Action as a Path to Knowledge

“If you think, you’re dead.” — Maverick

Sometimes the best path to knowledge – especially self-knowledge – is just doing something.  The demand of producing something forces epiphanies from your depths.

You have a lot of information, ideas, opinions, and insights inside that aren’t easy to access.  Retrospection is a useful tool, but your head can get in the way of your gut, where the best stuff lives.  Your gut kicks in when things move too fast for your conscious mind.  Your gut is what lets you shoot a basketball without thinking (playing “out of your mind” is a phrase for being fully in that zone).  It’s what comes to the surface in a crisis, when time and thought are too dangerous to risk.

I apply this often.  I blog every day, and so far, nothing beats the demand of a daily post for getting my own thoughts out of my head.  I rarely think before I write, because I don’t have time.  I open a new post in WordPress and start typing.  I write not just to say what I think, but to find out what I think.

Questions are a good way to spur action and learning.  An open ended assignment to share thoughts might cloud the mind.  A demand to tell me everything you think when I say “City planning” (or any other phrase) in 60 seconds will unearth something.  A good starting point at least.

Even physical action can produce results.  I take walks as a way to jostle my brain.  I build LEGO with my kids by grabbing the first piece I see and attaching it to the second.  The vision comes together as a result of building, then feeds it in a virtuous cycle (practice-practice-theory).

Action is often juxtaposed with analysis, but the relationship is more knotty than a simple dichotomy.  I don’t act to avoid thinking, I act in order to think.

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