Knowledge vs. skills

College education has led us to think that there are no fundamental differences between theory and practice. No, of course you realize the two are not the same. Still, you don't see any critical difference. However, it does exist.

Most people equate "I know" with "I can". Do you ever do that?

Consider the following examples:

1) I know smoking is bad for my health, but I still smoke.

2) I know junk food is bad, but I still eat it.

3) I know the traffic laws, but I still violate them.

4) I know jogging is good for me, but I still don't go for a run every morning.

People often confuse "I know" with "I can". The traffic law example is very relevant in this context. If someone knows all the rules of the road and knows how driving works, does that mean she can drive? No. But what if she thinks it does? What does she need an instructor for if she thinks she already knows it all?

If you're confident about your knowledge, you probably won't keep studying. And if you're sure you already know everything, you won't learn anything new. It won't even occur to you that you should. Thus, you'll miss plenty of great chances to master new skills.

The average college only offers you knowledge. You have to acquire skills by yourself. What's that you're saying? You didn't only get theory but also practical experience at your college?

OK. If you are a physics student, can you make a functioning steam engine for me that operates at even 20% efficiency? I bet you know how, but you can't actually make one, can you?

Are you a chemist? Make some smokeless gunpowder. Again, you know how, but you can't, right?

A mathematician? Write an equation that describes the trajectory of a ballistic missile. Don't forget to take its shape into consideration. In real life, point masses aren't flying around, and the proverbial spherical cow doesn't exist.

A biologist? Isolate some penicillin for me. It's a kind of mold you can find on melons, in case you don't know. You do? Great. But can you make it?

An economist? How about a forecast for fuel prices? Coming right up, you say? Now use your predictions to turn \$2,000 into \$200,000 in one year. Have you ever played around with FOREX? With real money? Or do you just know something about it?

International economist? Great! Where should I open an offshore account? Hong Kong, Ireland, the US? Why? Even if you know the answer, which I doubt, you can't actually help me do it, because you've never done it before. You probably wouldn't know where to start.

These are things they didn't teach you in college, right? Why am I asking you to do things you haven't studied? Because these are real life tasks. This is what real-world practice means, not the spherical cows or perfect market competition you learned about in college.

Oh, and how could I forget about marketers! What's the best way to spend \$500 to reach as many people as possible with information about my programming course? An ad campaign? Do you know that not just the classic approach to publicity, but also the whole USP concept (which, I'm sure, you were taught in college is a bandage for all wounds), have long been outdated?

Forget that you know something. Ask yourself what you can do. Do you have any useful skills that people are prepared to pay for, and pay enough to cover your needs?

So, my friends, let's be grateful that there is this great course, CodeGym, which will not only help you know how to code but also actually teach you to be able to write code. It will also enable you to find a job and, in a couple years, earn decent money that will be enough for a comfortable life.

Let me say it again: it doesn't matter what you know. What matters is whether you are able to do something useful that other people find useful and for which they are prepared to pay.

The earlier you realize this, the better.

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