Don’t Be A Big Head

big-head“Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in”, said Gustave Flaubert. Looking past Gustave’s obvious wounded pride when he calls those who succeed idiots, is the deeper quest for success all people yearn for.

Information is essential regardless of the endeavor. “Know your enemy” is an axiom to achieve victory. And, “If you want to succeed you have to get an education” is the mantra of many parents to their children.

However, information without application produces a big head. The most popular professors in business at the University of Arkansas are those who have practical experience, I’ve been told. Illustrating academic knowledge with real world examples both holds attention and constrains unbridled enthusiasm for what “should work”. Some with higher degrees prove they know the facts, but sadly demonstrate through experience they do not know how to use their knowledge to grow a successful business.

Early in one’s career is the perfect time to realize that information without inspiration creates a heavy load. I can know what to do. I can be very aware I should act upon what I know. If the task, however, is all work and no play, no joy, and no understanding of how doing the task will make life more pleasurable, it makes life all grunt and groan. I should do this. I must do that. Why is that still not finished?

Consider this example. Most automatic coffee brewers include an instruction book containing a maintenance section. It contains products and usually the amount to use at a set period of time to keep the machine functioning well over its lifetime. Many people never read the instructions or choose to ignore them if they do. The truth is using tap water in your coffee pot without regularly descaling it with vinegar or a commercial powder will cause the appliance not to function. No water can make its way through the brew chamber because mineral deposits from the water eventually will clog the water line. Using distilled water will leach minerals out of the metal leading to a similar “it quit working” effect although over a longer period of time. Knowledge is useful and must be applied for good effect.

“I did not know!” countless repairmen have heard. I may choose not to read the owners manual. Consequently, essential maintenance is not performed; maintenance that would prevent an early breakdown. Similarly, life is often easier when we ignore doing what we should do or should have known to do. Ignorance may be bliss but only for a short time. “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15). In addition, the wise put their knowledge to work. It is what wisdom is all about.

Psalm 73:11-12, 17-18 celebrates the gift of God’s covenant instruction, as the perfect guide for life. Jesus said much the same in John’s Gospel. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Free, that is, from the lack of knowledge, lack of motivation, and lack of proper application to live with as few problems and as many success’ as possible.

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