Why Simply Having Knowledge is Not Enough

Unapplied Knowledge Vintage Poster YellowFrancis Bacon famously said, “Knowledge is Power” referring to the fact that those who know more can achieve more and have greater influence on others and the world. However, in today’s fast paced world, the future doesn’t necessarily belong to those who just know more.  In fact, knowledge in and of itself is useless if it is not applied or shared.  What good is having access to the world’s information on your smartphone if you never use it to learn anything new or to improve your life? Simply having knowledge is not enough to succeed in this world. In fact, the future belongs to those who can adapt and move forward along a path of continual growth and learning.  Without the ability to adapt to a changing society, it will become ever more challenging for people to live, work, and play in our world.

Continual growth and adaptation requires more than just obtaining new knowledge.  The knowledge, and the eventual skills, that you obtain through learning must be applied and put into practice for it to have any positive impact on your life and in the lives of those around you. The famous martial artist and movie actor Bruce Lee was quoted as saying, “Knowledge is not enough; we must apply.  Willing is not enough; we must do.”

The Sad Story of a Genius

One of the best personal examples that I can think of that illustrates this point is one from my high school years.  At my school there was this brilliant student that everyone idolized. He was extremely intelligent and had an easy time strolling through all of the advanced classes.  This fellow and I shared many classes together. I can still remember him sitting in the back of calculus class with his shoes off and his feet propped up on another desk.  If he were anyone else, he’d likely get detention for his “no-care” behavior, however all of the teachers knew how smart he was.  This student mastered concepts in minutes and completed homework assignments quickly without struggle.

Broken SMoldering Lightbulb

However, this is where the story takes a tragic twist.  Even though this gifted student appeared to be slated for a glorious career solving the world’s problems, he never actually did anything with his life. He did not go on to college nor did he start a revolutionary technology company. In fact, he did not do anything that most people of his stature would be expected to do.  Years later at a get-together with some close friends, I heard that this former genius was living a life of working odd jobs never having to apply any of his knowledge (or his ability to learn quickly) to anything significant.

I tell you this story not to harp on people who lack direction and purpose, nor do I wish to put down those individuals who favor a simpler life of odd jobs (there’s nothing inherently wrong with this choice of lifestyle).  The lesson here is that the person that I knew as a teenager was very likely one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met and yet, due to inaction, lack of motivation, and the inability to apply the knowledge he’d learned, he never did anything significant with his life. There was so much potential in this young, bright man, however it was squandered.

Being smart and knowing lots of stuff is not enough to be successful. Moreover, having ambition, motivation, and a desire to succeed isn’t enough either if you aren’t willing to acquire new skills and knowledge.  Clearly, you need both to achieve greatness. Eric Hoffer said, “The learners shall inherit the earth while the learned will be beautifully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

How to Adapt and Change

In a changing world you can’t be afraid to change with it.  Put aside your fears and focus on continual progress and improvement. You should set goals for yourself and then formulate a plan to achieving that goal.  Most goals require not only acquiring new knowledge, but also learning how to apply that knowledge to be smarter, faster, more efficient and better than ever.  If you don’t set goals it’s not likely that you will make much progress.

The ripple of a drop of water over the pages in a book.After you start setting goals for yourself the next thing you can do is to start reading more.  Brian Tracy said, “If you aren’t working towards your own goals then you will end up working for someone else.” The typical American reads less than one book a year so it’s time to stop being average and start reading more! Just by committing to read as few as one book a month you will have made a change for the better. Use the technique of journaling to retain more of your new knowledge and then begin applying the changes that you learn in those books immediately.  Just by simply reading and applying knowledge, you will be able soar higher than your peers and every aspect of your life will improve.

Another way to continually change and adapt is to always look towards upcoming trends and opportunities to exploit. By being observant and maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit you can help to keep things fresh and innovative.  As the old adage goes, businesses that fail to innovate are soon to deactivate.  The same adage holds true to people as well. You don’t necessarily have to start a new company to be innovative. Simply finding a better or more efficient way to do something can help give you an edge over the competition.

And yet another way to find success through continual growth is to surround yourself with successful people.  Many successful people have attitudes, ideas, and personal philosophies that you can learn from.  Furthermore, when you surround yourself with people like this you will have constructed a support network that can help you when you need it.  Getting involved with the right crowd will undoubtedly go a long way to keep you staying on top.

Finally, never settle for average results in life.  Complacency will only serve to promote more of the same.  You must learn to never be satisfied with “average” or “good enough.”  People who reach their goals often continue on setting new goals while pushing themselves to do more and be more.

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