There is a big difference between theory and practice. Words and action. Regurgitating from memory and deep understanding. How we “know” things matters. Rationally and intellectually appreciating something is not the same as deep knowing with every fabric of your being. There’s knowing and then there’s really knowing.

Knowing intellectually

Mentally and intellectually grasping an idea or a concept is often believed to be sufficient. Yet, intellectual knowing is slow. Daniel Kahneman would probably call it “slow brain”. It requires you to ‘work things out’ via slow mental processing, rather than immediately recognise something without hesitation.

Think of how you identify colours. You know red immediately by seeing it. There is no thinking, no doubt, no working out — you just know. Even if you forget the name of a colour (say in a foreign language), you still know it by its unique characteristics. Red is unique and you sense that deeply, whichever context you encounter it in.

Deep knowing is about feeling or sensing something at a more
profound level that is beyond thinking.

Beyond concepts

This kind of knowing is much deeper than intellectual knowing. Our cultural bias towards left brain reductionist reasoning can make us believe that intellectual knowing is the only kind of knowing there is. This is obviously not true as the example of how we recognise colours demonstrates.

deep knowing

Anyone who does anything to a very high standard will attest to this kind of deep knowing in their field. A mathematician who recognises patterns. A figure skater who feels the axis of her body. A musician who embodies rhythm. A writer who navigates nuances of language.

Beyond intuition

This kind of deep knowing is also beyond intuition. In my ex-career as a professional investor I had developed an intuition for identifying “good deals”. This intuition however required subsequent substantiation via extensive due diligence. Because intuition can often lead us astray.

Deep knowing is not about intuition. There is no doubt involved in deep knowing.

Knowing when to really know

Sure, there might be some areas that can never allow unequivocal deep knowing. Financial investing is probably one of them. The problems arise when we fail to recognise that there is such a thing as deep knowing and rely only on conceptual and intuitive models to develop expertise. This is an easy mistake to make, particularly when conceptual and intuitive approaches are the norm.

So, whatever your field is, ask yourself: Do I really know? Is it possible to deeply know? How can I develop a deeper embodied kind of knowing?


Harsha Perera Life CoachHarsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.