Unknown Territory: The Power Of Knowing What You Don’t Know.


World maps didn’t always look like they do today.

Despite the fact that a majority of Earth’s territory was unknown to Man for a long time, early world maps didn’t show off this lack of knowledge.

In fact, before the 1500s it was common to draw a disk and fill it to the brim with the contours of the landmasses known to the cartographer, surrounding it by ocean on the edge.

One of the first maps of the world, which was circular in form and showed the known lands of the world grouped around the Aegean Sea at the center (source).

This disk would then represent the entire known world, leaving no room to add on newly discovered territory.

Only from the 1500s onwards a handful of cartographers started to include unknown territory onto their maps, inviting the reader to explore beyond the boundaries of the known.

Diogo Ribeiro, a Portuguese cartographer working for Spain, made what is considered the first scientific world map: the 1527 Padrón Real (source). It is also one of the first world maps that leaves room for unknown territory, inviting the reader to explore beyond the boundaries of the ‘known’.

Let this be a lesson about personal growth.

Today, many people act like early Medieval cartographers… they’ll confidently present their knowledge as if it is everything they need to know to make up their minds, leaving no room to explore their blind spots with an open mind.

‘Knowing what you don’t know’ is a super power. The first step to learning and growing, is to admit there’s more learning and growing to do.

For the open minded, to not know everything is a wonderful feeling – it means there’s more to learn. For the closed minded, to not know everything is an unbearable fact of life that’s best denied.

Let the vast amount of growth opportunities humble and excite you, and keep exploring with childlike wonder.

About the author

Wesley van der Hoop

Dutchman living in The Bahamas. I get excited about digital marketing, writing, traveling, surfing and learning new things.

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