I love to read and always have – to the extent that whereas most parents have to bribe their children by the book, my mom was able to use a “time-out” from reading as a punishment. The main difference between then and now is that now I read much less (why are adults so busy!) and that the proportions of fiction and nonfiction have flipped. Now I mostly read books about history and business/management and articles about marketing and the best way to do everything.
A love of reading is a useful thing. It certainly made school more enjoyable, and it’s enabled me to take jobs about which I knew next to nothing, because the company knew I would read everything I could get my hands on, absorb what I needed to know, and essentially train myself. It is, in fact, how I know 98% of what I know about marketing.
But what a voracious reader eventually runs up against is: if it’s only theoretical, knowledge is useless.
What good is knowing the theory of good customer relationship management if you never put a plan in place? Of knowing that a piece of machinery has been pushed too far and become unsafe if you never alert anyone? Of knowing the importance of treating people with respect if you still regularly allow yourself to lose your temper?
Knowing something may be half the battle, but if you stop halfway through the battle, you’ll still lose.
The unavoidable and difficult fact is that knowledge needs to be practical and in use to have any value.
As I near the end of this 52-week project and reflect on what I’ve learned from it, I don’t think I’ve accomplished what I wanted to. I appreciate the enforced focus on a lot of ideas that otherwise would have been glossed over in the demands of day-to-day life, and I think I’ve gained some understanding from it. But I’m questioning my old belief that enough exposure to an idea will ultimately change your actions. Thinking and action are connected, but thinking is not action.
“A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.” – Kahlil Gibran