Education < Experience

Reading ten thousand books is not as good as walking a thousand miles.

     Reading is valuable and necessary to a rounded mind and balanced soul – however, scholastic study is only one small part of a complicated system of learning. Books must be supplemented with the rigors of hands-on experience  and the mistakes that can only come from doing. Without life learning, one will never be in touch with the knowledge they have acquired. Experience is irreplaceable. One can read about a topic for years and have all the possible knowledge memorized, but as soon as life happens – all those book smarts may completely fall apart. Reading teaches a lot about what something is, but little about how something feels. 

Unexpected Changes and the Stress of Real World Situations

     If you were to study a gourmet recipe, you may know all the measurements of the ingredients and all the progressive steps of the cooking process, but you won’t know until you’re cooking if the stove runs hot or if the oven doesn’t keep its temperature. Also, no cook book can prepare you for the shock of a sudden grease fire or the pressure of hungry guests expecting a fancy meal. Beyond preparation, simply knowing a recipe will never give you the taste of food or the satisfaction of a full belly.

     Someone can know every word to their favorite song. Thing is, just knowing the lyrics doesn’t mean they can hit all the notes, manage their breath, or stay on beat. Furthermore, knowing the words doesn’t prepare them for the sensation of standing in front of a staring crowd. Open-mic karaoke is hard enough for some, imagine a full stadium – all of those lyrics might completely slip from their mind as they stand in front of expectant faces. Without practice and experience a music lover will forever remain a solo shower singer preforming in cozy commuter concerts for cute, carpool crowds.

     A sport fan may know every rule and regulation in the book. They could know all the plays and variable options possible. They could spout about the stats of any team or player, past or present. All of those trivial tidbits hardly makes one capable of actually being on the field and playing the game. Only with consistent and thorough training could anyone expect to be successful in sport.

      Sure, one could go on and on, case by case, as to why practical, hands-on experience is absolutely critical for authentic growth and maturity in our modern world. Books may have their place in education, but they’re not definitive.  It’s common in our culture to compare book smarts to street smarts. Which do you prefer?

Final Thoughts

     One should never assume they’re fully prepared for a situation based on books  alone, by the same token, one should also be weary to try bold, new adventures without a bit of due diligence and prior research. Tai Chi is the harmony of yin and yang, not the exclusion of one over the other; the same should apply to education – books give valuable insight and foundational knowledge, while taking action teaches the whole body and not just the mind. It is only through the combination of reading and doing, over and over again, that we can gain true insight and wisdom. Ideals aside, however, when push comes to shove, we may not always have the time or space to adequately research and prepare. In these heated instances, throw caution to the wind and dive in head first; have a blast and write about your experience after – let others read about it later.  

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