The Black and White Nature of the Mind (#991)

During last weekend’s The Entrepreneurial Advantage program, my friend and mentor George Pransky mentioned that in his experience, the human mind was designed to operate extremely well in “black and white”, either knowing or not knowing what to do without any grey area in between.

This reminded me of one of my favorite “George stories”, about a time where he brought a new intern with him to a corporate mediation. The first session was disastrous, with everyone shouting everyone else down and George’s counsel being largely ignored. During the first break, his intern came up to him and said “That was awful!”

George replied, “I know – it really was!”

“What are you going to do?” asked the intern, revved up into a minor panic.

“I don’t know yet”, said George calmly, “but we’ve got about 20 minutes – hopefully something will come to me during the break.”

At the end of the break, the intern returned. “Did you figure out what you’re going to do?”

“No, nothing’s come to me yet.”

“But what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

The intern was exasperated. “You’ve got to do something – they’ve paid us a fortune and they’re all waiting on you!”

George looked surprised. “What do you want me to do – make something up?”

George wasn’t unduly panicked because he knew two things that the intern had yet to discover. The first is that stress and pressure are not conducive to creative innovation. The second is that inner knowing is both inevitable and inevitably worth waiting for.

This is the mind at it’s best – operating in the clarity of knowing or not knowing without the infinite shades of grey that come with trying to force an answer or “make things happen”.

In my own life, I had always been aware that I found life simple and straightforward when I knew what to do, but I thought the opposite of that level of clarity was “struggling to figure it out”. This meant that I found myself operating the majority of time in one of two modes – the effortlessness of knowing or the stress and struggle of not knowing.

But as I came to see the black and white nature of the mind, I realized that stress and struggle had nothing to do with “not knowing” – they had to do with thinking I was supposed to be able to figure things out with my little brain and its limited information and experience, however vast that limited database might appear to be.

As I came to see that I could rely on a deeper intelligence – what some might call “intuition” or “guidance” or “inner knowing” – the idea of trying to force an answer and operate under high levels of self-induced pressure and stress seemed like less and less of a good idea.

It became apparent to me that there were three things about the mind that I could absolutely rely on:

1. When I know, I know; when I don’t know, I don’t know.

2. There is a deeper intelligence available to me at all times that I can hear most easily when I’m in a settled down, reflective state of mind.

3. I know that I’ll know when I know.

To the extent that I see the first thing, I dive in when I know and don’t try to make myself seem smarter than I am when I don’t.

To the extent that I see the second thing, I relax in the face of the unknown and simply stay in the game until an answer appears.

And to the extent that I see the third thing, I have the patience to stay outside the world of pressure and struggle that gets created when I think I’m supposed to know something before I do.

While I realize this could all be taken as a prescription for how to live, my hope is that instead you take a look at the black and white nature of the mind over the next week and see if you begin to experience more lightness of heart, clarity of thought, and ?ease of well-being.

Have fun, learn heaps, and happy exploring – please share what you discover on the Inside-Out Community FB group!


With all my love,


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