We all have a desire to learn new things.  It’s in our nature to seek out new information, to find out how things work, and to learn the process used to create works of art.  Often, we can get trapped in a cycle of learning about something we want to do instead of actually doing it, which ties into our Tao of Pooh topic for today: Knowledge versus Experience.

In this post, I’ll be using cooking as the primary example for each point.

It’s Harder Than It Looks…At First

“[S]ometimes the knowledge of the scholar is a bit hard to understand because it doesn’t seem to match up with our own experience of things” (29).

It’s easy for us to see an expert like Julia Child and be perplexed about how easy she makes cooking seem.  We don’t see the thousands of hours Child took to make her craft appear effortless before the cameras.  

When we start out on a new endeavor, a part of us believes that we will achieve expert status as soon as we dive in, which is almost never the case.  We can become frustrated by this notion; we should be able to cook as well as Julia, she makes it seem so easy.  But her years of experience and many failed attempts have made her the expert and cooking legend she has become.

Over time, you can achieve expert status in whatever you’re hoping to achieve.  The key is to release yourself from the disillusionment of perfectionism and allow for trial and error, failure, and less-than-stellar moments to occur.  From those moments, you gain insight.  Insight produces hands-on knowledge.  And that hands-on knowledge gives you the expertise you need to become a master of your chosen craft.

Book Smart or Street Smart?

“Knowledge and Experience do not necessarily speak the same language” (29).

Being interested in a topic inevitably leads us to want to learn more about it.  We can do this by reading books, articles, blog posts, or watching YouTube videos.  No matter what your interest, you can find information about it.  The more you learn, the more you either become excited about it or realize you were just curious in the moment.

Let’s say you are fascinated by the art of cooking, and you begin to read about it, watch videos about it, and binge every Food Network series you can find to learn everything you can about cooking.  You’ve read Julia Child’s books cover-to-cover, but there’s one thing you haven’t done: cooked anything.

Knowledge of cooking, whether it’s terminology, recipes, food facts, etc., doesn’t make you an expert chef.  Watching thousands of hours of Food Network shows and reading cookbooks won’t make you any better at cooking a delicious meal.  

What does matter is your experience with cooking.  Taking the time, the effort, the patience, and the action of doing it for yourself.

The quote speaks to this since knowing about something doesn’t equally translate into the experience of actually doing it.  Reading and knowing how to prepare the 7-course meal is a far cry from the experience of making it yourself.  

Time to Get Your Hands Dirty!

“But isn’t the knowledge that comes from experience more valuable than the knowledge that doesn’t?” (29).

The very thought of getting off the couch and instead of watching people cook, actually cooking, can be a scary concept for many.  After all, what if you aren’t perfect that first time?  What if what you made is burnt?  Or undercooked?  Or it tastes too salty?  

Watching experts at a craft can be intimidating.  But what we’re seeing is the outcome from years and decades of experience, trial and error, failures and successes.  It’s important to keep that in mind as you watch masters of their craft engage in what they do.  They weren’t always at this level of culinary expertise.  They weren’t always ready to cook in front of the camera.  They started at level zero and worked their way up the expertise elevator.

You can, too.  Think about it.  If Julia Child had only read about French cooking instead of going through the experience to learn how to do it, would we know her name all these decades later?  I would say no, we wouldn’t.  But because she applied what she did learn and had the experience of cooking French food, we do. 

And as I said before, I guarantee that Julia Child experienced many setbacks and failures along the way in her cooking career. But she persisted.  She used those failures as part of the experience and moved forward, not looking back and wallowing in self-pity or frustration over a burnt souffle or a poorly made dish.  

As you actively pursue cooking, you’ll notice something about the process and about your skills: it gets easier.  True, challenges will always pop up, but you’ll have hands-on experience to rely on that will help you become a better chef in the long run.  Sitting and watching won’t achieve that goal; in fact, it only prevents you from reaching your ultimate goal of knowing how to cook.

Final Thoughts

We all have a creative interest in our lives that we either wish to pursue or have and run away from after a failed attempt.  Maybe you’re fascinated by sculpting and read dozens of books about it.  You are a human library about the sculpting process, famous sculptors, and the art form’s history.  So, what’s stopping you from getting some clay and trying your hand at it?

The next time you pick up another book about something you want to do, think about how you can actually pursue your dream of actively doing it.  You’ll never know how great you can be at something until you actually try it for yourself!

Happy Creating, and I’ll see you next week!

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