Socrates was famous for, among other things, saying Gnothi Seauton. (He said it in Greek, because he was. If you are not, you may recognize it quicker as “Know Thyself.”)

Recently John Weeren, in his always-interesting blog, About Zen, posted this “poem,” called I’m an Expert. Here it is in its entirety (Zen doesn’t waste words):

I’m an expert

at not knowing

what I’m doing

This was my response to John:  “Aren’t we all? Or am I the only one?”  (Because I immediately recognized myself as a supreme expert in this field.)

And this was John’s response to me:

“@Touch2Touch: I suggest you ask everyone you meet: ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’”

That seemed like a good idea, and since I meet many of you here in Blogland, I’m asking you: How good are you at knowing what you are doing? Despite any seeming flippancy, I’m genuinely asking the question, and am genuinely interested in your responses —

This entry was posted in Challenge, Etcetera, Quotes, Wisdom, Zen and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to ARE YOU AN EXPERT?

  1. Gemma says:

    I try to pay attention. I don’t always succeed. Sometimes I wander. I’m working on it.


  2. “Sometimes it is better not to know. Sometimes when you do know you just fold up.” Robin McKinley


  3. Amy says:

    The more I experience, the less I know…. 😉


  4. Patti Kuche says:

    My simple answer to your question – No, I do not know what I am doing. That much I do know . . .


  5. Gilly Gee says:

    Sadly i’m a Gilly of all trades mistress of none!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I used to think that, Gilly. That is, think it SADLY.
      Now at a great advanced age I’m not sure — could be that it makes for a densely textured and rich and variegated life?


  6. suitablefish says:

    I’m with Amy. And when I’m able to approach something with the attitude of ‘not knowing’ life is much more interesting.


  7. John Weeren says:

    Question: “Do you know what you’re doing?”
    A. Yes.
    B. No.
    C. Don’t know.


    Thanks for sharing, Judith. 😉


  8. John Weeren says:

    Thank you for using that phrase. This way I keep learning. 🙂

    So, “Yes” and “No” and “Don’t know”? Wow. How about “E. Maybe.” and “F. Not now. Ask me later.” and “G. Can you repeat the question?” 😛


  9. Jen says:

    In the moment, I “always” know what I’m doing. But big picture, put all those moments together? Hell, no!


  10. reb says:

    This morning, my answer would have been a resounding NO.

    So many great comments here that resonate with me — the one about ‘the more I experience, the less I know’, in particular … I don’t know, but I think I’m an expert in getting by in spite of it.


  11. fb says:

    For Category G Let’s do lunch


  12. pauline says:

    I opt for category H – sometimes. Sometimes I know exactly what I’m doing and I do it anyhow. Sometimes I wing it (category I?) Sometimes I think I know…


  13. This is a very interesting question. I’m not sure if this will make sense, but here it goes – I know my personal mission statement; in this I am an expert. Everything I do comes from that space and the desired results are in agreement with that mission statement. I always know my intentions. I rarely know the exact procedures, but it’s easier to figure it out once you have the 2 constants of the equation. And even though I’m bad in math if I use my fingers, and toes and a calculator and a tutor I’ll figure it out or at least get partial credit for showing my work. 🙂


    • Touch2Touch says:

      And that’s an interesting idea, a personal mission statement.
      It raises questions for me (as new ideas will do): is it really so clear and direct as that implies? Does it change/has it ever changed? Do intentions always line up with it? And of course, what’s the scorecard on results?
      I’ve always been really bad at naming, e.g. giving titles to my books, and the clarity and succinctness of a mission statement seems beyond my reach. So it really intrigues me to hear you describe it in that way.
      With thanks and gratitude for a new idea to consider.


      • Hi Touch,

        Good golly, there is no short answers to your questions.

        The hard work is at the formulation of the authentic mission statements. Ideally, the work for the mission statement should be done between the peaks and the valleys of life, but I have “worked it” in the mites of soul shaking scary times. One of my basic statements is “people before things”. That simple statement makes other decisions a lot easier. In that statement I have eliminated a large portion of the choices available to me in a given situation. It simplifies the decision making process greatly.

        Also, I’ve had so many discussions with family and friends about my mission statements they can quote me. I use them as a point of departure for silent contemplation and for the deep conversations.

        My statements have developed over the years; mostly in increments so small and so subtle no one would notice; and only occasionally with a great leap. My statements will continue to develop because I view myself as a lifelong learner. Class is always in session. 🙂

        The intention vs. the mission statement question is sort of the chicken and the egg question for me. I’m not sure what came first or if they are not really one in the same. I guess each informed the other. I’ll give it more thought.

