Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns


I’ve had a lot of work recently and because of it this quote has been on my mind: “Well, what I’m sayin is that there are known knowns, and there are known unknowns, but there are unknown unknowns. Things that we don’t know that we don’t know.” The wikipedia page claims Donald Rumsfeld coined this phrase in 2002 yet Pulp Fiction came out in 1994. Curious. But that’s very much besides the point.

I think that the most successful people are the ones who are the best at figuring out the unknown unknowns. Now in case you haven’t seen Pulp Fiction, there are:

Known knowns: Things we know. As in I know my blog is funny.

Known unknowns: Things we know we don’t know. I know that I don’t know of any funnier blogs

Unknown unknowns: Things we don’t know that we don’t know.

Tying this in to success, when you’re given a project often times it can seem incredibly huge. A task that seems so enormous that you think it will take you an excessively long time to complete it, if at all. Then when you start out on said project, whatever it maybe, the project begins to fit into a time frame more measurable. As unknown unknowns become known unknowns we can better gauge how long it will take us to learn, purchase, or create those things we don’t have or don’t know.

If you feel like there’s a million things you don’t know and you’re not sure of what they are the project is overwhelming because you literally have no idea how to do it or how long it will take or what you need to do to finish the project. In order to turn unknown unknowns into known unknowns you simply have to start the project and see what comes up. Or ask someone who’s smarter than you.

Those who are more successful, are able to see more of the variables of the project as known unknowns rather than unknown unknowns. They can plan the project better because they already have a sense of what they don’t know and need to do/know.

I guess what I’m getting at is that even though I’m pretty confident in my abilities, I’m not as good as I thought at figuring out the unknown unknowns.

P.S. If you read/type the word know enough times it begins to look like its spelled horribly wrong.


3 thoughts on “Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns

  1. Karen S says:

    lol! I know what you mean about words looking odd if you look at them long enough. Great writing!

  2. […] Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns ( […]

  3. […] Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns ( […]

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