“The wise man knows that he knows nothing.” ~ Socrates
It’s inspired by some feedback I’ve been getting recently. From two people in particular. Two particular misunderstandings.
Inspired by people who’ve been inspired.
People who’ve been inspired by me – or more particularly by my story.
I’m flattered that both people were inspired in some way, but actually, they weren’t inspired by my story.
They were inspired by part of my story.
That part of my story that they saw, heard or read about.
… and that’s the problem with all stories
All of these things are subjected to heavy filtering.
Worth bearing in mind when we make decisions based on the stories we hear – whether it’s advice from a friend (who has a different situation than you do), a TV program, a book, a philosophy, an ideal or a conversation.
My Incomplete Story
To give you the first of my two specific examples (the second one is almost identical) it goes something like this:
I said pretty much the same thing in both cases:
She didn’t explicitly write ‘just like you’ but that’s what she meant, as I found out when I followed up with her. For the record what ensued was a skype call about property investment.
We both finished the call feeling better.
- Her – that she could have a simpler life but keep some (pretty awesome) investments she already had but wasn’t using really efficiently.
- Me – because I got the chance to clarify some of those assumptions.
Some Clarifications About My Incomplete Story
We didn’t sell up.
… and we don’t rent a cottage, I bought it.
In terms of business, somehow I’ve ended up creating one and making more business investments along the way too.
When we hear a story (or part of a story) it’s easy to draw conclusions and fill in the blanks. In my case, a couple of people have assumed that giving up life in London means we also gave up our London house. Nope. The fast paced life yes, the job, yes. The house, no.
We do have a simpler life in the countryside but I haven’t given up any assets, business interests or investments – I’ve just designed them to fit the lifestyle I want.
Anyone who’s read our book will know much more about our journey to the countryside and all of the considerations and decisions we made along the way.
For anyone else, in case you read something about my story (or anyone elses) then I’m afraid you’re going to be getting the very edited version – edited to whatever the requirements, perspective or limits of that post, email, interview or article.
All Stories Are Filtered Stories
Ever watch a documentary on TV?
Did it tell you everything you needed to know about the given subject?
Was it comprehensive, in-depth?
The truth of the matter is that it wasn’t really a documentary at all, that program would have been the subject of many edits, many reviews, many re-cuts and changes. The story wasn’t the full story at all – it had to be cut down to fit into it’s allocated time slot.
Books too are of course edited stories, they can never be complete – they are filtered by the authors experience, then by their editing, perhaps they are then further edited, by an editor – then you filter the story further yourself when you receive it with your own filters (which form your own unique view of the world).
So to simplify the point a little – there are two sets of filters
- those external to you, applied to the information before it’s presented to you – (they’re always there, guaranteed – they have to be)
- those you apply yourself (via your pre-conceptions, assumptions and limited attention span – you have to apply those filters too, you can’t help it)
They all make for an incomplete story.
But that’s OK.
What We Can Do About It
I’ll keep this brief.
This is the part you can take away, write on the back of a beer-mat and remind yourself about.
We can do 3 things.
- Remember that it’s all filtered – that we live in a world of incomplete information and uncertainty
- Get comfortable making decisions anyway – making decisions moves us forward, the worst thing you can do is wait until you have complete information, because you will never have complete information. Procrastination is the worst thing you can do. Get comfortable making decisions based on the (incomplete) information you have. Even better, make tiny decisions.
- Fill in the gaps – When you know that you have incomplete information but you feel it’s not enough, you can always seek more information, i.e. the fact that you know the story is incomplete empowers you. Empowers you to ask questions & find out more. In the example I gave above, more information was given, quite hastily, from me, to give a little more context to ‘my story’
I love it when things come in 3’s (actually we all do, it’s been proven by research, but let’s not go galloping off on that tangent right now – this is enough for today…)
Punchy, incomplete, but hopefully useful.