top of page

Home  >  Blog


'Storm' in a Teacup?

A Japanese master received an eminent university professor who came to inquire about

wisdom. The master served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself. ‘It is overfull. No more will go in!’

‘Like this cup,’ the master said, ‘ you are full of your own opinions, speculations, and hypotheses. How can I show you wisdom unless you first empty your cup?’


I love this story - such a good reminder of how ‘knowing what we know’ can interfere with our own growth and opportunities for learning. It’s a reminder of the four stages of learning too, when first we are unconsciously incompetent, not aware of what we don’t know. Then, when we start learning something new, we become conscious of our incompetence. After a while, we become consciously competent – that’s the ‘knowing what we know’ stage, and a risky place to be because that’s when we can get stuck thinking we know everything there is to know. Stay there at your peril(!) because that’s where the greatest mistakes are made! If however we keep learning, staying open to growth, we arrive at a place of unconscious competence, where we actually do have some insight and knowhow – but we still stay open to learning more, and in the words of a colleague, ‘good can get better’.



bottom of page