Listening to Broccoli

On the type of knowledge you can’t know

Jack Purdy
3 min readApr 30, 2024


Made with DALL-E

There’s a line from this book I’m reading I can’t stop thinking about.

The psychiatrist tells his patient “Listen to your broccoli, and your broccoli will tell you how to eat it.”…

The idea is that when you’re trying to accomplish something, solve a problem, or just aren’t sure what direction to take in your life — there’s an inner voice ready to give you the answer. But it’s not one your rational mind will listen to.

Your rational mind will be too busy strategizing, digging through your knowledge bank scouring for the answer, running the calculus behind all the pros and cons until it analyzes the situation to death.

Meanwhile, the answer is right there. It lies in the innermost part of your being. You can call it your intuitive side, gut instinct, hunch, whatever, the name isn’t important. The point is that there’s profound wisdom lying outside the grasp of the rational mind we’ve accumulated from a lifetime of experience in this world.

Think about something you’re uniquely good at. Something that seems like second nature to you but to others is a challenge. This is usually something you have an innate natural talent for or have spent hundreds of hours doing such that it’s become automatic.

You don’t think about it. You just do it.

That’s tapping into ingrained wisdom. And it’s not limited to these unconsciously competent skills. It’s available for even the most trivial decisions — from whether or not to put sugar in your coffee, to those life-altering ones like do I take this job or move across the world.

To access it, we just need to ease the incessant chattering of the rational mind. We’ve become so preconditioned to thinking that answers can be found by solving an equation or finding an easy route like looking in the back of the math book. As a society, we’ve fetishized the rational mind to an unhealthy degree that we’ve forgotten the enormous breadth of knowledge that lies within us.

This may seem handwavy at first. A convenient excuse to not do the hard work necessary to attain success. After all, we live in a world governed by the laws of physics where given precise inputs we can determine a predictable output.

But our brains aren’t some god-tier supercomputer capable of running every combinatorial possibility in a given situation. Nor do we have all the data necessary to feed such a thing.

Our lives are infinitely complex webs of ideas and experiences and relationships that no machine can hope to ingest it all, run some data transformations, and then spit out the optimal course of action. As much as our rational mind likes to think it can.

So instead of trying to brute force your way through this herculean task — just listen to your broccoli.

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Jack Purdy

Writing A Life Examined newsletter | Director of Sales @Messari