The Learning Gap Between What You Know and What You Do

Introspection, lifelong learning, self-reflection, learning gap1LifeFullyLived, a wonderful non-profit with a mission to “help educate and mentor the next generation to become self sufficient by finding direction and a purpose for their lives”. (I suggest checking it out and supporting as you can.)

Tim often posts comments and questions on his personal Facebook page that provoke great discussion. Earlier this week, his question “What investment advice would you give a young person just starting out?” was of particular interest to me because of my 10-year career in financial planning and asset management. I easily get riled up about people taking greater responsibility for their personal financial well-being. Add the idea of teaching more about finances to young people and I can’t help but chime in.

Learning is a long-term game

The discussion sparked strong opinions on investment strategy from individuals who clearly had advanced understanding in different investment vehicles. It is refreshing and encouraging seeing adults using Facebook for such intellectual discussion. Although the topic was investing (near and dear to my heart), the comments that triggered the thoughts for this post (likely because of my current position in our leadership development firm) were the ones related to continued learning, particularly one of Tim’s comments, “Think of it as a long term game that you play to win by gaining knowledge and putting it to work over time”. This comment was directed towards investments, but I think it can be extrapolated out and applied to virtually anything.

Commit to learning

One consistent theme we see in studying individuals who are successful in their lives is their commitment to learning – even topics they already know. This brings me to my point for this post: the learning gap between what you know and what you do.

Been there and done that

The difference between what you know and what you do is an area worth some deliberate attention. Sometimes we need to read things multiple times or hear things over and over before we actually do them. Maybe you read a book on time management, you understood the process, agreed it would be helpful and implemented part of the process. Then someone suggest a similar title and you think to yourself (or even worse, verbalize) “yep – I already know that so thank you, but I’ve been there and done that”. 

Reflect and look again 

If you reflect for a moment, you might find that you don’t really remember everything from the first book, you aren’t really doing everything you could or should be doing and that looking at the same topic from another point of view might present ideas in a way that are more compelling or resonate more deeply with you and your individual circumstances.

More likely, you find yourself at a different point than you were the first time around. You now have mastered the first steps you were focused on the first time when you didn’t pay attention to the particulars of the more advanced steps because you weren’t there yet.

Learning isn’t just about gaining knowledge you don’t have

There is and will always be, more to learn and implement. The key is in the honesty around the action piece. What are you doing vs. what do you tell yourself you are doing? Going back to personal finances, are you really sticking to your budget, or are you just not reconciling what you are spending to know the truth?

The more you learn and reflect, the more you can filter and customize the information to benefit your personal circumstances, values and goals.

Execute the simple stuff

We write blog posts about things that probably often seen so simple. So simple you don’t need to read and therefore don’t. Topics like How to Set Expectations might not seem like strong leadership posts. So why do we write about them? Because these simple ideas are ideas, we see people struggling with every day. If you don’t effectively execute the simple stuff, you aren’t going to move onto those advanced ideas and strategies successfully. 

Apply self-awareness and action

I have a challenge for you. Re-read simple ideas with a pair of advanced perspective glasses and see how little ideas can have a big impact if you apply self-awareness and action. Self-reflection can be difficult and uncomfortable but it is where the growth and change occur which move us to where we want to be in our finances, work life balance, or success as a leader. 

If we all stepped up our level of learning, self-awareness and change, I’m certain the world would feel the positive impact.


Sara Hawerlander
Co-founder, Lightbox Leadership

image Introspection courtesy: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³’s


Related Articles:
A Boost of Energy and a Key to the Door by Derek Lauber & Sara Hawerlander
Effective Leadership: Do or Do Not, There is No Try  by Derek Lauber
10 Ways Leadership Coaching can Enable Success in Achieving Goals by Derek Lauber 


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