General knowledge vs. specific knowledge
December 05, 2019
Have you ever heard the saying “knowledge is power”? Well, let me break it to you: knowledge is not power.
Knowledge has only the potential to be power. Anthony Robbins talks about this as well - which I’m sure he got from Napoleon Hill, who probably got it from his mentor Andrew Carnegie. Or maybe not - it doesn’t really matter.
If I were able to give my younger self advice about information and knowledge, I would say this: “you don’t need to know something about everything - you just need to know a lot about one or two things - something that can be applied in real life.”
The problem with general knowledge is that it can’t be transformed into a skill. It’s almost useless.
E.g., it’s useless to know that there once lived a guy called Rimbaud or what Schopenhauer was about. Or that Camus was an existentialist.
No doubt, it’s interesting to read their art, but this information can’t really be knowledge. It’s mental food, yes, but not something that is practical.
Instead, we should really focus on something that can be applied practically and, therefore, can become a skillset.
This is where the “potential to become power” comes in. It’s information vs. execution. Knowing a lot of theory about something - even if it’s a practical thing - is useless in itself. It’s useless to read a good nonfiction book and not apply the things you learned from it. It’s a waste of time.
This is why many employees are frustrated with people coming from universities with excellent grades and knowledge but unable to perform even the simplest of tasks.
In retrospect of my own life, I have realized that university degrees are massively overhyped. They don’t guarantee you anything. It’s up to each and every one of us to make our destiny.
Sure, in some areas like medicine, it’s absolutely necessary to have a diploma, but in others - like programming - it’s not necessary at all. You either can program or you can’t.
When I was doing my master’s degree, I met a girl whose dream was to establish her own business - a bakery. “Why on earth do you need a master’s degree in international and European tax law then?” - would I ask her if I’d known what I know now. But I didn’t know then what I know now, so I didn’t ask her that. I guess I thought it’s just how it’s supposed to be: “You need that paper.”
See, the problem is social conditioning. We’re told to go to school, get good grades, get a good job, and then everything will be fine.
It might not.
This is why the liberal arts student who studied e.g., English philology and ended up as a waitress - have no right to complain. They knew what they got themselves into. That is the price of having (mostly) general knowledge.