Knowledge is NOT Power

Have you ever heard the saying, “Knowledge is power”? I have… many a time. When I first heard it I most likely did what everyone does and nod along with an agreeable smile on my face. However as I’ve gotten older I’ve thought about it – a lot – and I’ve come to the conclusion it’s NOT TRUE! Knowledge alone is NOT power. Knowledge is simply POTENTIAL power. It’s in the APPLICATION (execution/call to action ) of the knowledge where the power lies. Without the application the knowledge is totally worthless.

I like to explain things using analogies so let’s use a car as an example with this one as most of us are familiar enough with cars….

Knowledge (what’s in ones brain!) is like the engine of a car. You can have LOADS of knowledge, which equates to a big engine, right? But without the drive shaft (put very basically, the bit that connects engine to wheels) you’re never going to get anywhere. You can put in a bigger and bigger engine and rev the arse off of that bad boy but you’re still not going to budge!

To go anywhere at all we need to be able to APPLY the power of the engine (however big it may be). You’re better off have a really small engine (not knowing much at all) but having the engine connect to the wheels in order to make that car move.

In human beings this may be some basic skills (most of the time transferable) to be able to take what’s in the brain and make it useful in the real world. This is why we see some insanely clever people in seemingly really “basic” jobs and some seemingly not so clever people in some quite high up positions. The latter have APPLIED what they know and the former have not.

I’ve seen many people spending money and taking time to attain knowledge when all they REALLY needed was to be able to apply the knowledge they already had! Sometimes the application is something super simple like learning how to communicate what you know to other human beings or to be able to simplify it for more people to understand. Sometimes it’s learning how to WRITE what you know. Sometimes it’s learning how to map out what you know into a system. Whatever it may be, learning how to APPLY what you know is something SEPARATE and DIFFERENT ENTIRELY to learning something in the first place.

People think it works like this:

LEARN —–> DO

however it’s ACTUALLY like this:

LEARN ——>  LEARN TO APPLY WHAT YOU’VE LEARNT ——–> DO

The great thing is, with “learning how to apply” being a separate skill, once you’ve learnt how to learn to apply (getting a bit multi level here so I’ll try to keep it simple!) you can then replicate this with any new thing you learn.

So again: LEARN NEW SKILL —–> LEARN HOW TO APPLY NEW SKILL ——> DO COOL NEW STUFF!

Being a drum teacher for many years I’ve taught every range of person you can imagine. And in that time I’ve had to tell EVERYONE that the application stage is a whole stage all by itself. You can’t learn something from a book and are able to instantly play it in a track (well, it’s rarely the case for 99% of people). You need to learn something, work on applying it and THEN (maybe 6 months to 2 years down the road) are able to chuck it into tracks.

Personally I’d much rather have only a little knowledge and apply the hell out of it rather than spend years and years and hundreds, thousands or even hundreds OF thousands of pounds acquiring knowledge but not how to apply what I know. The application process is sadly not taught in UK schools (I’m not overly sure about the rest of the world). Here kids are taught simply to pass exams and to go on and pass more exams. I personally learnt sooooo much pointless crap in school, most of which I’ve forgotten today. I actually really enjoyed school for the most part but I could have spent half as long and learnt twice and many valuable lessons had the education system been different. The other things I DIDN’T learn which I wish I’d have been taught is the reason behind certain things (but we’ll get into that in another post) and once you know the thinking behind something it’s often easier to learn more and to improvise with what you know. Anyway, I digress…..

Spend time on applying what (little) you know about a subject before you go all out and learn all about it. You may find that actually, in the application stage, you don’t like the subject anymore because of the practicalities of the application.

I’ll use the example of the car again…. A kid loves cars and would love to find out all about them, how they work and ultimately, how to build them. He goes to uni and learns alllllllll about the ins and outs of cars but in the process but never actually TOUCHES one. Everything he does is purely theory and book learning, nothing hands on (yes, totally unrealistic but stay with me!). He knows everything there is to know about cars…. how to take them apart and how to put them back together and everything in between. His knowledge of cars is immense…. HOWEVER, when he gets a job at a local garage as a mechanic he actually has zero experience in a workshop environment and no idea on how to use the tools he’s been provided with. He can’t get to grips with how to hold them (no pun intended!). He also doesn’t like having oily hands or having to lay or a dirty, greasy floor under the cars to inspect them. He does like that it’s cold in the workshop he struggles getting his hands into the small spaces in the cars to carry out the necessary repairs. So this lad has a wealth of knowledge, but he’s actually not really able to APPLY what he knows.

Some people here would get discouraged, decide they don’t like cars anymore and go in search of more knowledge in another area when actually, all he needs to do is learn how/in what area to apply his knowledge. So what could he do? Well he could learn how better to use the tools in the workshop (practicing application), but then if he doesn’t like the cold, the dirt or grease and the fact he can’t get his hands into the cars anyway he COULD do something like car/component design, write for a car magazine or work only in diagnostics. Areas in which his wealth of knowledge could be well used but maybe not why he initially got interested in cars. He doesn’t have to go in search of more knowledge, he needs to find applications of the knowledge he already has that work for him.

I had a really good buddy of mine spend about a year or two learning about computer design and how to build web pages and such. Like with everything that he did he put in loads of effort and was great at it. After a few years of applying what he knew he decided he actually hated design as, even though he was great at it, if people didn’t like what he’d done (as with most artsy stuff, it comes down to personal taste at the end of the day) he’d have to scrap it and do it all again. So he’d spent all this time gaining this knowledge of how to do something really well, to a really high standard (as it was an area that he enjoyed) only to find out that when he applied said knowledge in a practical and “real world” setting to make money, he hated it! Had he worked on the application stage a little sooner with what little knowledge he had (or even thoug about the application of it or what doing the work would actually mean) he could have avoided it.

From now on, whenever you hear anyone say “knowledge is power” you’ll know they’re only telling half the story.

So before you start thinking you need to know more, how about thinking how you can better use what you ALREADY know. Get out there and apply your arses off people. I reckon you’d be surprised that what you can achieve!!

 

Be healthy, be wealthy and be happy.

🙂