On Education: Learning And Knowing

I’ve talked at length about thinking versus knowing,  (Even though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, the difference between the two is that while you can read something and think it, knowing something requires experience with it and implies the ability to utilize it.  Knowing something at a deep level means that you can adapt it and manipulate it to serve you.) but I wanted to expand out from that basic idea in this post.

Having said that, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that knowledge is the summit of education.  As important as knowledge is however, I believe that knowing something is actually far less important than learning and/or discovering something.

Learning something means bridging the chasm between unfamiliar and familiar.  It usually means making mistakes and requires you to make some kind of leap to get to the thing you’re striving for.

“It’s the journey not the destination.”  Right?  You might have read that as a caption to a professionally taken photo right off someone’s cubicle wall so it has to be true.  But plenty of people meander through life and don’t change for the better.  I watched a junkie on the street the other day digging infected scabs from his arm and popping them in his mouth while begging for change.  I doubt that he’s going to tell you that it’s all been about the journey.

I don’t believe that it’s enough to just take a journey,  The  journey taken should be a mindful one.  It’s about paying attention to things on the journey and learning from them and not the journey itself.

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It’s about seeing the world in a different way and becoming a different person than you started off being.

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Guac-a-mole!

Consider this for a moment if you will.  An avocado is a fruit with a large nut in the middle.

As a plant, the primary purpose of the avocado is to eventually become another tree by falling from the tree and releasing the nut to become another tree.

To a person, the avocado nut is inedible,  You pop it out of the center (if you’re eating the whole thing) and savor remaining the fruit.

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If education is an avocado, knowledge is the nut and learning is the fruit.

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Knowledge has a deeper purpose.  It has implications that can go well beyond what you or I can imagine.  It provides sustenance in the long-term and allows you do use things (outside of their original purpose when necessary) to reach a bigger goal.

Learning provides daily sustenance.  It feeds you and gives you energy to both be in the preset and look to the future.

They’re part of the same fruit.  And you can’t have one without the other.

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And now, a big-ticket item about knowledge versus learning.

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Knowledge allows you to succeed but learning allows you to mess up, screw up and (in a best/worse case scenario) to fail.

Being able to fail in a constructive (and safe way) is important.

First off, to fail at something means you tried something.  You took action of some kind.  If you don’t try you never succeed right?

(and if you never fail then you probably aren’t trying too hard.)

To succeed, means you’ll have to try again.

Secondly, you can’t have success unless you have something to measure success against.  To succeed means to successfully accomplish something… to overcome something.  If you succeed at everything you stay at the same mediocre level because you’re never challenged to go further.

Failing implies that something went wrong, and in working to overcome that result – it means you’ll have to learn.

And learning something means you can begin to know something.

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No one wants to “fail” at anything – but I don’t think failing is always a bad thing.  It’s a tried and true path to success and it’s one of the greatest (and most thorough) teachers you’ll ever find.

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In a related note, if you take a moment to reminisce about things you know versus things that you’re learning (or have learned recently), you might notice that you have a different reaction or feeling to what you’re learning (exciting) versus what you know (yawn).

In guitar, you practice what you’re learning but you play what you know.  And that’s a big reason why you want to be learning whenever you can, so you can increase what you really know.

That’s it for now.

As always thanks for reading!

-SC

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