I once took a class on flirting. They had a better name for it on the university syllabus to satisfy academia (and, more importantly, parents paying for tuition). They called it, “Dyadic Communication,” which refers to face-to-face interactions between two people. But, a big part of the class, or at least the part I remember most, was about flirting.
It was fascinating. I never knew all the signals being sent. Take feet for instance. If you look down and see your date’s feet are pointing out, it’s a good sign; if they’re turned toward each other, it’s a stop sign. The most entertaining part of the class was the videos. We would see examples of people who were good at picking up the clues and sending signals. And, we would feel excruciatingly bad for those who were not so good. If only they knew what we knew!
If it wasn’t apparent to me before, I realized an important truth that semester: just because you know something doesn’t mean you’re good at it. I thought all my knowledge about flirting would give me super powers. As it turned out, it would take a little bit of time for my flirting to effectively convince my future wife to go out with me.
And by “little bit of time” I mean three years. For most of those three years, I’m not sure she even knew I was flirting. She never once looked at my feet (I assure you they were pointed out). And, because she’s super pretty and out of my league, I honestly just choked a number of times. I guess you have actually to do something to find out if you have any power at all.
Knowledge isn’t everything. I know this. I know you know this. However, if you’re like me, most of us still treat it like it is. We’re products of the Information Age, which promises that we can do anything because everything we need to know is available at the click of a button. But, just because we have access to information doesn’t mean it becomes useful.
Do you remember those, “The More You Know,” public service announcements on NBC? A nice TV star would share about a current issue, followed by a catchy tune with a shooting comet that read, “The More You Know.” These commercials were so prevalent that parodies soon followed (a favorite of mine is this one from Scrubs). While the sentiment is nice, there’s something big missing from the concept. It’s not the more you know that will change the world; it’s the more you actually do. And sometimes the more you know can actually hinder your doing.
Over-analysis paralysis affects many of us millennials (and other generations too) today. Do you want to go to Law School? There are over 200 to choose from. Are you looking to date? It is estimated there are over 2,500 online dating services in the United States alone!
A great benefit of the Information Age is the possibilities are endless. But, sometimes a big problem of the Information Age is the possibilities are endless. It can be overwhelming. I know it can for me. And when I get overwhelmed, I often get discouraged and don’t do anything at all.
Sometimes the more we know, the less we think things can change. Knowledge is supposed to be liberating, but sometimes it can be frustrating, and we can let it drain us of all motivation or any hope. Studying history and politics, for example, doesn’t make me overly optimistic about this year’s election cycle. Instead, I find myself thinking that nothing will ever change. And when I find myself thinking that way, more often than not I find myself sitting on the couch and complaining about the world instead of working to fight the good fight.
A particularly dark and dangerous byproduct of knowledge can be pride. One of the most read authors of all time is Paul of Tarsus, who wrote half of the New Testament. Paul writes, “Knowledge puffs up, while love builds up.” Whether you are a Christian or not, you probably know this to be true; we’ve all met people who turned knowledge into snooty-ness (for lack of a better term). And, when knowledge turns to pride, it keeps us from love. Sometimes the more we know makes us feel like we are beyond doing a certain task or reaching out to a certain person (or type of person).
This doesn’t have to be the case. The more we know doesn’t have to lead to paralysis, cynicism, and pride; knowledge can lead people to do big things.
One example that pops immediately to mind is Martin Luther King, Jr. He rejected cynicism, humbled himself in extraordinary ways, and wasn’t paralyzed by what he knew. And, as a result, he brought about real change in the world. But he’s a real daunting example, isn’t he? I’m feeling paralyzed already! It’s hard to go from zero to MLK.
So what do we do today? How do we go from being a simple consumer of information to action…to life change…to making a difference?
Take a small risk today.
The best way to get started is to take a manageable step right now.
Go from watching on your couch those chefs on the Food Network create a culinary masterpiece to trying to cook in your kitchen a recipe on your own.
Move from seeing a home renovation on HGTV to replacing a faucet or light fixture at your place (knowing that it won’t be perfectly done the first time).
Take those articles you’ve read about social justice and use them as motivation to get involved in a non-profit that helps at-risk populations in your city.
And, instead of enrolling in a class on flirting, ask that person out on a date. Don’t be like me and take three years!
Knowledge is incredibly helpful, but it isn’t everything. Don’t misunderstand me. I love learning. We need to be lifelong learners. The more we know opens up possibilities we may never have had before. But, let’s not stop there.
Together we can be a generation that does something incredible with the knowledge we’ve been given.