glide one month from now for an hour by yourself.” I would first check and be like, “Do I know how to hang-glide by myself for an hour? No. Do I know how to get myself to that point? Do I know of the stuff required? Do I know what I don’t yet know that would allow that? I know I could probably hire an instructor and I’m guessing it probably takes four lessons.” You start to do this calculus. What happens is you start to factor in all of the learning time required and you determine whether or not it could be a yes. I’m sitting there going, “I’m can hang-glide. I’m guessing it would probably take four lessons before they let me go. Maybe I would be supervised, but they’d be standing on the cliff instead of in it with me. I’d have to start this week. I could do that.”
We check our knowledge. We check the non-knowledge and what would be required to learn in the domain of what we know that we don’t yet know. We factor that all in for the time and then we determine whether or not it can be a yes. If it’s in neither of these domains, we’ll say, “No. It simply can’t be done.” There’s a little bit of nuance because we might say, “It can’t be done in that timeframe,” which is the same as saying no. If you said, “Adam, I want you to hang-glide off a cliff by yourself unsupervised.” In two days, I’m going to check that same calculus I did and I’m going to go, “I can’t do it. There’s no way I can do it.” I’m looking, like, “I can do it, but I just can’t do it in that timeframe.” It’s still a no to what you’re asked. We might also say things like, “It can’t be done along those lines. It can’t be done that particular way.” Try not to get too hooked on those nuances though because that lets you avoid looking at the fact that some things are possible for you and some things are outside of those two domains and thus impossible.
Let’s talk about that third domain, that which you know is impossible. This third domain contains everything that’s not contained in those two first domains. This third domain is infinite in scope. The first two are finite to some extent. It’s a little bit like comparing infinities, but don’t get caught up on that either. That which you know is impossible is everything else outside of the world you know and the world you know you don’t know. Further, that third domain is entirely hidden from you. It occurs as a mere impossibility and it’s hidden from you because you don’t have even the awareness of it. Not only do you not know it, but you don’t even realize it exists. You’re completely oblivious to its existence. You don’t even know that you don’t know it.
What I mean by this is that given that weird equation around hang-gliding I gave you, there may well be ways that I could create myself hang-gliding by myself in two days, but they don’t even occur to me. I look to what I already know, which includes what I know I don’t know and then determine what is possible and impossible from that set. Who knows? There may be a wealth of ways that it would be possible to hang-glide by yourself in two days. I’m willing to bet if someone put a gun to your head or did something like that, you would find a way. We don’t look that way. We don’t look there. It’s hidden from us.
It goes one step further. Our worldview, those two first domains I talked about, is self-referencing and entirely self-consistent. What this means is that they fit together neat and tidy and there are no empty spaces. There’s no room for anything else that’s not already contained in them. It’s not like your worldview has this void, this block missing from it that says, “I don’t even know that I don’t know this, but I’ve kept a room open for it all the same.” That’s not how it works. That’d be weird. If I sold you a computer with a giant hole in the middle and told you, “Don’t worry about it. It’s entirely the way the computer is set up to work.” It’s a weird metaphor, but you get the idea. It’s very much like the blind spot in our eyes. You have a blind spot in your eye. There is something that you cannot see and what your mind does is it fills that in. Even though if you try to see your blind spot, you can’t because your mind covers it for you. It’s there. There’s no way for us to see our blind spots because the mind does the work of filling it in and having it all be consistent with our existing worldview.
The first thing you got to get over here is this desire to insist that there’s some way for you on your own to be able to see this. There’s not. The sooner you can get past your resistance to coming to terms with that, the easier it is for you to move on. Part of what keeps this in our blind spots effectively is our insistence that there is no such thing that we cannot see by ourselves, “I can see all of it.” This is also what makes it hard for people to apologize or to see why they’re wrong and why you can be in an argument with someone over the internet, with your family, or whatever. You are insisting and pointing to all of this evidence and they are refuting it even though you can tell they’re wrong. That’s you arguing, probably in your blind spot, but certainly with them and theirs.
