There is a famous story about six blind men who had an argument about an elephant. They were on a journey together when they came upon something in their way that they did not recognize.
The first man reached his hand out and touched the wide and rough side of the elephant, so he declared to his friends:
“It is a great wall, and we will have to climb over it.”
The next man reached out and touched the elephant’s tusk. He yelled back to the first man:
“What are you talking about, this is a great spear – let us take it with us for protection on our journey.”
The third man reached out and rubbed his hand on the elephant’s trunk, then began to tremble:
“There is a great snake in our path and we must turn back!”
Yet another man reached out and this time he touched the elephant’s knee, so he said calmly to the other men:
“We have been walking for a great distance, have no fear, let us rest ourselves next to this great tree.”
The fifth man, reached out and touched the elephant’s ear:
“Ahh … this is a great fan which we can use to cool ourselves down in this scorching day.”
Not wanting to be left out, the last man touched the elephant’s tail and said: “This is just a piece of rope … it is completely useless to us on our journey.”
Despite encountering exactly the same situation – the elephant – each man came to a completely different conclusion than the other men, both about what he was experiencing, and about what he should do about it.
What’s most striking to me about the story though, is how convinced each one of them was that they had the full story. So convinced, in fact, that some of them ridiculed the other mens’ position because it differed from theirs.
How often have you been guilty of the very same ignorance when planning out a goal in your life? A quick decision about a path you should take, based on limited information, and no outside guidance, and you are on your way. But the wise words of the Bible sum this up very well:
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
— Proverbs 14:12
The only way to combat this bias towards ignorance is to understand upfront that getting the whole picture about the future and how your goals will progress is impossible, so never assume that you have it. Instead, focus on getting a healthy set of perspectives – even some that contradict each other – and then take action with an open mind.