The Enemy of Learning
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

Recently I was listening to a podcast and heard this quote, “The enemy of learning is knowing.” I was driving to the office when I heard that, and it hit me so hard that I almost pulled over to make some notes. This morning I listened to the podcast again, and that statement’s truth still rings true. Let’s take a few minutes to unpack the quote.

It sounds almost backward. The reason we are learning is so we can know something. I want my doctor to spend years learning so when I have an illness or injury; she knows how to help me. Depending on my illness or injury, I go to the doctor who has spent the most time learning in that specific area of medicine. I choose a mechanic who has spent the most time learning how to repair whatever is wrong with my truck. I spent four years working as a tool maker apprentice so that I could someday be certified as a journeyman tool maker. So how can we say, “The enemy of learning is knowing?”

Let’s use my tool-making education as an example. I spent four years and 8,000 hours on very specific machinery and attended specified classes to achieve my certification. Today, I can’t work in a modern tool room. I could work in the tool room of the 1980s or before, but technology has changed, and I didn’t keep learning. I still have my tools and use them in my hobbies, but that’s about it. I once knew, and even though I didn’t forget what I learned, I no longer know what I would need to know in 2022.

The doctor I go to for my right hip needs to keep learning the latest techniques in his area of expertise. My ENT needs to know the latest techniques for caring for inner ear issues. As a leadership trainer and coach, I must continue spending time with thought leaders in my field. I am not saying we discount what we learned in the past, but we need to maintain a healthy tension between what we have learned and what we still need to discover. What we learned yesterday becomes the foundation for the new things we will learn today.

We lose this tension or desire for more learning when we begin to think we know what we need to know. Similarly, the professional athlete who feels they have finally made it won’t stay in the game long. When we are finished learning, well…we are just finished. What will you learn today?