The Difference Between Knowledge and Power
“Knowledge is power.”
We’ve heard this quote a thousand times, and accept it as truth. Makes sense – knowledge adds color and context to our view of the world. It provides the who, what, where, why and how in any given situation. Without knowledge, we walk with our eyes closed down a dark road.
So yes, knowledge is important! But is it power?
No. Not exactly.
Knowledge is potential. It holds within it seeds of wisdom, but alone it’s useless.
If you’re not sure of this, pay attention to those around you, and you’ll notice something interesting; the people with all the knowledge aren’t the same people moving fast in life. In fact, it’s usually the opposite that’s true. The connection we assume – between knowledge and power – doesn’t bear out in the real world. The ones racking up all the wins seem less concerned with the accumulation of knowledge and more concerned with something else.
Action is power!
Action makes things happen; it makes things move. Without action, knowledge is meaningless. We understand this on a fundamental level, but for many, our resistance towards action bears out a different inner belief.
Take for example the perfectionist or the procrastinator. Both have dreams and goals they’d like to realize, but they struggle to act. Why? It’s not for lack of knowledge; they usually have an abundance of knowledge and information.
This is not a small issue, most of us find it difficult to act on some level in one area of life or another. In those moments, when action feels difficult it’s easy to fall back on the idea that we need more knowledge before we act. It feels smart and sounds sensible, noble even.
While knowledge, in it of itself is a great thing and can be a huge advantage, this is only true when we act on it. Independent of each other, a fool who acts has a better chance at success than the man with a head full of knowledge but who only stands still. The space that exists between the accumulation of knowledge and the power of action is as profound as night and day. Head to head, action beats knowledge every time.
And so we come back to the persistent question: why don’t we act when we know we should?
For many, the reason is due to a fear of failure. This fear of failure is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of growth and success. If people understood –in their hearts – how essential the experience of failure is to their eventual success, they wouldn’t fear it; the same way a baby doesn’t fear the next step even though he or she will likely fall over and over again before finally walking. Failure is a teacher. It’s meant to provide feedback so you can improve. If you internalize the true power of this process, the fear of failure will vanish. You might even welcome it means you’re taking action and gaining useful knowledge! The combination of knowledge and action is the most powerful option. Together their power can transform any life into one that breeds success and fulfillment.