What is the value of knowledge that is not applied? Is there any use of theoretical wisdom if it is not put to practice? The logical answer to these questions seems to be that there is not too much value in the mere acquisition of data. Yet, people seem to be addicted to the consumption of information. For theory junkies information comes first. Implementing what they have learned is an entirely different subject that is more often than not neglected. Knowledge is power. Most people know that. At least, everybody keeps repeating the phrase like a mantra. Knowledge, however, does not simply appear out of nothingness. One needs information or real-life experience for knowledge to manifest. In most cases, it is easier to acquire information from the experts in their fields than acquiring it through trial and error.
In fact, it can be really tempting to listen to the vast and exciting knowledge of all the experts out there. After all, we strive to continuously improve ourselves, so what could be better than learning from the best of the best?
I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
It feels good to be informed about this and to be prepared for that. A little too good, if you ask me. As a consequence of this, people have become addicted to information. They read one book after another, article after article. They consume whatever video, podcast or workshop might be relevant in their present situation.
This in itself is not the problem. In fact, it is great that people are curious and informed. The problem starts whenever we do not apply what we consider to be relevant. Once we regard the information as pure entertainment we step into a vicious circle.
Stop the “Theory Junking”
If you don’t truly apply what you read, then why are you reading it at all?
I have asked myself this question many times. The answer made me realize that—in the area of personal growth—theory that is not put to practice has absolutely no value.
What is worse is the self-deception that comes with being a theory junkie. There is a sense of accomplishment that makes you feel really good. You are excited that you have found relevant information that inspires you. Just by processing this information you already feel a lot more qualified to tackle the problem. You are now stronger, smarter and a lot wiser than before.
In reality, nothing has changed. You’re still the same person, facing the same old problems like before.
At this stage, I was always confronted with two options. Either I wrote down what I had learned and gave my very best to implement it. Or I wrote a note about it or saved it as a bookmark, which is a recipe for failure.
If you are an information junkie something else will come along your path. Believe me. Something that seems even more effective. And if the problem is not daunting enough, one never spends another thought about putting the theory to practice. In fact, one already has learned about a dozen other issues that need to be addressed.
Less is more
The amount of information that you are able to process is secondary. What really matters is if you are able to find the right information that you can put into practice. Practicing and truly mastering the guidelines of one book is by far more effective than just reading about the different approaches that are described in 5, 10 or even 20 books.
If you find something that is relevant, stick to it. Digest it. Practice it.
Whether you’re able to make a change in your life depends a lot on your ability to be persistent. The information you uncover is a tool handcrafted for you. It lies in the nature of a tool that it needs to be applied in order to effect a change. Otherwise, it is just a fancy tool.
The person that collects tools just for the sake of having a shiny tool collection is not able to build anything that is of importance.
Relevance is King
Clever marketing works like this: first it grabs your attention, shows you that you have a big problem, then it offers you a fancy solution “for only $27.”
The same applies to information junking. There is far too much information out there that desperately tries to make you realize how many problems you have. Turn the situation around. Don’t be the one who seeks information for the sake of entertainment. Seek relevant solutions to your problems. If something is not relevant, think twice if you want to concern yourself with it. You most likely will end up with irrelevant information that is never applied.
Be a practitioner
It’s not enough to only have the mindset of a practitioner. You need to live it.
With everything you learn, you need to ask yourself if and how you can implement it in your life. Remember the last time something excited you so much that you took immediate action? This is the practical mindset that needs to be encouraged.
Whenever and wherever you discover relevant solutions, make sure that a pen and notepad is at hand. Take notes. Develop your own creative spin of that which is presented. Find and write down a strategy that details how you are going to implement what you have discovered.
But most important of all, make it a habit of executing the strategy.
Do you sometimes find yourself to indulge a little too much in theory without putting it to practice?
Photo credit: Clemsonunivlibrary
Great Post Steve!
I also have a success blog called successwithstephen.com
Lets network! 🙂
I love some the points that you brought up in this article Steve. There is a great quote by Stephen Covey that adds merit to what you’re saying, “To learn and not to do is really not to learn.” I think people are just to afraid to see what will happen, to afraid of failure or rejection.
I have a system, The TCS System, that helps individuals to get to the root of their anxieties and pull them out. It is designed to help someone create self-awareness and create purpose driven goals to act on. Visit me at brunologreco.com
Super helpful article Steve, it’s something which keeps coming up in my own life. Starting to realise how much time I spend studying theory, when the place personal development is trying to get you to is one of great action as well as knowledge.
I’m just beggining to blog about personal development here – livemaximised.blogspot.co.uk -, but I’d like to help my readers realise that theory is useless without application too.
Thanks for the insight!
Thanks, I’m glad you like the article.
This was inspiring, thanks a lot. Exactly the kind of boost I needed to start implementing the things I learned in real life.
I’m glad you enjoyed reading the article!
Great Article, I totally agree on this: Most people gather information and never apply this. These information are unfortunately not only the world news, but also the opportunity to enhance their life, to be more happy and fulfilled, to follow the Passion. This is a challenge in private life, but also in Business. Who does not know the phrase “we have it always done like this”? Well, I think, than it is time for a change. I am sure this can be done more efficient etc.
I see those challenges every day, also with me. It is a hard process to train someone or even yourself from an information junkie to a real practitioner, but it is worth it. I was e.g. writing for years articles on LinkedIn. I received really good Feedback, until I motivated myself to start Coachiendo. Coachiendo is the next generation project where you can also find articles related to this. It will be developed to a platform that offers Services many people are missing from friends. Coachiendo will be a friend by your side. And yes, I am doing this small project with my wife, just beside work, because it is fun and makes me feel good, motivates me and inspires me.
So I totally agree with your approach: If you want to succeed you should read less but implement it. You need to be persistent and focus on what s really relevant. This you need to implement within your whole life.