There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.
– Morpheus, The Matrix (1999 film)
This has been one of my favorite quotes of all time – I even used it for my signature on internet forums at one point. The reason that I put it there is because I knew that I should be reminded of this quote every single day. Because it applied perfectly to my own life, for I was one of those people that would intellectualize all day long on a certain topic but never actually do anything about it. One of those people that live by the rule that knowledge is power.
However, I don’t believe anymore that this is a good way to live. Knowledge is pretty much useless, if you don’t apply it in practice. What’s even worse – everything that you learn, you will eventually forget, unless you internalize it through repetition or practice. Let’s say that you want to learn how to develop web pages – do you think that it is a good idea to read every single book you can find on how to develop and code web pages before you attempt to build your first web site? I think not. Before you will even finish reading one of those 600+ page books on HTML or PHP, you will forget 95 % of what you have learned in earlier chapters.
The best way to remember what you have learned is to read and learn about a few basic concepts regarding web site development and then immediately implement your knowledge by building a simple web site. It is first hand experience that gets you real understanding of the subject and it is much less likely that you will forget the knowledge that was tied with your personal experience. Knowledge supported with experience will then form a good foundation for further learning. You can build up your knowledge from there, one step at a time.
So, knowing the whole path from the beginning is not even necessary in most cases. It is much more important that you know the direction where you want to go, that you know your very next step that will lead you in that direction, and finally, that you actually do it then. Without action, nothing will happen. You can have the best map, compass, GPS and satellite images of your route but if you won’t bust your butt and walk it through you will never get anywhere. You have to walk the path.
But it is not just achievements that are important here. The path is important in and of itself. After all, that is your experience of life. At the end, you may not reach all of your goals, but if you walk your path, you will probably have quite a good ride. If, on the other hand, you just collect knowledge as you go through life, you may die as a living encyclopedia, but you won’t have really lived.
Eckhart Tolle – famous author, whom I generally find a little too New Agey for me, but I like some of his concepts – uses a very good example for the difference between gobbling knowledge and experiencing things: he says that you can study and talk about honey for as long as you like, but you won’t really know it until you taste it. Think about that.
I have recently seen a quote in a comment section of a video on YouTube that was very, very wise:
“Hope is both good and bad. If you use hope to inspire action then it’s good, if you use hope as an excuse not to take action then it’s bad.”
It couldn’t be said any better. Only action is what counts and hope can help you persist when the road gets difficult and rain starts pouring down. However, building castles in the sky, daydreaming about wishes that you have, but without doing anything TODAY to move you somewhat closer to them, is the wrong use of hope. It is actually avoidance, running away from reality into a dream word, into an imagined future.
The problem with imagined future is that it never actually comes. The future comes, but it isn’t the future that you have imagined. Because if you do not take action to change something in your environment or in yourself, then the future will be the same old, same old. The catch is that you have to act TODAY! Not tomorrow, not next week or when the time is right. The time is always right to do the right thing. If you mentally postpone action into the future it will stay there – in the future. Forever.
That doesn’t mean that you can do everything today and reach your goals in a single day. But it means that you have to start today. Perhaps, the thing that you can do today is WRITE A PLAN of actions that you will have to do in order to reach your goal. Or you can go to a bookstore and buy a book that you will have to read to learn the skills that you need in order to reach your goal. Whatever it is, do it today. Put yourself into the mental state of “it starts today”.
However, you will not do it if you do not have a crystal clear vision of your goal. You can’t start acting if you do not even know what your end result is. Imagine that you want to write a book. That was your wish for a long time. And now you hear me saying that you have to start today. Ok. Today is action time. You will start writing a book. Great. Awesome. So… now what?
If you don’t even know what kind of book you want to write, can you really do anything productive? You would have to start with: Dear reader, this is my first book. I have no idea what it will be about, but have a little patience (or skip a few pages)…
You have to ask yourself: Do I want to write fiction or non-fiction? Do I want to write a book about animals or a book about plants? In the first case you would go to the zoo for the inspiration. In the second case you would go to botanical garden. If you don’t even know what kind of book you want to write, then it should be your top priority to figure it out, because you can not do anything else until you have a clear vision of what you want.
In my life I have often been too general about what I wanted. I wanted many things, but none of them very much. I rarely had any real, concrete goals (with the exception of getting good grades in school) – only wishes and imaginings and hopes. I suppose that’s why I have been running in circles all of my life until now.