New books and learning courses are endlessly alluring. At the start of each book or each new course is that promise: Complete this and you’ll be awesome at your wildest or most practical dreams here.
Maybe you’ll just be more knowledgeable. Maybe you’ll have a developed skill set. Whatever the promise is, there is the chance to improve yourself and to keep on growing.
And in an information economy, learning is even more important. Check out this quote from Bill Gates, “How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose (from Business @ the Speed of Thought).”
Social media rockstars are a relatively new form of journalism, proclaiming the latest pop phenomenon or crucial bit of world news on the network of your choice. Heaven help you if you decide to pay attention to more than one of those networks.
As we watch this constant barrage of information unfold in front of us, we feel the need to adapt to our environment, to contribute to this ever-expanding mass of information.
Move from “Learn” to “Do”
There’s this other side to all the information, of course, that means that we need to do something with it all. Whether it’s proclaiming an opinion, applying the new skill set, or whatever, information is most valuable when it’s used, when it’s distilled into real action. Perhaps you’ve heard one of the tech industry’s favorite new buzz phrases: big data. Companies in a wide variety of fields are using vast sets of information to create more interactive systems with their customers.
Reading a new book or taking a new course is nothing compared to wading through massively complex databases, but the basic question is present in each situation: what do I do with this info?
How many times do we read self-help or instructional books and then do nothing with the information? Our actions suggest that we simply enjoy understanding the process, but we’re not interested in practicing this new bit of info. Our intentions, however, aren’t to simply consume.
There are lots of different reasons that we don’t follow through with our new knowledge, and the point with this short post is not to make people feel guilty about output levels. The point for now is to draw awareness to the fact that we default to the state of consumers of information. (Joel has a great kickstart to get out of this with the Continuous Creation Challenge.)
How many blogs are you subscribed to? (I’ve cut back to approximately 75.) How many articles do you read? (Way too many and yet not enough.) How many instructional videos do you watch? (I try to keep my viewing to ze frank videos and movie trailers. Not entirely educational there.)
The numbers aren’t important. What you do with that info is what matters.
Do you find yourself using that information? Do you see that knowledge surging into your head and then exploding into your daily actions?
One of the analogies I heard in church really stuck out to me. Think of knowledge (or spirituality, as the case may be) as flowing water. Your head is like a cup, and once it’s full, it needs to pour out or overflow. That knowledge is shared. The information becomes action.
But if we spend all our time on holding that knowledge (making our cup deeper and wider to retain more), that flow of knowledge becomes stale. There’s no flow there. It’s just a static spot.
When you feel like you’re falling into stale knowledge territory, ask yourself these questions.
- Will this new piece of information help me accomplish something today?
- Can I take action now and figure out the details as I go?
- How can I have a bias toward action?
We need to stay informed, but it’s entirely possible to spend all your time learning and reading without doing anything. Take a creative challenge. Share your knowledge with others. Keep enriching the world. We need your contributions.
What About You?
Do you find yourself tempted to keep consuming when you know you could be creating? Do you find opportunities to share your newfound knowledge in conversation or writing? Let me know in the comment section.