What you Know and What you Don’t Means Success or Failure of Your Choices

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It’s Gregor with Grapple4Success. Greetings from beautiful Mauritius, off the coast of Africa, where complete lock-down with police curfew continues. If you are anything like me, you’ve probably spent a significant portion of your time during this quarantine following media. The amount of news and information is staggering, as is its validity. In fact, we often grapple with the frustration of how to sift through conflicting information and usually wonder what is even true. Below I explore how being aware of what you know and what you don’t means success or failure of your choices and actions. When exercised properly, you can differentiate between truths and falsehoods and make informed, uplifting, and actionable choices geared towards living a dream life on your terms.

A great thing about the internet is that it provides loads of information to everyone. The downside is, it gives loads of semi-intelligent, well-meaning people access to information they are not qualified to interpret. Add to this a distaste for detailed examinations, studies, and inquiries into information and sources, and you end up with quick, catchy titles with one or two bullet points bound to cause anxiety, fear, and failure.

Just a few days ago, President Trump announced the drug had been approved by the FDA to treat Covid 19. Just a few minutes later,  Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s Chief Immunologist, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and as a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force delivered news to the contrary. He explained that despite some anecdotal evidence, there is no scientific proof to suggest the cure works or is close being used en masse. Even though Trump and Fauci both spoke at the same venue, within  just a few hours, many people were already celebrating not only a new cure but the end of quarantene.

So how do we move forward in a situation like this? How does success or failure of (y)our choices depend on the information presented. My crusade days of trying to convince other people, especially on social media, are over. In my experience, people are going to do what they are going to do. Those who earnestly seek and grapple with the truth will eventually arrive at it. At the expense of sounding high and mighty, however, note that we all play on both sides of the field. We are experts or knowledgable in some areas while utterly clueless in others.


Knowing What you Know and Success or Failure of Your Choices

This brings me to the first principle, where knowing what we know is of equal importance than knowing what we don’t know. Turning failure of comprehension is the first secret to success on how to move forward with purpose and in an uplifting manner. For example, I consider myself fairly knowledgable about martial arts, particularly grappling and BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), foreign languages, travel, and business. I am by no means an expert, but I have enough track record and experience to be able to sift through most problems intelligently. If the problem is over my head, I know what logical questions to ask, and at the very least, I am one or two levels removed from being able to find an answer.

Say, I come across a marketing pitch on social media advertising mastering a foreign language in just a few weeks. Having traveled, lived abroad, and learned several languages, I can quickly move forward and skip the advertisement. I mean, I know people who only speak one language and still can’t get it correctly. Let alone learn another foreign language in a few weeks. Similarly, as a BJJ black belt and a lifetime martial artist, I have a good filter of what moves can and cannot work on a resisting opponent.

This comes particularly handy when introducing reality of combat of new students with their latest idealized moves from Instagram. If a particular sequence has me really confused, I am just a level or two removed from those better and more qualified, whether it be Craig Jones, Denny Prokopos, Ricky Lundell, Marc Brewer, or their coaches – the very legends of the sport.

Obviously, we all have our blind spots and biases, and we certainly cannot have a working knowledge of everything. And while we can infer some data from our experience or our gut, it is essential to understand how things function and where to get answers. For example, during this quarantine, I decided to improve my handstands. As a former athlete, I possess a decent filter to begin with handstands. After a few necessary sessions and reaching a plateau, I have to reach out to my gymnastics and breakdancing friends for further pointers. And depending on what my goals are, I may have to go further up the chain. Luckily, my purpose and motivation behind handstands are pretty humble; I am just trying to walk on my hands a few feet and hold the posture for some time.

Knowing What you Don’t Know and Success or Failure of Your Choices

Knowing what you don’t know is equally, if not more, important to success or failure of your choices. I know even less about wine than I do handstands. White wine has more sugar, and red is typically associated (in moderation) with longevity. That’s all I know. My friends loose me, when they talk about what soils, grapes influence the texture, taste, or alcohol content of wine. And don’t even get me started on what wine pairs with what food. My biggest fear is trying to impress a date with my knowledge of wine. To compensate, talking with my fellow black belt, Dylan, who is a sommelier, might be a good idea. He would probably suggest purchasing a book or attending some wine tastings in Northern California. Knowing myself, I’d probably just insist, he tells me what meal and wine to pair. Of course, I would require some impressive high-level, easy-to-understand talking points. Not that I have done that before :). The key takeaway here is that I am aware, I know nothing about wine. So if I had to make a decision, I would adopt a corresponding attitude allowing me to resolve the fear within and still successfully reach or move toward my goal.

