I Don't Know

"You are wise because you have doubts." - Clementine, Churchill


For the last several years, I've kept a commonplace journal in DayOne that I store all sorts of bits and pieces of wisdom that I run across. It could be a favorite quote. Or perhaps an inspiring picture. A random story. A doodle. A word.

Whatever goes. The only rule is to make it worthwhile for yourself.

For centuries, authors and thinkers have kept commonplace books: focused journals that serve to collect thoughts, quotes, moments of introspection, transcribed passages from reading — anything of purpose worth reviewing later.

Early in the week, I was taking a mental pause from a technical problem I was looking into and shifted up to my focus by just picking out a few random items from the journal. For me, this is one of the most valuable uses of the commonplace journal — a distraction to guide my mind into a different place.

In there, I had stored a piece of advice from Adam Grant, which felt relevant to something that's been on my mind recently.

Things people aren't afraid to say when they have psychological safety:

I don't know

I made a mistake

I disagree

I might be wrong

I have a concern

I have an idea

Wikipedia defines "psychological safety" as

being able to show and employ oneself without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status, or career. It can be defined as a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.

Now, in last week's post, I talked a bit about how "you can end up being held back by a lack of skill, experience, or simply the inability to do something that others recognize. Unfortunately, you are blind to it."

Here's the thing — there's a secret power that comes along with admitting "I don't know." Most humans are hesitant to say it, ask for help, or even admit that they could be wrong even though the reality is that you don't know everything.

If you're a leader, the most successful organizations are those that embody a culture that makes this type of safety ok. "I don't know" followed by "I'll find out" or "I'll find someone who can help" shouldn't be considered a weakness but a strength. It shows yourself, your team and others that you are self-aware, coachable, and continuously willing to learn. It opens up more greener valleys than "I know everything."

If you enjoy these posts, you can buy me a coffee ☕️, or if you'd rather keep up with my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter or keep reading my posts on this blog.

Forward Thinking

Last week I ran across the book "Two Years on a Bike", which documents Martijn Doolaard's epic adventure as he cycled (not a motorcycle, a bike) from Vancouver to Patagonia.

Pedaling through wind, rain and blistering sun until you reach the mythical Tierra del Fuego. It’s the epic adventure many dream of doing, and that photographer and travel writer Martijn Doolaard did in Two Years on a Bike. Here, his stunning photography takes us to the Californian coast, to the impenetrable jungles of Mexico, and to the ever-higher passes of the Andes. Chronicling the life of a bicycle nomad, Doolard packs his necessities into a couple of panniers and explores what it means to be at home in the world while embracing a life of minimalism.

It is a four-part series totaling over an hour, but what an epic story. Sit down, put on the headphones, and enjoy this adventure.

Thought of the week

Here are a few of the articles and videos that resonated with me over the last week:

  • A quick but poignant read: "Eliminate Small Decisions." I love this philosophy: 'automating your small decisions and eliminating them from your life, you can save your much-needed energy to allow for a greater capacity to focus on the bigger decisions of your day-to-day life' - More
  • A look at your breathing and how it affects everything from anxiety to mortality. "Mouth breathers" dives into a topic that I need to research more on this (I just bought the book). It "explores humans relationship with the breath, how it's changed over the years, and what we're losing when we go from nasal breathers to me, a mouth breather. Spoiler alert: we die faster." - More
  • Whaaaa? "Longest lightning bolt record: 477 miles over 3 states" - More
  • I mentioned Craig Mod before - he's part of a small list of 'thinkers' I regularly follow. In "Memberships Work," he dives into how his site and membership 'has inspired and catalyzed, for me, a sustained and vast interval of intense writing, photographing, bookmaking, and general 'creative output.'' - More
  • I'm sorry, but this is a feature, not a bug. "Stuck in KUOW purgatory: Seattle Mazda drivers can't change the radio dial" - More
  • "Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition" is a pretty fantastic read on how they are 'a mechanism by which we make life bearable. They protect us from the frenzy and tumult unleashed by history. They counter annihilating and anarchic forces. Gardens have been with us – or we have been with gardens – forever.' - More
  • I've long been a fan of just 'walking,' but now there's even more evidence on how "Walking Just 10 Minutes a Day May Lead to a Longer Life". A recent study shows that it would help prevent more than 111,000 premature deaths a year - More
  • An incredible origin story of 'little paper slips of a standard size,' known today as the Index Card. "How the Index Card Cataloged the World" will take you through their unique history - More
  • Brene Brown has an incredibly thoughtful update on her position with Spotify and the controversy around censorship in "Podcast Update: February 8, 2022" - More
  • "No Regrets" - 'on the things we wish we'd done differently' and the philosophy on not second-guessing choices, and how things didn't always happen how you remember them - More


Ending this week with a follow-up to the above mention of Two Years on a Bike. Now Martijn Doolaard has finished his "bike nomad" days, discovered dozens of abandoned homes for sale, and bought two at the top of a mountain beyond the electric grid.

Originally built as shelters for farmers and their animals, his cabins are dry stone: stacked stones supported by their own weight without any mortar. The structures were in good shape but filled with holes between the stones letting in cold and wind, so Doolaard set up camp inside one, using his tent and technical sleeping bag from his bikelife days to begin renovating.

He uses his phone as a hotspot to continue to do his graphic design work remotely. AMAZING.

Be well. ✌🏻

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Jamie Larson