4 Ways Of Acquiring Knowledge

A lot of people keep confusing information with knowledge. To them every book is educative, every TV program is good, every radio program is not a waste of time, and every discussion is a source of knowledge. They are equating information to knowledge. 

Whatever you know that can't be backed by sound reasoning is not knowledge. Even if you can fill a 10,000 page book with it. And that automatically invalidates a lot of radio and TV shows. It's true that even a dead clock is right twice a day, but it's never considered a working clock. All these programs aren't 100% crap; you'll always find one or two acorns of truth every hour but the signal-to-noise ratio, the value-to-crap ratio, is extremely low. Maybe lower than the dead clock's 1/12 ratio (right once wrong 11 times, every 12 hours). And if you value knowledge, you'll discard those sources. 

So today, I'll be attempting what is obviously beyond me. And if silence is consent, I'll be agreeing to whatever fault you find in what I'm going to delve into next.

4 ways of acquiring knowledge.

1. Critical Reading
Reading has been the most used means of acquiring knowledge, and it's because it works. Can you imagine a school without books or need for reading anything? The one thing all the Nobel Prize winners, often acclaimed as the world's most intelligent people, have in common is that they've read everything that matters in their field of expertise.

I don't agree with people who say book knowledge have little real world value. But I agree when they show me bookworms who can't seem to get along with the world and not be a pain to all around them. I agree that reading is not knowledge. What is knowledge is lots of critical reading. 

When I'm buying a book, I find out first about the author. I read his summarized biography. To me reading is a discussion, one where I'm listening throughout. I like to know the person I'm listening to. If you're an American and you write a book on poverty in Nigeria, I'm not going to buy it. You will be simply telling me what the people you met told you.

Then I like books written in a logically sound and conversational manner. I wouldn't listen to people who jump from one idea to another without any obvious reason or logical link between those ideas. And it's much harder to endure them when they use your voice (when you read their books). 

Whenever I read a book, I don't read to remember or agree with everything said. That you publish your thoughts doesn't make them theories. No. I read to listen. To listen with all my attention and reasoning. I read critically. When I'm reading, it's like I'm programming, I don't get easily distracted. I shut out the world and focus on the one way conversation going on in front of me. 

Reading this way forces me to see things from the author's view point, to put myself in his position. To compare his actions and recommendations to mine, and to pick out the better ones. Even the technical books that I end up soaking most of what's written verbatim, I still apply this principle. Just that the authors' recommendations are almost always better than mine, and replace mine.

Sometimes, after reading a book I end up with much less knowledge than before I read the book. The book pruned my knowledge and helped me get rid of the ones that won't do any good or are unsound. Just as I like travelling light, I also like living lean. I'm not the type who wants to fix the world. Or who wants to fix every problem I can identify. I like to live within myself, and leave the world to itself. Whatever social good that comes out of me is unintended, probably just the result of being a good-natured fellow.

2. Introspection
The cause of most great men's fall is not something greater than them. It's something so small they never paid enough attention to it. You hear of a president in sex scandal.

The knowledge that will help you most in life is the one you squeeze out of yourself. And if you are lucky like me, harsh environment can help too. The ability to examine your actions, emotions and thoughts objectively is invaluable. You will become knowledgeable about yourself and live a more well-put-together life. 

My decision to quit my job was borne out of introspection. Knowing myself and what would make me happy. You won't find me trying to impress someone else by changing my usual habits. When you know yourself well, you won't be seeking acceptance in someone else. You won't be seeking validation from a stranger. And the issues of life will be plain to you. You won't be always confused about what to do. 

Self knowledge is the most vital form of knowledge. And it is often the bedrock of other knowledge you acquire. My knowledge of the fact that I'm not very social has helped me to never feel out of place among very social people, among people who connect instantly with others. I simply pick someone who likes talking and give him/her the best audience in the world. And I always end up leaving a great impression, just by listening.

But there's the not-so-good side. I can stand anything except illogical statements. And that's why I always have my earpiece in my pocket. But it makes one very lonely too. In every conversation, rather than enjoying it, you are trying to shut down the part of your brain that is running a logic analysis of the other guy's statements.

3. Travelling
The world is like a book, if you've never traveled you are still on page 1.
Travelling changes you in a way nothing else can. It impacts on you knowledge you can't get any other way.

4. Observing
I would recommend you read Sherlock Holmes by Sir Authur Conan Doyle. Though there's a movie based on it, the book will help you see the value of observing. Of paying attention to everything around you. Of having an open mind.

When you pay attention to things around you -- nature itself and the background things -- you'll gain knowledge that will amaze you yourself.

And those are (my) 4 ways of acquiring knowledge.


  1. Thanks for recommending a book. Plz, do often. I'm so dead even though i knw that reading exposes you to knowledge. I had to quit a very comfortable job to work with a woman i've always looked up to. One of those days, she brought an article on a newspaper relating to what we do. she asked me to analyse it and ops!, i messed up, giving her a summary of what she ask rather than strategically analyzing the article relating it to the scope of our business. in as much as she told me to go back read the article thoroughly and get back to her, which i did and gave her an insight she didn't see her self (we r not all perfect u knw), i was ashamed, bt i knew that it is one of the reasons i quit me job, to b around her. I may not be there but i knw i am on d right track. thanks Michael and plz, recommend books coz i'm really out to top my game. cheers

  2. Hi Chizoba,

    Thanks for your comment and sharing a relevant personal story too. You did a very noble thing -- quitting a comfortable job for one that will help learn from someone you greatly admire.

    And I'm glad to hear that article analysis turned out well in the end. And I also believe that you are on the right track.

    As for books, I have listed in a separate post all the books I found of value: http://www.olafusimichael.com/2014/01/all-investment-and-finance-books-i-have.html and http://www.olafusimichael.com/2014/01/the-tricks-to-becoming-someone-that.html and http://www.olafusimichael.com/2013/11/5-unusual-books-i-have.html and http://www.olafusimichael.com/2014/02/the-best-business-book-i-have-read.html

    If you want a consolidated and updated list, you can email me at michael(at)olafusimichael.com



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