The Bridge That Takes You From Knowledge To Skill

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Picasso had a very memorable quote about this -- "To know what you are going to draw, you have to begin drawing."


The bridge that takes you from knowledge to skill is practice. Lots of practice. It is what makes the difference between having a degree in English and being a writer. It is what makes the difference between being an amateur and being a professional. The moment you commit yourself to a regular practice session you start climbing the bridge from knowledge to skill.

The mistake most of us make is we want perfect knowledge before we practice. Most of us don't know that to every field/skill, some portion of the knowledge required come only from doing. You can't be a painter if you don't paint. You can't be a writer if you don't write. You can't be a musician if you don't sing/play. There is always a knowledge ceiling you will reach if you don't practice what you're learning. Learning by doing is not optional, it is a requirement if you want to be skilled.

When I started writing daily two and half years ago, my grammar wasn't great and coming up with what to write consumed all my non-work hours. I would spend hours online searching for a blog post idea and spend another set of hours writing and editing. It was like I was punishing myself for nothing. I started buying books on grammar, style and creative writing. But because I had a daily practice session, I was able to convert the knowledge the books gave me to a skill. Today, my grammar still isn't great but I am a writer. I write daily and I write like I was born with the skill. Writing is no longer a difficult task or a daily burden as I found it the first year of daily writing. Just because I decided to practice, I was able to cross from knowledge (imperfect knowledge) to skill.

Last year, when I quit my job to become a full-time Microsoft Excel consultant I didn't know many aspects of Excel. And I didn't have the MVP award before putting in my resignation at work. I was just determined to dive head first into the Excel consulting business. My plan was to learn all I need along the way while maxing out the knowledge I already had. I was bent on crossing that bridge that takes one from knowledge to skill even though I planned getting some of the knowledge while on that bridge. Fast forward one year and it has paid off very well. I now know things I never knew existed and I am now making more money than I was while in my salaried job. The best part is I am now very good at learning fast and making money from what I learn.

I also have a failure story. Since 2009 I have been trying to learn French. I have had private tutors, attended Alliance Francaise at Ikeja, Centre Culturel Francais at Abuja, Bon Berger at Cotonou and online French classes. I have bought many French books and learning tools. But because I never practiced regularly and especially had trouble with practicing my imperfect embarrassing French with my French speaking friends, I didn't make significant progress. I know a lot of French words but can't do anything useful with the knowledge because I didn't practice. I am not the very conversational type, even in the English language I am fluent in I still avoid chatting with people. That bad habit has been limiting my French learning. I find it as double hard work to dedicate time to chat with people and then in a language I am not good at. So I never walked far on that bridge from knowledge to skill.


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