#knownunknowns #unknownunknowns #outthere #therightthing
Doing the right thing can be hard.
This is not just about honesty. It’s about making the right decisions in complicated and difficult situations.
Philip Mudd, a former CIA analyst, talks about this in his book, “The HEAD Game.” HEAD is an acronym for High Efficiency Analytic Decision-making. The book was reviewed by Michael Shermer in the May 27, 2015, edition of The Wall Street Journal.
Shermer’s review discusses decisions made by government, particularly presidents. He says Mudd used his experience as a young CIA analyst in the 1990s, trying to predict terrorist attacks. He sorted through the experiences of Somali extremists in America, and how they might be raising funds in America for terror activities abroad. But by raising questions only associated with fund-raising, the analysts, including Mudd, failed to imagine a more acute problem: recruiting young fighters to become terrorists, Shermer writes.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is famous for using the phrase, “known unknowns.” A known unknown, for example, is that one knows terrorists will strike again, he just doesn’t know where. The question then becomes, how does one get to know “unknown unknowns?”
The book talks about finding people who would ask questions that are totally far afield of current thinking, and actually exploring those questions, Shermer writes.
The idea brings to mind the Charles Schwab commercials in which a child asks a parent questions about the parent’s relationship with his investment adviser. The parent, then, has a difficult time coming up with suitable answers. The point of the ads: “are you asking enough questions about how your wealth is managed?”
Sometimes, we may have to get advice from someone we think might be totally “out there” in their thinking. Sometimes, accepting things the way they are is just not the right thing to do. It may be difficult to stray from the knowns, or the known unknowns. But sometimes, it’s necessary.
Take a look at your life now. Are you just accepting what is, just because? You may think you know what you don’t know, but do you really?
Shermer writes that Mudd’s book suggests using “left-to-right thinking,” asking completely different questions about a particular problem, in search of the unknown unknowns.
One question you might ask about your own problem, such as not having a job or income that you need, is: if I don’t have a job, or I have a job that is inadequate for me, is getting another job the only solution?
If you are in or near retirement, and you haven’t saved enough, one question you might ask yourself is: is there something I can do to make up for the bad circumstances or bad personal decisions I’ve endured all these years, so that I can have a relatively comfortable retirement?
One of the best answers to both those questions may appear at www.bign.com/pbilodeau. For many, this may be an unknown unknown. For others, it may be something that someone “out there” would find. Yet, the answer you’ve been looking for could be in there, if you choose to find it.
So, what do you know that you don’t know? What don’t you know that you don’t know? The key to finding the answers may be to ask a question you might never have thought to ask. Or, it may be to find someone “out there” who will ask it for you. If you choose the latter, as Mudd’s book says, you have to give those “out there” the chance to be heard.
So release the parameters in your thinking. Go “out there.” Explore what might be “out there.” Try to know what you don’t know you don’t know.

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