Discover more from Unknown Unknowns
Paul Millerd defines the term “illegible ambition” as an ambition that no one, including yourself, can define. Contrast this with a legible ambition - what your parents can brag about.
I really like the concept of illegible ambition because it leads toward exploration. The act of trying to define something, even if unsuccessfully, makes you explore the concept more.
The problem is that if you can’t define your ambition, it makes it hard for anyone to understand what you’re up to. How can you help people if you can’t explain what you do?
I’m reminded of the concept of tacit knowledge that I learned from Cedric Chin. Tacit knowledge is knowledge that you can’t explain to someone else, it has to be learned through experience. But I believe that tacit knowledge can slowly become legible as training practices improve. But knowledge is fractal - when something becomes legible, it exposes whole layers of new territory to explore.
This cycle reminds me of Tom Morgan’s explanation of Ian McGilchrist’s ideas. The Left brain is rational thought, while the Right brain is synthesis. The Left brain tries to make the illegible legible, while the Right brain explores past the legible frameworks. Learning is a cycle, finding new truths and then exploring the edge cases.
What would cycling between illegible and legible ambitions look like? Keep exploring and pushing the boundaries of our illegible ambitions. Periodically attempt to define our ambition, which allows us to explain to others how we can help them and also set new boundaries of our ambition that we can explore.