Know or Didn’t Know

by Ron Potter

In an earlier blog, I was wondering about why we didn’t have the philosophers today like the ones who were around thousands of years ago.  Then I came to the conclusion that many of today’s philosophers were songwriters and singers.  I zeroed in on Billy Joel in particular as a philosopher of our day.

Modern Day Philosophers

Two songwriters/singers caught my attention the other day because they seemed to be thinking about and signing about an idea from entirely different directions.

One was Rod Stewart and the group, Faces. The song is “Ooh La La”:

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger

The other was Bob Seger in his song, “Against the Wind”:

Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then

I don’t know if they are on opposite ends of the same scale or just asking different questions.  But if you think about these lyrics, it can create some deep thoughts.

Knew More?

Do you wish that you knew more in your youth? (When I was younger, I wished that I knew what I know now.)

On the one hand, I would say no, I don’t wish that.  I believe the sense of curiosity and adventure is formed and honed when you’re young.  If you were fortunate enough to have mentors that encouraged those traits, they likely served you well and created a lifelong habit of wanting to know and understand things as well as a desire to try things.  When I meet people who are lacking one or both of those traits, it seems to me that they are falling short of living their life to the fullest.

On the other hand, knowing more may have helped you understand people and circumstances better.  As I age, there are often times when my thoughts say, “Boy, I didn’t see that coming!”

But in general, I think that knowing more when you are younger probably feeds your ego more than your curiosity and that’s not a good thing.

Didn’t Know

Seger talks about being as naive and innocent now as when he was younger.

Again, on the one hand, it might be easier to be living the kind of life that you were when you were younger.  I grew up in what I considered almost an idyllic setting.  We had a small piece of property that had a stream running through it.  Every time I would leave the house my mother would say “don’t get wet.”  I, of course, “fell” into the stream every day.  Even during Michigan winters.  I also lived in a rural area and it was a three-mile bike ride to town.  My biggest worry during those days was a flat tire on my bike.

On the other hand, it would almost require seclusion from the world to avoid the bigger problems of an adult.  We do run into those people who have protected themselves so much from the world.  They assume their experience and life is the only one or certainly, the only right one that exists.  I think of those people as having and knowing a very small world.


People with a “large world” perspective see things differently.   Even if their world is physically small, they look at the bigger picture and try to understand what others are thinking from a different perspective than their own.

My father ventured beyond his physical boundaries once when he served in WWII.  After the war that he had spent in North Africa and Italy, he came back to Michigan.  I only remember leaving the state once during the rest of his life, but he seemed to have a big world perspective.  During my college years in the Engineering School of the University of Michigan, I would learn something new about the engineering world and couldn’t wait to share it with my dad.  I assumed that I would finally know something beyond his high school education in the same small town that he raised me.  But it seems that whatever the topic, he would say something like “I’ve been reading a lot about that topic.  What do you think this aspect means?”  Of course, I didn’t know the answer because he knew more about the topic than I did.  He was a very “large world” thinker.  I have one cherished possession left from my father.  Here is a picture of his dictionary.

Living Around the World

All four of my grandchildren have lived in different parts of the world.  But just being physically worldly, doesn’t make you worldly in your thoughts or attitudes.  They all see the world as large, expansive, and varied.  It will serve them well.

Examine Your World View

How large is your world?  Think about it!  You’ll never know it all but expanding your world through curiosity, learning, and gaining understanding will keep you in a “growth mindset” which is essential for great leaders.

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1 comment

scott Jenkins April 29, 2021 - 8:52 pm

Best wishes Ron. All my life from a kid to now an entrepreneur at 71, I have been a forward thinker. I do not look back. The rearview mirror is tiny compared to the windshield. Concurrently, I’m also continuously learning. My focus is leadership, influence, and impact. There is much to do and I’m behind due to being the caregiver for my son and then my wife. The good news is by looking forward and concentrating on others I’m able to positively change the lives of families for the better. I’ve tried to tell you a lot in a few lines. Also, I hope you smiles at “concurrently” I used it just for you. Best…Scott (Scooter)


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