        Scorecards; yikes! As my Grandma Inez always said “keep your eyes on your own plate”. The only reason to keep a scorecard is to compare yourself to others. Comparisons can be dangerous. If you place yourself above others you are likely to develop feelings of guilt or distain. If you place yourself below others you are likely to feel unworthy or envious.I know many people hold stock in the concept of “winners and losers, but I think when you hear the stories of the “winners” in life; they usually start with a love of the process. They are present and participating fully. The success is already there for them at that stage. They feel successful inside even before there are results or scorecards that an outsider could recognize or commend. Tear up the scorecard. It serves no one, least of all you. 🙂


        P.S. I hope I answered your questions.


        • Touch2Touch says:

          Wow. What a wonderful response.
          People before things — you’re right, it really sums up a way of life and a course of action.
          Wise Grandma Inez. Comparisons are odious, as someone said. They don’t benefit you, whichever direction they’re heading, up or down, pro or con.
          And — brilliant — that success is already there in loving the process, in being present and participating fully.
          Extraordinary clarity for one so young! (I suspect you don’t think you’re so young, but I KNOW you’re so young.)

          🙂 Thank you, Tree!


  14. CMSmith says:

    I’m going to have to think about that for a while.


  15. thirdhandart says:

    I am currently wondering, “What the heck am I doing?”
    Socrates said, “Wisdom begins with wonder.” But, I like the quote by Mark Twain, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”


  16. I believe in what I am doing. I know what I want to do, yet I lack a mentor that can offer guidance and direction. So yes, at this moment I know what I am doing, but I am not sure the path I follow is the correct one.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I wonder if you are actually following a path — I suspect that you are actually blazing one.
      There’s a restaurant in the Berkshires that was started by a very young man named Jonathan, who made a success of it, but then was killed very untimely in a motorcycle accident. His mother still runs the restaurant. Outside there is a small stone on which appears this inscription:

      In loving memory of Jonathan Thomas Van Allen
      September 5, 1984 – August 13, 2009

      Do not go where the path may lead

      Go instead where there is no path

      and leave a trail

      That’s what I think you’re doing, Tara. There’s no right or wrong about it. Each step you take is another step on the path, simply that. And that’s enough.


  17. 2e0mca says:

    Reminds me of the standard computer programmer discussion…
    “Why is it doing that?” “I Dunno – perhaps it’s a feature or something?”

    Translation of expert in telephone engineering circles – ex means has-been; spurt means a drip under pressure. So an expert is someone who is past it and feeling the pressure 😉


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I knew you’d have a different and fun take on this, Martin! Maybe I am an expert in several senses????

      Watching my granddaughter on occasion working on a bit of program — the first remark had me ROFLOL!


      • 2e0mca says:

        We had a laugh the other day – Passwords inside applications often have to be changed. I get a call from a user that a link is causing an error. My coding colleagues spent half a day scratching their heads on why – they don’t let me code any more cos that’s been offshored and I just get to supervise 😦 Then, eventually, they spot the embarrassing error – one of them had changed a password and somehow had included a space on the end of the password in the code. Note to the team to action within the code…Implement trimming of spaces on all passwords! Like I said, embarrassing and it doesn’t help that being Indian’s they really take it to heart 😦 Hopefully my ‘these things happen’ approach averted any suicides – I can do without the paperwork and frankly I wouldn’t want to lose any of them as they are great guys 😉


        • Touch2Touch says:

          Well, I’m glad for their sake that you are a Gentle Giant.
          But now I understand what sometimes happens with Hub’s and my computers — they change passwords on us, and then the new ones don’t work, and we’re locked out of whatever website, and — being American I really take it to heart too, but more from rage!!!!!!! ACtually more from panic than from rage, I’m sure we’ll never be able to access our account or website again! (And sometimes that looks like it will happen.)
          Maybe a difference between an expert and an amateur is that the expert isn’t so likely to panic?


  18. Stef says:

    Is the question really ‘do you know what you are doing?’, or is it more ‘do you know WHY you are doing what you are doing?’ I usually have decent (though not ‘perfect’) awareness of the ‘what’; but the ‘why’, ah, that’s a different matter altogether…


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Good question.
      I think they are twined together, inexorably.
      Say I am quite confident of what I am doing — and equally confident that I am doing it for a reason which — given time and clarity — turns out to be different, perhaps even opposite, of why I think I’m doing it. Which means ultimately — I’m NOT doing what I think I’m doing, but something else.

      Ouf! I think one can get very tangled up in words here! Hope the feeling comes across —


  19. jmnartsy says:

    I won’t even begin…..


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