Monday, December 31, 2012

Just Do What You Know

Someone pointed out that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it sure beats a blank stare for starting a conversation. Which is all right, for I suppose I have about as little knowledge as anyone.

But maybe how much knowledge we have isn’t the point. It’s not always about what we know, what we don’t know and what we think we know. It’s more about what we choose to do with whatever knowledge we may have.

News commentator Paul Harvey once related a story which took place during the American presidential administration of Jimmy Carter. Evidently, daughter Amy Carter needed help with homework. It was Friday and the assignment, a question about the Industrial Revolution, was due on Monday. Neither Amy nor her mother quite understood the question she was research, so mother Rosalyn asked a White House aide to run the question by the Labor Department.

Sunday afternoon a truck pulled up at the White House loaded with a computer printout. Remember dot matrix printing and tractor feed paper? Someone assumed the president needed the information urgently, so the Labor Department assigned a team to work all weekend to prepare the documents.

When first lady Rosalyn learned that the research had cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars she was horrified. But Amy went ahead and used the information to complete her homework.

On that homework assignment, by the way, she got a “C.”

 I see a parable here. You and I are exposed to a “truckload” of information every day. I recently read that a peasant in tenth century Europe was exposed to roughly the same volume of information in a lifetime as is published in just one daily edition of the New York Times today. We’re inundated with information and likely know more than any generation before us.

But in the end, it’s not about how much knowledge we may have. It’s about what we choose do with what we know that means anything.

My own life can improve significantly if I simply take what I already know and apply it. I know how to forgive, for example, yet I am slow to do it. I know how to love, when to be patient and why I should share generously. I also know that if I do these things as often as possible, it will make a huge difference in my life and to others I care about. But too often I’m reluctant to do them.

Most of the time I even know how to be happy. I bet that you do, too. And I know that if I habitually do the kinds of things that promote a happier and more fulfilled life, I will be the better for it.

A full and happy life does not come from knowing more than others. And we don’t always need to find the latest book on happiness or a popular self help expert to guide us. Most of us already know the greater part of what we need to do to be our best and to get where we want to go. But this is key: to consistently apply what we know every day. In other words, just do it.  

You know enough. Apply what you know today and things can truly be different tomorrow.

-- Steve Goodier

Image: Gober


S. Pieper said...

I usually shy away from resolutions for the new year, but this is one worth reading over every day. Thanks, Steve!

Steve Goodier said...

Happy New Year!