It’s also the reason why you can suggest to a friend what they ought to do to stop dating crappy men or crappy women or to start making more money or get raises or whatever and they keep batting it away. They keep telling you why that wouldn’t work and you’re like, “You’re driving me crazy.” This is why it exists in that third domain, not to you because you’re not in their world. It exists in their third domain. This is also part of what breeds our misunderstanding and our frustration. We don’t share domains. What I know that I know and don’t know and what I then thus believe to be impossible is different from yours. It’s infuriating when I’m like, “It’s plain as day,” and you can’t seem to see it.
How is this challenging? Why is this a challenge? Why is it even relevant? The upshot of all of this is that the stuff that is impossible for us that we don’t even know we don’t know and that we’re pretty damn certain cannot become possible because we’ve checked what we know. We’ve checked what we don’t know and there’s nothing there that says that we could do this. It’s not outside of our range of knowledge. We’re actively in opposition to it. If I told you it was possible, you would argue with me otherwise. You would insist that it’s not. This information, this possibility of something outside of those first two domains can only enter our worldview by doing violence to it.
Imagine if you had a perfect wall of bricks in your house, it was completely set up, they’re all paved and everything, and then I gave you a new brick and said, “Put this brick in your wall.” You’d be like, “There’s no way. That doesn’t fit.” The only way to do that would be to dismantle the wall, rearrange your bricks, knock it down. This is what it’s like trying to bring in a new possibility. It’s not going to fit with the existing configuration. To create space for some new piece of information outside of what you already hold as consistent and they put together, it’s going to seem it’s in opposition to the way we’ve created things. This is the nature of transformational leadership and coaching.
To create a result you want, especially a result you want outside of what you can already see how to get, is not about declaring something and trying to do it on your own. On your own, you’re going to search in that first couple of domains, “Do I already know how to do this? Do I know what I need to figure out how to do this?” Even with support, you’re going to come up against your resistance down that path. You’re going to take whatever this new piece of information you’ve gotten and you’ll compare it against the consistent worldview that you’ll have. Where you’ll be left is, “This doesn’t fit.” That’s the point where we go, “There’s no way that I can hang-glide in that time. I can’t win that trophy. I can’t have that $1,000 reward. There’s no way for me to start consulting six months from now, so I’m going to stick to my plan of it doing in five years.” “If you could, would you do it in six months?” “That would be amazing, but it’s not possible, Adam. I’ve checked. I’ve looked. It doesn’t work. Five years, that’s the thing.” That’s an example of someone stuck in their first two domains.
Why It Matters As A Leader
Why does this matter as a leader? Why is this even relevant? Let’s start on a personal level. If you haven’t been through this yourself with support, you can’t lead anyone else through it. Most people that haven’t worked with a coach and been supported to create this breakthrough will read this episode and then they’re going to reach into the realm of what they already know to provide themselves with evidence that they have experienced doing this. That’s not a condemnation. It’s more to prove how slippery it is, how quickly we reach back into those first two domains. It’s part of why it’s hard to get access to that which we hold as impossible. Even when presented with something outside of our existing worldview, we look at it and we go, “How is this like what I already know?” We transmute it into something that looks like what we already know and there, we lose the power of it.
One, it’s challenging for us to do ourselves. Most importantly, if you’re trying to work with teams and supporting them to create breakthroughs and generate the impossible, this is the realm in which you’ll be playing. If you haven’t gone through this yourself, you simply can’t lead other people through it. Imagine trying to point to this for other people when you haven’t been willing to do violence to your wall of bricks, your own first two domains, and then trying to get someone else to do it. You’re going to get frustrated. You’re not going to understand why they can’t see it. You might make them read this episode, but you haven’t done it. The team has been exactly the way you’re being. They’re resisting letting their wall of bricks that you’ve done violence to. They’re resisting letting go of those first two domains.
