Questions And “I Don’t Know” – A Letter From The CEO
It's been a while since I wrote a Wild Letter. Since then, a lot has changed for us and the country.
But don't worry; I'm not here to talk about politics or to take one side or the other. And I'm NOT going to — presumptuously—predict what will happen the way every news outlet, columnist, blogger, and media organization is doing right now.
Nope, I won't do any of that. After all, we are in the food business, not the media, entertainment, or news.
That said, there is always a time when optimism and learning are helpful. I'm going to cover some of these today.
Let's start with something all humans have in common—the human brain. And in case you didn't know, your brain is the most complex creation the universe has ever seen.
Lucky you. Lucky me.
We still need to learn how the human brain works, and many scientists speculate we will never fully unearth its mysteries. But no matter how you look at it, it's undeniable that nature has created a species capable of a consciousness that allows it to question its existence.
We are lucky to be able to question life and ourselves, yet we royally suck at both. Our human consciousness defines the human experience, and we have a random colliding of atoms to thank for that gift. Suitable for a place (the universe) defined by a random colliding of elements.
Regardless of what you believe or don't believe about how we came to be, we can all agree on one thing: we are a miracle—Life is a miracle—, and we are damn lucky to be alive now.
Now let's look at the brain. The human brain fascinates me for many reasons. What gets me is that we all have brains, yet we all think and see life differently.
There is no objective way to measure or compare individual experience, which is crazy because reality is nothing more than an interpretation of sensory inputs by a human brain. And considering we all have brains, it would be easier to agree on things, yet we live in a world primarily divided by our beliefs' incongruence.
I could take a few forks in the road while still getting to a point. I am still determining which fork I want to take at this time or which point I want to make, for that matter.
I could spend some time rapping about the fact that you and I will never, ever, ever be able to fully understand another's point of view—human, horse, democratic, republican, sand flea—let alone the point of view of half of a country that votes one way or the other. And that we should stop trying to understand or argue and start accepting. (We aren't changing anyone's mind, so we must stop trying to do that.)
Human existence is profound on so many levels. Still, the one that gets to me the most—and that I see the most—is the fact that few of us lack an understanding of the way people are, yet we are still so surprised every time human acts like a human that we could easily be diagnosed as textbook insane.
(The definition of insanity, according to Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.)
Try to convey how, since perception is reality, and to a profound degree, we can adjust our perception if we are aware of it; Life is what you choose it to be. No more, no less… and all choice.
Let's go with this point since I often think about this as I try to control my reality. Since I love the Stoics and consider myself a "Stoic" of sorts, here are a couple of Stoic quotes to kick things off:
"How many have laid waste to your life when you weren't aware of what you were losing? How much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements— how little of your own was left to you? You will realize you are dying before your time!"
—Seneca, On The Shortness of Life
"You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts."
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
I'm not audacious enough to think I have anything to say that these great men have not already said, but I will summarize some of what I've come to understand through study and life over the years.
Here are a few thoughts relating to the mind, life, and being better at both. I hope you find one helpful thing you can use to live better.
You Choose Everything In Your Life, Whether You Think You Do Or Not.
Think about that for a second: you choose everything you choose. Many are ignorant of this inescapable truth of reality; the rest seem to forget regularly.
After all, most people let their friends, favorite YouTubers, and the media choose the thoughts and beliefs that shape their reality. You might think these individuals aren't choosing since they let others decide for them, but I'd remind you that they first have to choose who they pay attention to.
No matter how you spin it, it all comes down to choice. What's more insidious about human belief is most influence is done at the subconscious level, where most are unaware that their ideas are being formed by someone else.
(And this is scary if you think about it, considering the current political landscape and the prevalence of social media and all the "fake news" being passed around.)
I remember reading about the concept of "contagion." The author asserted that we (basically) absorb the beliefs of people around us at the subconscious level and that there is little we can do to change this.
But you can do something about it, a lot. First, you choose who you spend time with, what you read, and who you watch on YouTube.
Second, you question your beliefs as often as possible to understand yourself and others better. Or, on the flip side, you never ask your thoughts while being oblivious that maybe your beliefs suck and are harmful to your life and those around you.
Third, you admit that there is little you can control while accepting that your thoughts and actions are the only things within your control. Fourth, you choose—or you don't—to be ok with not knowing things. As Socrates said, "I know one thing; I know nothing."
It's all choice. Unfortunately, most people choose without 1) knowing that they are choosing and 2) realizing the long-term effects their choosing or lack of choosing has on their life.
I want to make one more point on number 4 above on the topic of not knowing and the prevalence of so many convictions I see being passed around from all sides. When I see convicted individuals on one side of a point versus another, I usually think of one of my favorite philosophers, Nietzsche, and one of his brilliant quotes.
It's this: "Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies." This is one of those quotes that make you think.
Why are convictions more dangerous enemies of truth than lies?
Because convictions are based on the rigged assumption that you are right and that your way is the best, both of which pave the way for bigotry, closed-mindedness, and radical terrorism, to name a few. When you are convicted, you are biased to the nth degree.
You succumb to confirmation bias in its purest form. This inclination leads you to seek information that confirms your beliefs while ignoring or not seeing information that challenges your assumptions. (This is also why debating politics has the reverse effect: all you do is become more resolute in your beliefs while making your opponent more determined.)
In a nutshell, convictions lead to many forms of cognitive bias and are why things like politics and race, two things that tend to have an "Us vs. Them" line in the sand, rarely lead to progress. Convictions are further compounded by the fact that—for reasons I'm not exactly sure of—it has become taboo in our culture to say, "I don't know."
It could be our age of Google and instant information that led us all to believe that we should all have an opinion on everything. But "I don't know" is something you can implement today that will show immediate results.
Take "I don't know" and sprinkle in more questions combined with fewer statements. You have a winning strategy for life that will help you in every personal and professional situation you will ever face.
I am still determining the path to wisdom. It doesn't help you avoid convictions and biases from thinking you know what you know.
I am figuring out what leads to testing, good questions, and more self-awareness (we need more of each in our current age). We all need less conviction and more; I don't know.
And at the individual level, you will do so much better with each.
Choose to be ok with not knowing.
Choose who you spend your time with and who you let influence you.
Choose the say no to your natural tendency to be arrogantly convicted.
Choose to embrace I don't know, don't know.
Choose to question more and talk less.
Yours in life,