The Disease of “Knowing”

By Prateek Raj Neupane (Lab Master – DoLAB)

I have a 3-year-old daughter and I like to observe what she does intently. In my process of observation, I assume that what a child does is a natural behavior for human beings and what s/he needs to be taught is possibly acquired. For example, my daughter is a very curious animal and explores her environment a lot and this leads me to ponder how as humans we are naturally curious about what is around us. On the other hand, she needs to be taught to not make a mess when she is exploring the world around her.
I also notice that she does not have a lot of skills, and she has to learn very basic behaviors that I take for granted as an experienced adult. She is learning to talk right now, however, she has done a tremendous amount of learning in other areas like – walking, running, jumping, jumping with both feet, using her fingers to hold objects, wearing a shoe while sometimes getting frustrated etc.
One of the key things I noticed about her in the context of learning is that she wouldn’t stop doing what she is trying to do even if it meant repeating the same behavior every day. In the case of wearing her shoes, she wouldn’t let go of the shoes until she has finally worn them. She does a lot of these kinds of activities numerous amount of times for countless hours repeating, practicing, and developing skills that we adults take for granted. She even finds places or rooms (her workplace) to repeatedly do activities that she figures out that my wife and I disapprove.
It got me into thinking, when does my daughter stay still and not explore the surrounding around her? What if as toddlers we stayed still and did not engage in activities.
Then one day I realized as adults how we tend to stop exploring or practicing skills once we think we know what is being talked about. This is even more obvious in the case of interpersonal skills like – leadership, creativity, empathy, integrity, reflection, feedback, communication etc. The list can go on and on.
One expertise that we develop distinctly as we grow up is the feeling that we can perform a skill after we merely know about it. This expertise gets better – we don’t even have to know about it in depth – we might have just heard someone else talk about it.
I have met a lot of people, including me, who have used statements like “Oh yeah! I know how to write”, “I know how to teach”, “I know how to give and receive feedback”, “I know how to lose weight” and whatnot, but end up not doing them. I don’t know how we develop this ‘adult skill’ but sadly we do. We are notorious for not applying what we know.
Bruce Lee has famously said, “Knowing is not enough you must apply, willing is not enough you must do”. Like my daughter, we need to practice what we know for countless hours in order to truly become better at things we know. If just knowing is the disease, then doing and reflecting is the cure. However, the sad thing is that we know that too!


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