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Practice > Theory

People often use learning technologies in an overly "scholarly" way. By that I mean: without the insight created by having skin in the game.

Practice is more intellectual than theory - Nassim Taleb

For example, people without children may wonder why their child-rearing advice isn't taken seriously by parents, while non-entrepreneurs wish their business advice was considered more seriously by the business owners whom they personally know.

After all, when they offer advice that makes logical sense, it seems irrelevant whether or not experience was a part of it. And in a pure sense this is true: logic is logic and facts are facts, no matter who says them. However, in an "applied" sense, it's not so simple.

Alex Hormozi has a great short video called "Do the thing then read the book". His contention: if you read and think about things that you have no experience of, you have no contextual framework - at least none that links directly to reality - for the new knowledge to link to. In contrast, if you start by trying to do the thing a bunch of times (e.g. make sales calls), and then read the book (or make up your own framework), everything you learn will have strong, meaningful contact with reality.

Conceptually, if you look at knowledge as a network of links, it may be less important that your knowledge is internally consistent, and more important that it is externally consistent, such that it makes contact with reality. For example, you may have some conflicting beliefs that "people are generally good" and "people are generally bad". While the statements are internally inconsistent with each other, you may still have some strong experiences that prove the truth of each of those statements. Thus, the statements can both be externally consistent.

Going back to the situation where non-parents provide advice to parents, there is usually a great amount of internal consistency in the ideas proposed. However, what may be lacking is external consistency to a myriad of other factors that seem irrelevant to the non-parent, but which actually lie at the heart of the problem for the parent.

A perfect theoretical idea is like a marvelous, game-changing form of teleporting technology, with the catch being that it only works if powered by nuclear fusion. That is to say, it can't work with any type of power supply currently in existence. In that situation, a simple bicycle turns out to be a more valuable device than the magical teleporter, because only the bicycle makes full contact with the existing reality.

With that in mind, you should try to always begin your learning by diving in to some applied project and then move towards theory. By doing so, you can ensure the foundation - the links to reality - are there before you get stuck in building on top of it.

Does that mean you have to have kids to give good child-rearing advice? Not necessarily. But you do need to have the humility to accept that the advice may have less contact with reality than you initially believed.

February 2024
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Georgios Zonnios
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