Know, is when you know deep in your bones that “X is true” because you experienced X before. You’ve gone through X, and know the origins, the consequences, the tradeoffs, the hard choices, because you made those hard choices before.
Know of, is when you heard someone talking about “X is true” but you’d never experienced it before. You imagine that there is always a way out, that someone else hasn’t thought of before.
Know, is when you have that deep-in-your-bones-and-guts feeling of what is true and what isn’t. But you may not be able to articulate and spell out why, but you just know from past pattern recognition.
Know of, is when you intellectually know. You read, heard on a podcast, or saw it on YouTube. And you may be able to articulate it very well, maybe even sell it to people on LinkedIn, with a lot of articulate reasons why and why not. But when you’re placed in the situation, you find yourself unable to decide or act. Analysis paralysis.
Know, is the designer who went through the design processes 5, 10, 50 times. Or the engineer who built the bridge, the building, the road 5, 10, 50, 100 times. Or the developer who coded the back-end 5, 10, 50, 100 times. Or the artist who painted thousands of strokes.
Know of, is the journalist who writes about the designer. Or the art critic who poo-poos ‘the unoriginal’ artists. Or the driver who rides over the bridge and complains about the bumpiness, not thinking for a moment that his very life depended on the engineer. Or the business person who wants the developer to build “my app idea for me”. Or the bureaucrat who wants to bring in a web3/blockchain/metaverse/EV/otherbuzzword project, because that is in his or her OKR for the year, but has no idea how the underlying technology actually works and doesn’t really care.
It is important to know the real state of your knowledge. Do you know of something, or do you know something?
And then, you may wish to calibrate your confidence in your knowledge.
And maybe seek the opinion of those who actually know, not know of, especially if the costs of being wrong are deadly.