Years ago, at the tender age of five, my elder brother was given a bicycle, it was deep red and I wanted it. I became so jealous!
But I couldn't inherit it until he'd outgrown it, which took a couple of years. That's a long, long time when you're so young.
One beautiful spring day, my dad took me down to the park by Sydenham library in South London. He was going to teach me to ride, for me to get real experience.
I was eagerly anticipating an enjoyable time. I started pedaling as soon as I got on and then what happened? That's right, I fell off immediately. I got on again, pedaled, and fell off again.
This er... cycle kept repeating itself for quite a while. Get on, fall off. Get on, fall off. Get on, wobble and fall off. Hey, wobbling is progress! Get on, wobble, more wobbles and fall off yet again.
After a long while - I don't think I'll embarrass myself and let you know how long I took - I climbed back on, and wobbling, more wobbling,, wobble again... "Daddy, look Daddy," I screamed, as I continued wobbling over the field. "Look! Look! I can ride!"
It's no longer amazing how easy it was to fool myself. I was an accident waiting to happen as my bike wobbled towards the fence and the trees. My father was very kind to me, he just said, "That's good, now turn round."
So I tried to turn around - and fell off immediately!
My self-sabotage mechanism had just said that I now knew how, and I'd repeated that vast pretense to my Dad. But without any know-how I only knew about riding, I lacked any real experience. The truth is indeed reality!
Did I Actually Know?
Now until I had gone to the library park to practice, did I only know about riding a bicycle or did I know?
I believed I knew. I had listened to Dad explaining riding to my brother, and I'd keenly watched him as he rode his bike. But when it was my turn to first get on the bicycle, I wobbled and fell off immediately!
But understanding is not real knowing, nor is knowing about it. Neither means you know how to do it, no matter what thoughts you have about it. My beliefs about my ability to ride a bike were just beliefs without any foundation.
Catch the crucial distinction between authentic knowing and just knowing about it. I did think I knew how, but I lacked practical experience. Knowing about anything is very different to authentic real knowledge.
I enjoy a very logical mind so maths is easy - it's rational. Once the logic was explained by the mathematics teacher, I'd usually catch on immediately. At school, maths was aimed at a undemanding level for the majority of students, and so maths - but little else - seemed easy.
Together with Alan, another kid with a logical mind, we aced the maths exams and so what I'd study at college was an easy choice. Mathematics required little effort and so I made it into the honors maths class with little difficulty.
Yet at College I Flunked Honors Maths
My experiences at college were very different, the rest of the class was equally as good at mathematics. At school, I had never needed to study or learn any maths, yet had topped the class. My winning formula had always worked well, why change it?
There were so many distractions: snooker, judo, and socializing took up much time. Relationships, the fairer sex especially, were very demanding. Why study? How do you find enough time to fit it all in?
I naturally expected a pass on the first exam, but guess what, I failed. Flunked it! The next had the same disastrous result. I continued on failing until I got the message I'd been ignoring.
First, the winning formula I'd used previously was working no longer. University is a very different environment to school, they expected adult self-motivated behavior. And indeed I was motivated, just not for mathematics.
There was another lesson I hadn't learned, the one I'd also missed learning to ride. Knowing about, just understanding is very different to authentic knowledge. The massive difference between them is practice and experience.
I was putting little effort in mathematics, and wasn't doing the work needed to pass examinations at university. The reasons for my failure to change my life are now very clear. I hadn't yet realized that:
"To change my life, I needed to make a change in my life."
Learning How takes Experience
How did I get proficient at riding a bicycle? Experience!
I needed to do and then do it some more. To practice, fail, exercise, make mistakes, fall off and get on again. And to keep getting on. Only then do you get the know-how and become proficient.
Just reading, watching, and listening doesn't cut it - then I only understood. But just understanding meant I was not yet able to actually ride.
Since I couldn't ride when it came time to ride, this showed that although I knew about it, I did not really know how. Yes, this does contradict what people imagine to be wisdom today. The self sabotage mechanism - one of the Cherokee Indians' wolves - wants to sabotage authentic knowing.
Know-how comes from experience. Actual experience, making mistakes, repeating, studying, learning, failing, exercising, doing it is vital. Without practice, any thoughts that you have authentic knowledge are undiluted self sabotage. You're only understanding it.
What shows wisdom? Wisdom is actually the ability to do it when the time comes. You do it because you can, you have the know-how.
When I'm watching you riding a bicycle, then who's energy is being used? Yours.
When I'm listening to you explaining something, who's energy is being used? Yours.
When I read something you've written, although I need to be attentive, who has put in all the energy? You have.
Yet when I'm doing it, who's energy is being used? Mine.
When I'm exercising, who's energy is being used? Mine.
When I'm getting experience, who's energy is being used? Mine. When I repeat? Fail? Study? Learn? Make mistakes? It's my energy.
That's the difference. You know that delegating exercise doesn't get you fit. Your body gets fit by doing it yourself. So does your mind. You need to get your own experience to develop wisdom. The essence of the distinction between authentic knowing and just understanding is your own experience.
Food for Thought
"The glory of modern science is that, while only a very few can understand its particular theories, anyone can understand its ... approach - it is simply the perpetual assertion of experience over authority."