A recent article in the New York Times highlighted the brilliant career of actor Paul Newman. After multiple popular movies and being at the height of his powers, Newman came to this conclusion:

“I am faced with the appalling fact that I don’t know anything,”

What if this is not a weakness but a superpower? The acknowledgment that with all the success we may have, or don’t have, the truth is we don’t know what we’re doing. In a day where saying, “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure,” is anathema, what if we took the humble approach of Paul Newman:

“I don’t know anything.”

The irony is Paul knew things, many things. He knew how to act, tie his shoes, and make salad dressing. But Newman is tapping into a deeper truth. He won awards and made brilliant films. But like every artist knows and anyone making anything, nobody knows why certain things hit, and others don’t.

You labor, create, and ship the work and it works… sometimes… and other times, not so much. The truth is, we don’t know anything.

The magic sauce is embracing the reality that some things just won’t work. We have the freedom to live and work and create being okay with not knowing much. Maybe just enough to be dangerous.

It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to turn on the headlights and not know what’s around the bend. I think the “Newman” approach to life and art will open us to more possibilities, not less. We are free to try stuff and fail, or succeed, or something in between.

Perhaps not knowing isn’t all that bad after all. It worked for Newman.

Paul Newman on Incompetence