Proverbs, often considered the greatest leadership book of all time, offers profound insights into the value of knowledge. It states, "Wisdom brings strength, and knowledge gives power" (Prov 24:5), "The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out" (Prov 18:15), and "The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly" (Prov 15:14).
Knowledge is a dynamic entity, blending both fixed and fluid aspects. Rooted in truth, certain aspects of knowledge represent universal laws. However, our life journey necessitates continual cognitive change as we transform. Here are two crucial points to remember this year as you strive for wisdom and discernment, and as a leader, instruct and inspire others on the same path.
First, leaders are leaders because they have displayed an aptitude to complete tasks. They are then promoted to enable others to do the same. One of my favorite books on workplace communication is How to Tell What You Know by Arthur Secord. Published in 1956, this management classic is full of nuggets on transferring your knowledge to those working for you. When I returned home to run Tremendous Leadership, I republished it in hopes that others would also be inspired and informed. Here's a video from 13 years ago where I share my love of this book.
One particular truth remains etched in my mind: knowledge can only build on previous knowledge. This reality is why 1st grade is before 2nd grade, why a bachelor's degree is before a master's, and why an apprentice is before a journeyman. According to Mr. Secord,
"It is impossible to tell a person anything that is one hundred percent brand-new to him. A man learns by building on what he already knows. You must word your message in such a way that it will fall within their past experience. The procedure by which you tell a man something that does not fall within their experience is to tell him the manner in which it is similar to or different from something that is within their experience."
Thus, whether you are learning something new or teaching others, knowledge can only be absorbed when it has something to anchor itself to; otherwise, it simply dissipates. This fact is why stories are so powerful for speakers, why Jesus spoke in parables, and why the root of all communication is in identification.
Secondly, it is vital to respect and acknowledge the past. When earning a Ph.D., an entire section of the dissertation is dedicated to a comprehensive review of precedent literature. All new knowledge emerges from the foundation of previous knowledge. As in our earlier point, knowledge can't land without a foundation, and it also can't materialize out of nothing. As C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite authors, writes in The Grand Miracle and Other Selected Essays on Theology and Ethics From God in the Dock, everything is always the same because all knowledge has the same point of origin. He writes,
"…wherever there is real progress in knowledge, there is some knowledge that is not superseded. Indeed, the very possibility of progress demands that there should be an unchanging element. New bottles for new wine, by all means, but not new palates, throats, or stomachs, or it would not be, for us, "wine" at all." Dogma and the Universe
This reality is why the prevailing trend of erasing historical figures and endorsing cancel culture is perilous. Our past, with all its imperfections, is an integral part of our present and future. We must not obliterate where we came from. Progress relies on preserving elements of the past, a point we should never forget.
As you move throughout 2024, nurturing your growth while inspiring others on their journey, keep in mind that knowledge is best absorbed when presented in a way that connects to the recipient's existing understanding. Additionally, in our perpetual state of refinement and continuous learning, always remember that every aspect of our past contributes to the intricate tapestry of our collective thought and should be preserved.