To L-EARN IT, you must EARN IT.
For years I’ve listened to the Tim Ferriss Show, and listened to business speakers discuss the importance of not taking just any customer. That focusing on the right customers is important as anything.
Whilst the message was in my ear, I never implemented it. That is, until I got a whole heap of problematic clients that drained all my time and energy. They wanted everything done when they said so, and they pestered me all the time.
Finally, I began cutting them. I learnt the lesson, because I earnt it, through pain and mistakes. Through experience, I l-earnt it.
I could sit down a group of 20 young people right now and say “don’t make the same mistake I did”. But many of them need to make the mistake. Because rather than being taught it, they need to learn it.
I L-EARNT to Cull Bad Customers
There’s an important word hidden in there. I only noticed it recently. If we take away the ‘L’, we are left with ‘EARN’.
The Hidden Word Carries a Hidden Truth.
For we must EARN what we LEARN. If we’ve LEARNED it we must have EARNED it.
“Be Careful of Unearned Wisdom”
Carl Jung used to say — “Be careful of unearned wisdom”.
What did he mean by that?
I think he meant, you can’t just hand someone the keys for the car they need. They might think the gift is the keys.
For how often do you learn something that you think everybody should know? And so you try to teach them, you try to sit them down in a class and do a file transfer — from your mind to theirs.
But file transfers don’t work between people.
When we explain something to one another, we are always limited to guessing what someone else is saying. Have you noticed that? The idea was presented to me in a book called The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch.
They used the example of giving directions. How often will someone explain to you how to get somewhere, yet you still manage to screw it up? Because when they say to turn left at the blue sign, you have to interpret what the blue sign is. Is this the blue sign, or is that the blue sign?
It turns out that all language can do is provide us signposts, attempts to point the way. But they are not the way themselves. When someone tells you how to get to the coffee shop, you have not been to the coffee shop yet, just because they’ve explained the way.
But when you learnt it, you EARNT it — and because they did not, they cannot learn it just yet.
Thich Nhat Hanh Said it Well — Don’t Mistake the Finger for the Moon.
The teaching is merely a vehicle to describe the truth. Don’t mistake it for the truth itself. A finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. The finger is needed to know where to look for the moon, but if you mistake the finger for the moon itself, you will never know the real moon.The teaching is like a raft that carries you to the other shore. The raft is needed, but the raft is not the other shore. An intelligent person would not carry the raft around on his head after making it across to the other shore.
A Bloke Called Jesus
There was once a bloke called Jesus. And Jesus directed a class at 12 people, and 12 alone. He took them on a journey out in the world, highlighting and emphasising things along the way. He used parables, stories and metaphors.
But from those he led, there was the desire to spread the word. “We learnt all this stuff, it’s so great!” they said. So some time later, it is believed a man named Paul encouraged a few of them to write it down and spread the word.
And now, two thousand years later, we have quite a large population of people who gather in halls and mistake the hall for the gathering. The point is not the hall. The point is the gathering. The hall is the finger, and the gathering is the moon.
Jesus never told anyone to gather in churches, or to write things down. He told 12 people to come together, 2 or 3 at a time.
You cannot earn wisdom by sitting in a hall. When Jesus taught his disciples, he was out in the field, interacting with gentiles, lepers, tax collectors… basically the vagrants of society. In looking at the finger, we have let our eyes wonder away from the moon.
The finger was not pointing to the hall, the church building. It was pointing to the people inside it. If the people left the building, Jesus’ finger would have moved.
Teach me what honey tastes like
Just because you know what honey tastes like, doesn’t mean you can teach what honey can taste like. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb highlights, reading the ingredients of honey does not give you a taste of honey.
Just because you’ve listened to Mozart doesn’t mean you can teach others what Mozart is like.
Shakespeare’s plays were designed to be watched in theatres, not read and studied in classes.
Just because you know it, does not mean you can teach it.
Just because you heard it, does not mean you’ve earnt it.