Learning Isn’t Collecting Information, It’s Converting Information Into Something Useful

Patrick O’Shaughnessy says we don’t learn by collecting information, we learn by converting it into something we can use.* It’s more than book smarts vs. street smarts, it’s unused knowledge becoming useless vs. used knowledge becoming useful.

We can study to pass the test and forget everything after, or we can take the material and apply it in the world. We can read all the books on a topic until we’re the expert on some obscure Reddit thread, or we can use our knowledge to teach the key ideas to others. It’s all about the “and” that converts the information into something useful, into something of value.

It’s true we can cover a lot more ground in books, in classes, from listening to podcasts, etc., than we could ever cover in our own lives alone. But, unless we’re converting our newfound knowledge into action, we’re barely a step removed from the encyclopedia on the shelf. Collecting is fun, it’s doing something with it that can be hard. Stored knowledge is just stored knowledge until it finds an actual application.

Real learning isn’t memorizing. Real learning is the output of converting something knowable into something useful.

*from First Meeting, a spin-off podcast from Ted Seides’ Capital Allocators Podcast.

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