Knowledge is humbly interesting.

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My grandfather often used this simple and elegant drawing to illustrate the interesting relationship between knowledge and humility.

He would draw a small circle on a chalk board and ask you to imagine that the sum total of what you know is represented by the area inside the circle (yellow), and that everything you don’t know is represented by the large area outside the circle (white).

From inside this circle of knowledge, you can’t see the entirety of the vast unknown outside–you can only see the tiny bit that actually touches the edge of your circle.

The very edge of the circle (red), then, is your exposure to what you don’t know, or put another way, how much you know that you don’t know.

Then he would draw a bigger circle, representing an increase in your knowledge.

It would be clearly visible that the bigger circle also has more exposure to the vast unknown (more red), and that as your circle of knowledge grows, so does your exposure to just how much you don’t know.

In other words, the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.

This explains why those that have a lot of knowledge in a subject area are also the most humble.

They have the best grasp on how much more there is to know.

Conversely, if you think you know just about everything there is to know about something, it’s likely that your actual circle of knowledge is so small that you aren’t yet even capable of realizing just how much you don’t know.

Keep that in mind the next time you’re feeling like you know it all!

-David

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