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The Island of Knowledge and the Shore of Ignorance

We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance. - John Archibald Wheeler

I’m not sure where I first came across this quote years ago, but it’s echoed in my head ever since. 

You would think that as our knowledge grows, we become less ignorant. And on an absolute basis, this is true. But with that increased knowledge we become MORE aware of what we don’t know, things we didn’t even know we didn’t know. 

Pick an example in your life where you’ve grown in knowledge. And apply this idea to it. Does it ring true?

In my own life, I think of financial planning. I’m a better planner than I was 10 years ago, or even 2 years ago. Technically, relationally, practically. And yet the more I grow, the more I become aware of what else there is to learn about - things I didn’t even know to be thinking about in years past. 

Ditto with parenting. I feel my wife and I have grown substantially in parenting - and the more experience we have, the more we realize just how much more there is to learn. 

Ditto doctrine, physical health, and home handyman jobs. 

I think there’s two ways we can process this: 

1- focus on the shore of ignorance, the increasing amount of things we don’t know.

2- focus on the island of knowledge, and all that we DO know that we didn’t know before.

There is a beautiful dynamic at play - while acting on the knowledge of what we do know, we can continue to grow by exploring the shores of what we don’t.  
Interesting Resources 

1. Dan Pink - Pinkcast - Want to feel more grateful? This simple mental trick will help.
Dan Pink is one of my favorite authors, and I love each of his Pinkcasts. This one is extra worth sharing because he introduces a scientific principle called “mental subtraction of positive events.” A unique twist on “counting our blessings” can be to envision life without them - building gratitude not through addition, but by subtraction. The whole video is only 102 seconds long, so give it a view if you’re interested. 



2. Of Dollars and Data - The Problem with Most Financial Advice
Forget skipping lattes. And forget feeling bad if you don’t have twice your annual salary invested by age 35. I loved the rawness of this article because it tackles a huge problem in the celebrity financial advice giving circle - most if it isn't realistic. Saving 70% of your income sounds great if you want to be a millionaire by age 30 - and it’s downright achievable … if you earn $160,000 as a 24 year old. The problem is that most people don’t. And this personal advice isn’t so … personal. It’s relatively rare. And is a huge reason I’m such a big proponent to use your own benchmark when comparing yourself to our peers. 
An interesting spin on this island/shore analogy is a change of terms. Instead of a shore of ignorance, what if it was a shore of opportunity? This is the take of a recent scientist in a new book

What’s an example in your own life? 


Gratefully,
Jeremy
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