And in knowing that you know nothing...

The Internet has attributed the following quote to Socrates —

"In knowing that you know nothing, that makes you the smartest of all"


The Chinese whispers of 2400 years offers up a fair reason to suspect if Socrates actually said this, and if he did, is this actually what he said — something to be discussed over cocktails if you are so inclined. What we do know is that on the Internet (and in motivational quotes) Socrates owns these words.

It is not my intent to try to validate Socrates true ownership of this quote or really interpret the meaning(s) behind the quote. I did however want to offer a recent epiphany of recognition that this quote is a grand reminder of how to understand situations more holistically, and where applicable, solve problems more effectively (or take advantage of opportunities for that matter).

I am working under the premise that when you truly understand a situation you are able to more effectively deal with it — and to truly understand a situation you need to look at it from different perspectives ensuring a holistic understanding. I'm also working under the premise that this can be a difficult thing to do because we are built on a foundation of knowledge, experiences, culture, and philosophies, and this has shaped who we are and how we look at things. All impacting how we do what we do.

We become limited by our own knowledge.

There are two considerations with the Socrates quote —

  1. The quote reminds us that that no matter how knowledgeable, smart or successful we are, we shouldn't transfer it into believing we know everything. Because we don't. 
  2. In reminding ourselves that we know nothing, we push back all our preconceptions and are more open to understanding situations differently — we open ourselves up to considering different perspectives and other points of view. It's easier to ask more questions when we know nothing.

We are who we are and bring it all with us... these thirteen words definitely can help us do it a little better. But what do I know?