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Sorta Random Sunday: My Theory on the Evolution of Knowledge

We all go through an evolution of knowledge as we progress through our lives. But it takes places in each different aspect.

There is an evolution of knowledge with becoming a parent, getting married, being a doctor, learning to invest, really anything…even happiness

evolution of knowledge

That’s why I think that genius is at least equally made as it is born.

Awhile ago, I think when I was in medical school, I started to think about how knowledge goes through a metamorphosis. What started me thinking about this was clinical rotations when I quickly realized I knew absolutely nothing. Despite thinking I knew a lot after going through my non-clinical years.

And so this is my theory on the evolution of this knowledge…

Stage 1: You don’t know what you don’t know

Ah, this is the most blissful stage of all…but also the scariest…

You are just starting out with whatever knowledge base you are gaining. And quite simply, you don’t have enough experience to know just about anything. Including the things that you don’t know yet. You are blissfully unaware of your lack of knowledge.

Because of this, you have a false sense of security and confidence.

Haven’t we all started out learning something and looked back at how we did something that would give us so much more pause today?

I think most of us can think back to our early residency years and remember something we did with too little fear…not fully realizing the potential ways something could go wrong…

That’s this stage.

Stage 2: You know what you don’t know

OK, so now you’ve gained some more experience, learned more.

And you finally realize that vast space of knowledge that you do not comprehend yet. You develop a healthy respect for the knowledge you are accumulating and the risks/downsides associated with it.

The risk at this phase is that this knowledge handcuffs your and you don’t progress due to fear or analysis paralysis.

Stage 3: You know what you know

This is the stage where most people live in most areas of knowledge in my opinion. You gathered the experience and knowledge to know and be aware of what you actually know.

You’re basically an expert in what you know and capable of handling things within that sphere of knowledge.

But there is a stage beyond this…

Stage 4: You know what you don’t know

This is the stage of masters.

Certainly not where I reside in anything at this point. But it’s always the goal.

At this stage, you have broken down your knowledge into its component parts, understanding the building blocks to a level that you can re-build and form them to fit any problem. Even those that you haven’t encountered or “don’t know yet.”

I don’t think I’m at that stage in plastic surgery. But I see glimpses where I’m able to do something I’ve never seen or done before using all the skills and tools that I’ve collected over the years.

This is the final stage in the evolution of knowledge in my theory.

Of course, this also applies to everything else that I talk about here at The Prudent Plastic Surgeon…

In fact, you can see the stages of evolution at work in these posts full of mistakes and lessons learned:

What do you think? How does knowledge evolve? Have you gone through these stages? In which do you currently reside? Let me know in the comments below!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

    3 thoughts on “Sorta Random Sunday: My Theory on the Evolution of Knowledge”

    1. Hi Jordan:

      Appreciate your insightful analysis of evolution of knowledge, particularly done at your youthful age, congratulations.
      May l add a stage 5, you know what they don’t know, which is the unsettling part. Since, human don’t live alone, others’ ignorance could affect your state. Should l bring up the chaos we live in this world, a clear illustration is our current affairs with COVID 19. I place it in the last stage in your series is because this concern becomes mostly relevant at the end stage of one’s life journey, what the hack will become our humanity and our planet earth when one turns back into the dust, one would never have this knowledge. Amen!

    2. A great simple summary of the growth of our knowledge base. Since doctors typically love to learn new things, this elegantly outlines what we go through in our process. In regards to stage 1 “you don’t know what you don’t know” and the business illiteracy of doctors, there is a growing passivity among doctors to accept their knowledge deficit (move to stage 2)and simply let their employer manage it for them. This is a mistake because employers will commoditize your business power while crushing your well-being in the process. I believe every doctor should incorporate themself at the beginning of their career (this individualized modern PC is much different than its older sibling, the private practice PC). This simple step helps doctors preserve their professional autonomy, which is a fundamental element of maintaining your well-being and thriving as a physician. Traditional employment leads to an erosion of our autonomy. Ultimately any step we can take to preserve our professional autonomy is critical and it’s why “PC-employment lite” is a much better employment model for physicians than traditional employment, as I have elucidated as a guest blogger on your site. It is a systemic solution that helps preserve professional autonomy and leads to doctors overcoming their knowledge deficits about their small business power through their own individualized PC, which in turn helps them acquire the needed knowledge about operating and running a professional small business in bite-size steps.


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