Wise People Know How Little They Know

Joe Nilsen
2 min readNov 18, 2022


Every Now and Then, I Start to Think I Know a Thing or Two About Life…

Life has taught me time and time again that I don’t know anything.

When I begin to forget, I remind myself of Sāi Wēng. ㊗️ 🈶 🈲

𝐒ā𝐢 𝐖ē𝐧𝐠 was an old Chinese farmer who was very poor. He lived and worked on an old patch of land with his son, which they didn’t even own.

Their only possession was a horse. This horse was crucial to their survival, as they used it for farming the land they lived on, paying the landowner, and feeding themselves.

𝐎𝐧𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐲, 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐡𝐨𝐫𝐬𝐞 𝐫𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐰𝐚𝐲.

Upon learning of the event, the Old Man’s friends and family visited him to console him. “We are so sorry. This is terrible.”

The Old Man replied:

“I don’t know if it is terrible. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.”

This horse that ran away enabled the Old Man to feed him and his son. “Are you crazy?” his loved ones asked. Thoroughly confused, they eventually left.

Two days later, Sāi Wēng’s horse not only returned but came back to the farm with 10 additional horses.

Upon learning of the event, friends and family rejoiced. “You are now the richest man in the valley. This is amazing.” 🎉

The Old Man replied:

“I don’t know if it is amazing. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.”

“Ungrateful, crazy old man,” they said. Off they went.

A couple of days later, Sāi Wēng’s only son began trying to break one of the new wild horses. While doing so, he was violently thrown off, broke his leg, and became crippled.

The Old Man’s family came running over to comfort him, telling him how terrible this was. It was awful.

The Old Man replied:

“I don’t know if it is awful. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.”

A week later, the Chinese army came through the valley and forced every able-bodied man to go and fight in a battle in which none of them would survive. They couldn’t take the son because of his broken leg.

The old Chinese farmer, Sāi Wēng, had the insight to trust that the universe would unfold as it should. It is in this acceptance that we find true wisdom and peace.

Wise Chinese farmer relaxing in the valley after a hard day’s work



Joe Nilsen

Tried & true chef forged in the fires of the best restaurants in NYC. 🔥 Smartened up. Began writing and selling. 👨‍💻 https://www.joenilsen.com/consulting/