“In life, understanding is the booby prize.” –Werner Erhard
One of the things that makes transformation so elusive is that all of it can seem so obvious from an intellectual point of view.
I can share with you the things you’re doing, the steps to take, the things in your way, and so on, and a lot of them will simply land in your place of “knowing”.
“Knowing” is largely our stock in trade, out here in the world. If you know, then you’re good, you won’t be surprised, you’ll be on top of things, and you can make intelligent choices.
If you know, you’re not getting blindsided by life. If you know, you don’t look foolish. If you know, then you aren’t ignorant.
Knowing has high value placed on it.
But in terms of transformation, knowing is largely irrelevant. It’s actually worse than irrelevant — knowing keeps you from discovering.
As long as you “already know” something, then there’s nothing new for you to discover here. If people share with you that part of your impact in the world is to make people feel small, and you shrug it off, acknowledging to yourself that you already knew you could do that sometimes, you manage to keep the impact of this feedback at bay.
There’s no real impact in your heart. Nothing you really need to feel too bad about — you already knew it, so you can chalk it up to feeling good about the fact that you’re already on top of this, and there’s nothing new for you to do.
It’s not that you need to feel bad, in order to transform. But if you really stopped and got that the impact you were having on people is leaving them feeling small and insignificant, you probably would have a little bit of remorse. After all, I would bet good money that’s not really the impact you’re committed to having in the world.
Knowing gives us a bulwark of safety — a place to hang out and reassure ourselves that we’re not doing as bad as we’re worried we might be.
If I invite you to notice the places you get frightened that you’re insignificant, and instead, you rattle off five places you already know this happens, that’s all fine and good, but there’s nothing new for you to discover down that path. You’ve already checked off the box, done your homework, and can go back to life as it is. Life as you already know it to be.
You get to feel good about knowing, but you miss out on the opportunity (and possible devastation/embarrassment/surprise/feeling caught out/etc.) that might be available if you were to actually discover something new, rather than hang out in what you know.
A lack of knowing or understanding isn’t what’s missing. The vast volume of books on self-help, leadership and transformation are evidence of this.
You can know something without ever letting it touch your heart.
It’s only in the lived-in experience of something, that transformation can really happen.