What's Wrong with Knowledge?

coaching life integration transformation

What if becoming more knowledgeable doesn’t lead to more fulfillment and success in life?  How would we live our lives differently if we believed this statement to be true? Would we consume less content, read fewer books, and pay less attention to experts?  That seems like a natural result of this belief.

 But seriously, who would want that?  And what kind of Life Coach would recommend it?  The kind who is writing this blog. The kind who has been a devoted pilgrim on the never ending path of knowledge, and has come to understand that knowledge is different than wisdom; and it’s the latter that has us creating deep, sustainable change; the kind that translates into actual fulfillment and joy in our lives.

I am blessed to work with clients who are all, and I mean every single one, extraordinarily knowledgeable about seemingly every subject.  I’m often challenged to keep our coaching conversations limited to what’s helpful and useful for them, as opposed to what’s wildly interesting for both of us.  Their abundance of knowledge and my endless curiosity is a distracting combination, but one that I’ve learned to manage in the context of a professional conversation.  So, having gained all this valuable information, why are we not at least as equally content with our lives as we are knowledgeable?

Because information does not naturally lead to transformation.  Knowledge is the result of gaining more information, but true, life changing transformation is an internal shift and it’s always driving shotgun with wisdom; a very different partner than its baby brother, knowledge.

Perhaps the best way to explain the difference is to present it in simple distinctions.

Knowledge: Is gained by consuming information.

Wisdom: Is gained by testing that information through action.


Knowledge:  Can be gained passively, and although time consuming and sometimes effortful, is often risk free.

Wisdom:  Can only be gained through outward, often public, action that carries the risk of embarrassment, failure and humiliation.


Knowledge:  Is gained once, and although it can be bolstered through continuous consumption, the context and basic information remains the same.

Wisdom: Is gained through repetition, often under circumstances that continuously change (called life) and challenge our assumptions at every turn.


Knowledge:  Has us talking more.

Wisdom:  Has us listening more.


Knowledge:  Is exciting to gain and makes us feel immediately smarter.

Wisdom:  Is the quiet gift we receive after having experienced life challenges and pains.


Knowledge:  Can be gained individually and alone.

Wisdom:  Takes a village, or at least more than one person


Knowledge:  Is about addition

Wisdom:  Is about subtraction

Lao Tzu famously said, “To attain knowledge add something everyday; to attain wisdom subtract something everyday.”

Now that you have a better understanding of the distinction between knowledge and wisdom, if you’re interested in some practices to help you make this shift, please email me and I’ll be happy to share those practices with you.


P.S. I’m committed to sharing my Life Coaching skills and tools out into the world, in the hope that it can help others. If this blog resonates with you, please consider forwarding it to anyone who may benefit from it. If this was forwarded to you, subscribe here.

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