Knowing ≠ Understanding

Bruce Lee - Understanding vs Knowing

“Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum.”

That’s Bruce Lee talking about martial arts.

But I believe the same philosophy applies to all aspects of life. Whether it’s work, personal growth, or even the smallest of things – there’s a difference between knowing and understanding. The above sentence sort of sums it up.

They’re two different things often mistaken as being one.

But how are they different?

Knowing is simply knowing. You read books, think, somebody tells you something – so you know.

But understanding includes dismantling what you’ve heard, contemplating the truths, experiencing your lessons, and then returning to the same spot. Much like what happens in Paulo Coelho’s book, The Alchemist. It’s identical, only more profound.

For instance, it’s similar to the difference between reading an ocean’s description in an encyclopedia versus actually diving in the endlessly deep blue water.

Same thing? Not really.

We’re almost there

We often fail to realize the gap between knowing and understanding. And it happens not because we’re ignorant but because we haven’t discovered the meaning. We’re trying, but we’re not there yet.

As I’m growing, slowly peeling off some layers from life, I’m trying to define what this difference means for me. Do I understand it? No, not completely.

I’d honestly admit that I’m more of a knower than somebody who understands things in depth. Sort of an imperfect bloke, stumbling and learning in whatever ways I can. But being aware and thinking once in a while about all this really helps.

So here’s a new, sensible goal: Don’t just know, understand.

Let’s get started already.