"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."
My ten month old daughter started crawling this week.
It’s been quite a struggle for her, to be honest. First she was quite content with sitting and have toys passed to her by her over-eager brother and sister. After a little while she tired of this, and was determined to reach That Toy Over There that she hadn’t been passed yet.
First she reached out her arms towards it, and bent over double trying to get there whilst still sitting. As her arms are only tiny, she found this most frustrating. Then she found that she could flip her body over and land sideways, lying on her front. She already knew how to get back to sitting from that position, and when she did, she was about ten inches closer to the toy she wanted.
This procedure reigned for several weeks, until finally after much clapping and encouragement she managed to get onto her hands and knees and shuffle over to whatever it was she wanted. She suddenly realised that this was much more efficient than the sideflip-sit-up method of travel and ended up crawling around the whole playroom. We were very proud of her, and eventually picked her up and took her in the other room to give her some lunch.
When we returned however, we sat her back on the floor and expected her to pick up where she left off. Only she’d forgotten the whole thing: she was back to to the sideflip and couldn’t remember how to shuffle along. It was only after much coaxing that we got her to remember how to do it, and this time it stuck.
My daughter had made a great achievement: a landmark of child development. Yet she had no idea she’d done it.
How often do we discover something good, great even, and let it pass us by, or give up before time? Frankly, I’ve no idea what the end result would have been of those ideas that I gave up for the wrong reasons. It’s back to those unknown unknowns: for all we might laugh at the way he said it, Rumsfeld had a point. We could have stumbled into shuffling when all we know is sideflip-sit-up, yet we don’t have the wisdom to see it yet. Then we give up because it’s too hard, or we need to practice, or we don’t have the right funding, or we’re just too scared.