“A doctor who knows what he doesn’t know is always better than the one who thinks he knows.”
That’s one of the many sayings from medical school that’s stuck with me. And the idea was apparently taken so seriously, our exams were structured to penalise us for guessing, marking us down by an extra half-mark for every wrong answer. That meant if you answered five questions and got two wrong, the extra half-marks for those two added up to one mark taken out of the three you got right, leaving you with only two. They basically made it impossible to guess your way to a pass.
We learned quickly to leave questions we weren’t reasonably sure of.
However you feel about that, it’s a valuable lesson in epistemic humility—humility about our knowledge (and more often, lack thereof). We all know what it’s like to act like we know what we’re doing when we really don’t. But epistemic humility is about being honest with yourself about what you don’t know, rather than acting like you do.
The interesting thing is, it doesn’t mean you don’t act anyway—you just act with the acknowledgement of your ignorance. And that’s surprisingly freeing.
It also means you’re in a position to actually learn something new.
What’s a note, but an idea persevering?
So Substack just launched a new feature called Substack Notes, where I’d love for you to join me. Here’s the first one I published on there:
Notes is a new space hosted by Substack where you and I can share quick thoughts: links, quotes, photos, whatever. A bit like Twitter, but saner and more focused on conversations between newsletter writers and readers. You can join with this link, or via the “Notes” tab in Substack’s app. As a subscriber to Notes On Being Human, you’ll automatically see my notes—feel free to like, reply, share! 😃
I think this could become a great little way for us to catch up during the week. I’ll share sneak peeks, quotes, thoughts and questions, and I hope you too share yours from whatever you’re reading, watching, experiencing or wondering about.
Try it out? (Do tag me if you do!)
(As I point out in another Substack Note, the irony does not escape me that “Notes” are also my name for these weekly newsletters. So I either need to somehow differentiate them from my Notes on Substack, or else change my newsletter name. Except, I like my newsletter name.)
Speaking of notes, though…
Steve Jobs is back
The Steve Jobs Archive recently announced a free ebook (and website) of notes and letters from the Apple founder. Or, as they put it, “Steve Jobs in his own words.” It’s really worth checking out—the website experience especially is simply delightful, even if you only have time to read a few pages.
It’s designed “to inspire readers to make their own ‘wonderful somethings’ that move the world forward,” which is just how it made me feel. As the first quote from Jobs puts it:
"There’s lots of ways to be, as a person. And some people express their deep appreciation in different ways. But one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there.
That’s the name of the book: Make Something Wonderful, and I love the idea that putting out what you make is how you give back to the world and to humanity. And both matter:
make something wonderful
put it out
Both steps require you to face the fear of being unable to make something wonderful, and of nobody caring what you put out. But facing those fears is part of the point. And when you do—when we, as Jobs puts it, express our appreciation in that way—you might be surprised who responds with appreciation back.
Connection happens when you share your creativity.
You can get it directly on Apple Books, but the website itself is an even more beautiful way to read it—click the image below to check it out:
I leave you with two questions:
What have you made that you hesitate to put out there?
How can you try to push back against that fear?
Great post, one that resonates with me.
After ten years, I'm finally recording my first album. A few things have gotten in the way before now, but one of the main ones is the fear that I'll put it out there and hardly anyone will care about it. After all, the music market is saturated past saturation.
And don't forget the perfectionist fear that I won't represent myself at my best, and everyone I respect will go 'Oh, is *that* all they had in them all this time?'
I finally decided I had to do this for myself, not because the world "needs" another album. There's just something incomplete about a creative act unless someone else is on the receiving end, same as talking in an empty room isn't communication. And when my creative acts aren't fully authentic and fully realised, my body lets me know.
On the plus side, I have more good songs to choose from now than I had ten years ago.
I promise, I won’t hold back!😊