Understanding the distinction between these three domains, most importantly between the first two and the last one, helps you better be equipped to deal with the resistance and the insistence that whatever you’re pointing to is impossible and simply cannot be done and then enroll them in the face of that. A lot of coaches and leaders get frustrated with people because they think like, “They’re not playing a big enough game. I need a better class of client.” Can I tell you how often I hear that from people? Often, not that they need a bigger class, better class of client, it’s that the coach is resisting their work. They’re not willing to walk through this themselves and thus, they can’t enroll their clients in creating something bigger and beyond where they already are and what they’re already capable of.
What do we do about this? One of the best ways to get clear on this is to make a list of things that you hold impossible but would like to have in your life. You can play with this a few ways. You can look at it like, “What am I gearing towards but would like much sooner but don’t believe that could happen?” You can look at the impossibility of the timeframe. You could look at the impossibility of like, “I’d love to make this much money but then I’d have to work this many hours. Instead, I’m going to aim lower for the amount of money I want. I’d love to work this many hours, but blah, blah.” What happens inside those two bubbles is a little tricky, we do compromising.
To take this on, look at what you love if there are no compromises and you could create anything you wanted. I especially invite you to look through the lens of that which you feel is impossible. Some people are going to get caught on the term impossible. They’re going to insist, “Adam, I don’t believe anything is impossible.” All this does is makes it harder for you to see what we’re pointing to. In truth, you do believe a bunch of things are impossible. People will be like, “It’s all possible. It might take X amount of time.” Doing it in less time than that is impossible. Rather than argue with that, trust. Practice, like, “I’m going to empower what this guy is saying. I’m going to look through the lens of what do I hold is not possible?”
I want to be clear that I’m not talking about going scuba diving for three days without any breathing apparatus or walking on the moon without a helmet, not weird, impossible things like that. I’m talking things like if you insist that you could start a business but it’ll take three years to get ready, then your possible thing might be starting a business in 1 year, 6 months, or 3 months. Whatever it is for you, you can start the list big with those giant impossible things and then practice paring it away from there. You can start to see the boundaries of what is allowed to exist inside your first two domains.
For bonus points and to start to explore a little more, you can ask yourself once you have a list of impossible things but not absurd, what is it about these that makes them impossible? What are your beliefs? What is it like if only the world was this way but it’s not, therefore it’s not possible? What are those things? Your answer to those questions will start to help you illuminate hidden rules and beliefs about the way the world operates and the way you operate within it. It’s those hidden rules that confine you to those first two domains.
I use this example a lot. Let’s say you have a rule that it’s rude to talk to any stranger. The only way it’s acceptable is if someone introduces you. That’s okay. To approach a stranger is rude. Creating any sales goal, like achieving a sales goal that relied on you talking to strangers is going to be outside of your realm of possibility. If I said, “Create 80 new sales,” and you’ve got a network that you’ve created that could introduce you to 40 people, you’re going to go, “That’s impossible.” You’re going to do the calculation, “I’m going to talk to my network. I got to have them introduce me to those first 40 people and I’ll have them introduce me. That’s going to take me this long. There’s no way I can possibly do that.” Your rules and stories and all of that about how the world works, which is part of what you already know, is in the way. It blocks you from getting outside of it. Sit with those. Start to notice those beliefs and that helps you start to see that which lies outside of your possibility.
Next episode, we’re going to talk about standing in the possibility or we could also call it standing impossibility based on how we’ve described this in this episode. We’re introing this concept and then we’re going to be talking about how to work with this as a leader and why this is important. That’s everything that we’ve got for you. If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into this work, let us know. Get into a conversation with us about The Forge. It’s a nine-month program that does wonders. You will not leave the same person you came in as. You will leave with a deeper, more embodied sense of your fullest expression. If that sounds enticing to you, you can check out our webpage at EvergrowthCoaching.com/the-forge or you can send an email directly to me at Adam@AdamQuiney.com, and say, “I’d like to talk about this.”