I Confess — I Don’t Know.

Observation is the essence of any useful, creative human activity. It is a friend for a father, mother, student, salesman, supervisor, manager, nurse, lawyer, architect and any professional you care to think about. It simply enriches life.

Hence it is extensively used by scientists, engineers, problem solvers, designers, system thinkers, design thinkers, sports persons, analysts, architects, teachers, doctors… You name a profession and observation is the first real key  to progress and success in your chosen field of activity or career.

But many find it very difficult to master the process of observation. In my sessions I have seen how hard people try but they always seem to be in difficulty … until they almost run the risk of giving up on this exotic first step of everything there is. What new is there to observe in things that we have seen so many times before? They ask.

Most then come to the common agreement that 'observation' is an art and it is not meant for everyone. It is best left to weirdos to master the art.

Then when they are all stressed up and fall sick they go to the best counselors. When they want to improve further they go to the best coaches. When they want to learn more about something they contact the best teachers. Similarly when organizations fall sick or when they want to improve a lot they call in the best consultants.

And what do these best counselors, coaches, teachers and consultants do? They observe. And observe intently till you almost find that they are motionless. That might make you very uncomfortable. You are certainly not paying them to remain motionless. They seem to realize your worries. So, after being in that inert state for sometime they suddenly spring back to life and ask you at least one hundred questions. The most skillful of them structure and ask the questions in such a manner that as soon as you start to answer them it quietly dawns on you — what needs to be done right now and just how much needs to be done and what need not be done at all. You get the answers you are looking for without them 'telling' you. None likes to be 'told', I believe.

What is the trick they employ to make such critical observations? Most would not care to tell you. However the wisest of them confess that the trick that they actually use is to tune their 'attitude' before the game. 'Tune' their attitude? Looks like they take 'attitude' to be a 'stringed instrument' that always needs 'tuning in' before being played on.

But 'tune' they do. And they tune it in the simplest possible manner. They simply tell their minds that they 'don't know' what they are observing. They tell this even if they are observing almost the same thing for the hundredth time. So, 'don't know' is the secret mantra of the 'best'. Most would refrain from uttering these obscene words since it hurts the ego. If you don't believe it watch carefully a discussion thread in any of the Linkedin forums or a casual conversation within a family or between friends. Everyone seem to know everything and they don't budge an inch from what they know. Their knowledge is fixed. Nothing more to see, do or learn. They hold their perspectives so dearly and closely to their chests as if someone would just snatch these away from them any moment.

Try the 'don't know' mantra for yourself. You may be in for a pleasant surprise. Look at any familiar object or a person (your girlfriend or boyfriend) or a situation or a phenomenon and mentally utter the dreadful words, "I don't know'. Affirm it till the mind is gently lulled into acceptance. 

The magic unfolds by itself. Your eyes suddenly become clearer and sharper and you see things that you haven't seen before. Your ears hear things that you have not heard before. You start feeling things that you have missed out before. All your senses are heightened, taut and focused. The subtlest things don't escape your observation. You observe every movement, every expression, every act of the object of your observation — just as it is. You are abuzz with insatiable curiosity. You see things that are invisible. And you see how things are interconnected and inter-reliant as a whole.  

Soon a whole new understanding, learning and wisdom emerge from no where. You get to know much more than before. You ask questions and very soon more questions. You contemplate on your observations and your 100 new questions and your intuition informs you of new critical insights to address the issue. You then display your mastery in public. Everyone is impressed and acknowledges your mastery over the subject. Some are also grateful for the help you offered to transform them — their lives and their organizations. You understood the context much better than what others did.

Strange, you started out by knowing nothing and you ended up by knowing much more than anybody else and in the process offered help to others without being their helper. A gift that you shared.

Mind is strange indeed!

For a 'tuned' mind observation is not difficult at all. It is as easy as walking.

Observation along with questioning is the key to understanding the 'context' of unending emergence of new situations and issues.

Such rare understanding of the 'context' starts with a simple affirmation — 'I don't know', which I must confess is at least true for me.


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