How Much More Do You Need to Know?


A friend and colleague of mine had been pondering whether or not to attend a 2 day seminar on a topic that, according to my friend, would sharpen his skills and knowledge for a big potential project he was hoping to get.

My friend is accomplished in his field yet the seminar he was thinking about attending was offered by someone considered a top guru in the field. The topic was right on cue, the timing was perfect and yet… in the end he decided not to attend. This is what he wrote to me in explaining his decision:  “ What if I have and know everything there is to know to make this project a success? What if I already have everything I need? Could it be that my prospective client already sees my ability to deliver on this but I am blind to this fact? Here I am prepared to break the bank because I feel I do not know enough,… am enough.. and just need that extra thing that will increase my confidence and give me the edge.”

Have you ever felt that way, thought those thoughts? I can certainly relate to it. I’m a lifelong learner and read the books, attend the workshops and seminars and more often than not I learn something, sharpen my skills, increase my knowledge and feel more confident in my abilities.

And … it can become a trap when you cling to or focus on learning from other peoples’ knowledge too much. When you do that all that learning can begin to turn into a kind of mystical abstraction. The more you try to intellectualize about it, the further you seem to get from your goals. The danger is that you start believing you don’t know enough that you need to attend one more class, read one more book and listen to one more CD to help feel confident to step out into the field, practice and take action.

What happens when you don’t practice and just theorize? Paralysis by Analysis

In effect, you begin to think about a situation so much that you actually inhibit yourself from ever taking action. You get an idea for a new process, a new product, a new program, a new presentation, you name it. Sometimes there are so many possibilities that you don’t know where to start. So you just do nothing. You become so overwhelmed by the amount of choices you have that you’d rather not make a decision. The more you ruminate on your options, the more likely you are to suffer paralysis by analysis. It’s a great way to keep you feeling you don’t know enough yet.

Sometimes it’s better to take action and let uncomfortable things happen rather than keep theorizing and worrying about them inside your head. You may actually find:

  • It wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be.
  • You gain experience and learn from it in a way you never could just by thinking about it.
  • You build resilience – “what doesn’t kill you often makes you stronger.”
  • You develop a deeper understanding of what people (your target audience) want.
  • You develop a deeper understanding of what is in alignment with what YOU want

It’s a very liberating feeling to accept that you don’t know and can’t know everything.

Eventually, it’s the wisdom that can only come from direct experience that makes what you offer to your clients uniquely yours rather than a copy of someone else’s formula.

While theory and practice are fundamental components for gaining knowledge, they are also in tension with one another. So which is more important, theory or practice? How do you balance these two? Share your comments to start the conversation.


1 Comment

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One Response to How Much More Do You Need to Know?

  1. Great article! It’s so true that often we can get caught in taking one class or training after another! I do believe there is a balance between learning and practice, as you say. Thanks for the interesting thoughts on this.

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