THE BLOG
10/28/2014 02:44 pm ET Updated Dec 27, 2014

Do Ask, Do Tell

Good people have been hurt trying to invest with positive impact in mind because of things they did not know. Maybe they were okay with it because the cause was worth supporting, but if they knew better the losses may have been avoided. Good luck in investing, as in all things, occurs when preparation meets opportunity. Knowing what is knowable is part of that preparation. Curiosity and good questioning is one pathway to knowing; the opposite policy of "Don't ask, Don't tell" leads to the ignorance emblematic of the worst cultural patterns of the 1990's. It was practiced in the financial world as well as in the military, and it was practiced in the Whitehouse. It was an excuse to stay in the dark as if "what you don't know won't hurt you." Now we need to know. Transparency rules.

I came to this line of thought partly because curiosity led me to click on the video of Monica Lewinsky in her first public presentation of the "real" Monica Lewinsky for the Forbes Under 30 Summit. There's an obvious contradiction there since she is presenting herself publicly and virtually, but if she wanted to change her public persona by doing this, she succeeded.

She came across as real, someone with real feelings, someone who accepted that she did harm to others and "that's never right," and someone who had to deal with people trying to shut her up "who would never shut up" as she put it. She appeared to be courageous even. And unless I was projecting, this courage has led to some self-knowledge. This was at moments beautiful to perceive.

Online bullying was her theme and her concern for those who have been hurt, and so many have been hurt, was apparently genuine. She was moved by an individual who took his own life due to public humiliation and this moved her because her own battle with suicide was potent.

As the first to be publicly humiliated on the Internet, Monica presented herself as a kind of historical figure, world-renowned and a victim of public abuse for the last ten years. Her decision to turn it around is admirable whether or not it is fully genuine. Who is to know?

We are all partly real, partly unreal, partly virtual, partly ourselves. Every moment is mixed in that way. We perceive what we think we perceive and remember what we think we remember. What we actually see in reality may not be reality for another. Which things we remember may be very personal and subjective. What seems most real and maybe is most real is something indefinable that rays out from each of us and can be read imperceptibly as genuine, moving, interesting or false and contradictory.

Much of what we perceive is due to attitude and upbringing; much is self-fulfilling prophecy: what we get is what we expect. The virtual humans of the future may have an advantage here since they will likely be programmed to be super achievers with positive attitude and no thought of failure...but then they won't really be human will they?

Our least human trait is our adamant conviction that we know something and will fight for it even if we could with some effort face the fact that we are wrong. Knowing ourselves and knowing the world on the deepest level is profoundly human. It is conceptually powerful. It is generative and healing. It is good luck.

Recently we got up to see the full moon because we knew we would see the eclipse and we live where we can see the starry heavens. It was extraordinary to watch the shadow of the earth cross over the surface of the moon slowly. We know that light shining through the darkness creates warm yellow to red. What we were astonished to see was when the surface was completely covered by the earth's shadow it still reflected light from the warm surface's glowing to create complex colors. The next morning it was called the "blood moon." Now I can barely picture it as it was...so profoundly alive and aligned with my sun and my earth.

We would not have seen the eclipse if we did not know where to look in the sky, did not know what was going on, could not see for the city lights. How much do we miss in life because we do not know about it? How much do we limit experience because we perceive only what we expect or are told to expect.

What we don't know may hurt us. What hurts most is what you don't see coming. This is the case with online bullying, was true when Monica at 22 fell in love with a President, and is true when investments fail.

If you are trying to change the world with money, by investing in products and services that you think are good, you cannot ask too many questions. If you are a fund manager or consultant, an advisor or a pundit, be honest about what you know and don't know. Do tell.