Beyond Mere Learning

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Learning is not enough.

This is my problem: I am constantly in a state of learning. Usually, this is in the form of books, articles, and podcasts. Occasionally, I will go to the “experts” in social media.

A constant state of learning is not a bad problem. In the fields where I desire to become an expert, I must stay up to date on current trends while maintaining a good historical knowledge. But because I have an insatiable knowledge to learn more, I find that as soon as I digest one bit of information, I am moving on to the next. And while all this learning is beneficial, something is missing.

Practice and Training

What is the purpose of this knowledge? It cannot be solely for the sake of having more knowledge. Knowledge should only be the first step. To be effective, it must be the catalyst that leads to understanding and then to wisdom. Meditating on the words may help to imprint it onto the soul. But to get the most out of what is being learned, one must practice and train.

Over the years, I have read how to become rich, run faster and become stronger, and how to generally be a better person. If I applied everything I have learned, I would have an impressive financial ledger, be super fit, and dog-gone-it, everybody would like me. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead, vast amounts of what I have read has been lost because it was never implemented. And later, when I read the same topic presented by a different author, I find myself wondering why I didn’t employ it the first, second, or third time around.

Consequences

Are there consequences to this feeble attempt at learning? Indeed, there is. Not only does it create a massive amount of wasted time, but it also creates another problem. The content which I once found so insightful and potentially life changing might get replaced by new knowledge, knowledge which may run contrary to the original. In fact, I may find myself knowing both sides of a coin but unable to apply either side.

So, how do I get better? I must slow down. I must take in the theoretical and put it to the test through practice and training. And this needs to occur in almost every facet of my life: body, soul, and spirit. I desire to improve. I desire to be the most complete human being that I can. To do this, I must go beyond mere learning.

That’s why the philosophers warn us not to be satisfied with mere learning, but to add practice and then training. For as time passes we forget what we learned and end up doing the opposite, and hold opinions the opposite of what we should.

Epictetus

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