Of course, most decisions in life are less trivial than the examples above. They are not black and white, but instead, they consist of multiple underlying factors. Failure often comes as much from wrong actions as it does from lack of faith, or fear of failure, or inaction. As a result, we mustn’t get boggled with all the details of every decision we need to make. In short, we only decide with the best possible data available to us.

Since I was a child, I always wanted to travel the world and explore its many diverse languages and cultures. Since 2015, I’ve been slowly crossing off the list countries I haven’t been to yet. In 2020, I have been traveling since January when COVID 19 began spreading to Europe and the United States. I didn’t want to stop traveling, but the virus was making it impossible to make plans amidst all the airport shutdowns. With my final destination being quarantined, I called my friend from the Stuttgart airport. She is a Ph.D. and a lecturer in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Ljubljana. After speaking to her, I grabbed the last available flight to Mauritius, off the coast of Africa for a few reasons.

I have never set foot on the African continent before, so the plan worked with my overall life-time goal. With no reported cases of Corona virus, and  health care system and GDP of Mauritius among the highest on the continent, it felt like a great way to start. Additionally, if an outbreak did occur, it would be easier to contain because of measures adopted early and remoteness of an island. Of course, like a telephone game, it’s also easier to align population of 1.2 million people behind social distancing than it is an extensive populous of several millions. My decision was fueled even more with a general belief that tropical climates slow down the virus. Later this turned out not to be the case.

Clearly, success and failure of my choice depended on what I knew as well as what I didn’t, and how I mitigated that knowledge gap with my friend’s expertise. In other words, I made a decision with the best set of data and assumptions I had available to me at the time. The decision didn’t bring forth desired fruit, as I am seating in quarantine in Mauritius at the time of writing this. On the other hand, it allowed me to move quickly, avoid being trapped at the Stuttgart airport. In fact, I am exploring a new country and a new culture, one of my primary goals, albeit through a slightly different lens and set of circumstances.

Of course, decision making like anything else takes practice and patience. It is completely normal to feel uneasy, unsure of even feel a certain level of anxiety. Those usually serve as warning signs and keep you honest, prepared and safe. You must, however embrace those feelings and not let them incapacitate you. You can learn more about how to deal with fear and anxiety in my other blog post here

Personal and Logical Biases and Your Choices

Before executing and making decisions, we have to be aware of our own biases. We all filter data through lenses of our  individual upbringing, experience, and belief systems. We know of many biases, best covered on a separate, stand-alone topic. Still, I want to address the main one we commonly encounter. It follows the structure: “if something always/never happens, it will continue to still/never occur. “We all know someone who has driven drunk but didn’t get caught. Just because no arrest was made, it doesn’t mean this will be the outcome of every single drive.

Similarly, we have all heard of someone who got into a car accident without wearing a seatbelt and walked away unscathed. This is a statistical anomaly and not a trend. I wouldn’t advise driving around without a seatbelt. By the same token, people sometimes apply this to more or less harmful situations. Innocently, they know of someone who got a six-pack by following this diet or that diet. More seriously, they also follow someone who “supposedly” overcame a serious illness by using essential oils only or some other remedy. Much like driving analogy, these may or may not be unifying factors that drove the result. In fact, without studies ensures all variables are eliminated, we are better off not falling into the fallacy. It has to be repeatable, demonstratable, and withstand the burden of proof.

Once isolated from biases, and aware of what you know and what what you don’t, you will marvel at success of your choices and actions aimed at success in living your dream life on your terms.

Cheers, Gregor



European turned American! Linguist, traveler, martial arts aficionado, BJJ Black Belt, and a retired executive who decided to pursue grappling full time at 35 and document the journey in order to inspire others to pursue their dreams. These are his ramblings.

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