Knowledge by doing

Posted in: Applying Wisdom

The outer affects the inner. Behavior shapes your psyche as much as the other way around.

– AJ Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically

When I was doing my Ancient Wisdom Project experiments, it was important that I didn’t just read about ancient wisdom, but that I actually physically performed something. That meant meditating, taking ice baths, praying, going to Mass, or taking nature walks.

This wasn’t just a stunt, but rather a critical way to get tacit knowledge. There are some things that can only be learned by doing.

For example, during my Islam month, praying five times a day made me want to be a better Muslim, and I’m not even Muslim! The physical act of prostrating myself made the religious texts more aspirational.

If you’ve ever felt like you couldn’t relate or understand truly religious people, and considered them just a little bit crazy, it’s because you only interpret their actions and beliefs through your intellect. You didn’t understand it because you couldn’t, not without having participated in the religion yourself.

What this implies is that to truly gain knowledge and wisdom, the proverbial “ivory tower” isn’t going to get you there. The wisdom you read must be paired from the wisdom of living. It’s the interplay between the two types of wisdom that will really help you craft a deep and meaningful life.

Book recommendation: Read AJ Jacob’s book, The Year of Living Biblically. He follows the laws of the Old Testament for a year and humorously documents his experience and the surprisingly profound lessons he learned.