Knowing Nothing

Posted by

We’re all extremely naive from the humble beginnings of our lives, as children and even teenagers, a lot of us seem to think we know everything that matters, that we understand the world around us like the back of our hands.

Some would say it’s a part of individual growth, that we go through a phase of thinking that we know everything there is to know about what affects us and what will affect us in the future. That we know the main parts of most subjects, that there’s no need to go into detail as we know the main points. That somehow we’ve reached a point where everything has become apparent, a point we may believe everyone reaches at sometime in their lives.

Then when we finally venture out of the protective bubble we call home, out of our comfort zone, to gain new experiences and meet new characters, I think we finally reach the part Socrates talked a lot about many years ago.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

– Socrates

Suddenly we get the harsh realisation that what our little world of knowledge we thought would protect us throughout all our years, is actually a small and insignificant seed that’s never been watered. All these people we meet with much more experience and knowledge blow our sense of reality away and make the hard-to-swallow truth apparent to our ego.

At first, denial is the counter-attack. We rationalise and think “Well it must be one little thing I’ve overlooked through the years”, it doesn’t stop there as you had hoped though. More and more people and experiences are forced onto you outside your naive bubble and you find it hard to deny anymore. This is where it gets interesting.

You begin to really think about what Socrates said, you think  “Am I really so stupid? Do I know so little?”.


Now you can come to two different conclusions from evaluating your thoughts, the healthy and unhealthy conclusions.

The unhealthy conclusion is that you take the first part of the last quote and label yourself with it. “Am I really so stupid?”, chances are you’re not a stupid person, there are many out there but the majority of us have some sense of self and the world around us. If you take this approach and call yourself stupid, you’re killing off your self-esteem and giving up which isn’t going to end well for you on any front, be it your career, studies, relationship and/or personal development. I’m going to tell you not to take this approach and if you’re already in it, stop it, make it something positive.

The healthy conclusion is that you use this realisation to motivate yourself and also to accept yourself. No-one on this planet knows everything about everything, people tend to specialise in subjects that interest them which they become very intelligent in, think of Professor Stephen Hawking with Physics and Professor Richard Dawkins with Biology. They did a lot of hard work, learning and experiencing to be at the forefront of their fields.

Realising that you know nothing, really means realising that there is a colossal amount you don’t know and don’t understand, but we’re all in the same boat. As soon as you realise you know nothing, is as soon as you can start really trying to know something.