Knowledge: An Edge within Everyone’s Grasp

A few thoughts on knowledge. Knowing or understanding how something works increases the chances of achieving a goal. A knowledge gap decreases the likelihood of achieving it. I recently listened to close friends share how they were caught off guard when their child was rejected for admission to a private school. They learned after the fact that an acceptance decision by some private schools is multifactorial—a child’s intelligence tests scores is just one factor. For better or worse, parents who understand the admissions process and act based on their knowledge increase their probability of success. This is just one recent example. Knowledge can have an outsize impact on outcomes in various aspects of life (e.g., entrepreneurship).

I like to think of it like this. Imagine you’re in a room trying to get out. Not knowing is the room being pitch black. You’re simultaneously trying to figure out (1) where you are in the room, (2) where the exit is, (3) where any obstacles are, and (4) how to move toward the exit. Knowing is the room having all its lights turned on and someone in it pointing to the exit door. All you have to do is move toward the exit. You can succeed either way, but in darkness it will take you longer.

The bad thing about knowledge is that it’s not universal. Some people have more knowledge than others about specific topics. They understand the edge it provides and the compounding impact it can have over time. They can accomplish more at a faster rate. Their knowledge is the result of the large amounts of time and energy they’ve put toward acquiring it—firsthand or by studying the knowledge of others before them. It’s their competitive advantage, and it’s unlikely they’ll readily share their competitive advantage until they’ve achieved their goals. Doing so prematurely could boost their competition and decrease the likelihood that they’ll achieve their goals. Regardless of how we feel about this, it’s a reality we should accept. It’s just how life works.

The good thing about knowledge is that it’s not static. Because augmenting our knowledge is within our control, we can increase our chances of achieving a particular goal. Adding to our store of knowledge isn’t easy; it requires time and energy. But the payoff from combining knowledge with execution can be enormous. Many who have achieved outsize success consider themselves lifelong learners. They’ve committed to learning throughout their life. The knowledge they gain is a significant contributor to their success, and they’re happy to put the time and energy into continuously acquiring more knowledge.

If you’re looking to achieve a goal, consider thinking about how big your knowledge gap is and what you can do to fill that gap and increase your chances of success.