“Without reflection there is no true learning.”
— Kevin Buck, philosopher, author
Intelligence doesn’t serve us until we stop to consider what we’ve seen. They say that the essence of intelligence is the ability to make distinctions, to notice the differences, to see more than the obvious.
You may look at a transmission and see exactly what I see, but I’ll only notice what I see. Because of my lack of automotive training, I’ll only observe what is obvious to anyone.
As a trained transmission professional, you’ll notice much more. You’ll see systems, patterns, brands, types, extras, omissions, and even more. You can look at a transmission and know which cars use them, whether they’re new or reman, etc. That’s because, as you’ve learned about them, you’ve also given a great deal of thought to what they are, how they operate, and what each item means in the mix that we know as a transmission. By contrast, I see what looks like a prop from the movie The Matrix!
The same is true in the rest of life. The more you notice, the more you know… but your intelligence in each situation depends on how much you’ve reflected on what you’ve learned and discerned its meaning.
Take music for example: If you learn basic guitar playing, then you’ll know the strings, the frets, the strums, the notes, and the chords, but you won’t know how to play a song well. You can form notes and chords perfectly but still miss the magic.
In watching recent music competitions on TV, you can quickly see who really knows how to play and sing, and who only has good musical ability but not the gift of being able to touch people with music. That “gift” or “magic” is learnable, but not without taking time to reflect on the meaning and feeling of the songs.
I’m at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to reflecting. I take what some would consider too much time to think about what things mean or how they could be applied for some good purpose. Then again, it’s my job to think about things and interpret them for you.
My favorite phrase of late? “What this means to you is…”
I present this on a slide in my seminars and tell the audience to ask it all day long. “If I share a story or idea today and you can’t see the usefulness of it, please interrupt me and ask, ‘Jim, what does this mean to me?’” The ideas don’t matter except in how they can be valuable or useful to the learners.
Schools teach lots of great information and powerful ideas, but if there’s no reflection on how to apply them, then the classroom time was wasted.
Knowledge isn’t power. The ability to apply knowledge is where the power comes in. The intelligence that comes from taking time to think things through is, in many ways, the “transmission” of our minds. It takes the potential power of knowledge and translates or transmits it to our hands and voices for application in wise ways.
The next time you talk with one of your coworkers about something that they already know, consider that they may only know it technically. In other words, they might be able to parrot it back to you just as you said it, but without thinking it through, they won’t really understand what it means to them.
Don’t expect people to truly know what they’ve merely seen or heard. Help them think about what it means.
Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE is a strategic advisor to ATRA and a longtime contributor to GEARS Magazine. As a professional speaker and business advisor, he helps people see the deeper meaning in their business and find quicker, more lasting ways to make business and personal problems go away. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his web site Cathcart.com for free videos, articles, and resources.