The very common phrase “knowledge is power” is perhaps the most widely spread half-truth I have ever heard. Knowledge is not power. It is only potential power. Potential comes from Latin and it’s meaning is “being able” or “having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future”. Potential shows up in the future. It isn’t manifesting anything in the present moment. The result of unapplied knowledge therefore, is the same as ignorance.
Most of my life was spent being well above average in intellect and quite average in application. In school I didn’t have to struggle to learn. I didn’t have to work very hard to make passing grades or to play sports. It took me over ten years in the adult world to realize that the reason I didn’t have what I wanted wasn’t a knowledge problem, but an application problem.
I’ve always been interested in learning. There has always been curiosity. I was always interested enough to learn about a topic to carry on a conversation about most disciplines and concepts. But that’s all it was; theoretical discussion. Not sharing what I’d learned from practical application. This even showed up in my own field!
As a result, I was acting like the dumbest smart guy; all the potential knowledge and mediocre application which yielded mediocre results.
As a result of tremendous knowledge, but relatively little advancement towards my goals and dreams there was a sense of dissatisfaction. I was clearly living what is known in psychology as cognitive dissonance, “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude changes.”
All of that potential knowledge caused a ton of pain, a ton of self-doubt, and my emotions were dragging me down. You see, I read all of the books and articles, watched the videos and even asked the questions about how to do things. But I rarely took action on them. I didn’t take action because I thought there was more I needed to know. That was not what I should have focused on. I should have focused on getting repetitions in. Getting experience under my belt. Instead my thinker brain got in the way and told me there was more I needed to learn before I could take action. Not only was I not taking action, but I was feeling pretty rotten about the disconnect I was feeling between what I knew in my mind and the results of my life. I would have enjoyed my life WAY more had I just been completely ignorant.
What did I do to overcome this?
Like any other change that takes place, I needed to first become aware of my situation. For me, a lot of feelings of frustration came to the surface. I became aware of what emotions I was experiencing. Then, I started to check in on myself throughout the day and ask myself “what am I experiencing right now?” I got into touch with my emotions and became very present to what I was experiencing in moments during the course of the day. I read the book “The Power of Now” by Eckert Tolle and it really helped me appreciate the present moment.
Awareness means that you’re tuned in to the here and now. It means that you are fully present with your experience right now. You’re not dwelling on what you ought to have said to that person ten minutes ago and you’re not obsessing over the meeting you have tomorrow. You’re in the moment, you know if you’re hungry or thirsty. You’re aware of what your body is telling you and you’re aware of the emotions you’re experiencing. You’re just present. Having that awareness was crucial. If you’re aware you can make a change. If you’re not aware, how can you make a change?
Once I became aware of my emotional state and what I was experiencing I then was able to spot the triggers for those emotions. A lot of the negative emotions that I experienced was caused by focusing on what I prefer to call a ‘gap’. For me, the gap represents the area between where one is and where one wants to be. It’s the distance between the current reality and the achievement of goals. For me, placing my focus on the gap that I saw produced unsupportive emotional states. I went immediately to a negative place where I questioned my self-worth and my self-esteem and I just buried myself into a position where I was too paralyzed to take action. I was in a dark place where there was all kinds of fear, self-doubt, and all I could focus on was what I didn’t have.
One of the benefits of awareness training is learning about oneself. This self-knowledge really helped me. I learned that I have a streak of perfectionism in me. I observed that that held me back because I expected to be great at things straight away. When I wasn’t good immediately it was a huge reason why I would quit or fizzle out. Learning about myself really helped me to understand that it wasn’t about a lack of intestinal fortitude or courage that I quit, it was more about a level of expectations I had for myself. I had huge goals and dreams and I knew the things I needed to do to achieve them, but when I was bad at them without the legitimate expectation that I would probably be bad before I was good made me quit. A quote I saw really helped me re-calibrate my expectations. The quote was straightforward, it said: “Anything in life worth being good at is worth sucking at first.”
Realizing that sucking is part of the equation opened up many doors. It was the “aha!” moment if you will. Owning the suck and continuing to stick with it helped me to get out of my head and just do what I knew I needed to do. Another concept that helped me with perfectionism was something a mentor taught me. I call it ‘the 70% rule’. It simply says that if you’re on track 70% of the time you’re doing great. Perfectionism will want 100%. Realizing that I’m not going to be 100% and being ok with 70% is one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done. To change a mindset from “I have to do things 100% right each time I start and I have to do those things 7 days a week.” to “I know that there are things I need to do and I know that I’m going to mess them up at first, but if I keep working and do better than yesterday I will get there eventually.” The amount of pressure that mindset takes off is incredibly liberating.
The mindset shift really helped with persisting every day. Before the shift I consistently went hard for periods of several weeks to a couple of months and then I’d fall off. Perfection is not only unattainable, but it’s also unsustainable. The 70% rule was a game changer! If I could sustain the effort and commitment I knew I’d see better results.
The next thing to work on was how I dealt with other people.
I’m not embarrassed to say this about myself because it’s the truth. I want all of my autobiographical writings to be truthful and the more raw, the better. I was so focused on my goals and plans that I was an incredible jerk to those around me. My self-worth was governed by my net-worth. And my net-worth wasn’t anything I’d have wanted to printed on the back of my baseball card. I felt stressed, I lashed out, I pushed others away, I was hard headed, I could go on. I had to start treating other people better. I had to focus on something else. Fortunately, another mentor stepped into my life and really provided some wonderful guidance. He was able to influence me to take the focus off of myself. With the influence that he provided I’ve put the “Curt Rapp show” on hiatus. It still wants to come out, but through this mentor I was shown how to have more holistic success and a huge part of that comes from focusing on other people.
There are two things that I consciously did to take the spotlight off of me. The first thing I did was begin a daily journaling practice. As part of that practice I write down what I am grateful for. It can be large or small. They can be topical or random, but each morning and each night I write what I’m grateful for. I’ve found that I cannot be focused on ‘lack’ and ‘gap’ thinking when I have gratitude in my heart.
I vividly remember the morning that the power of gratitude took hold in me. It hit me like a thunderbolt one morning around sun up while I was walking my dog. It had rained the night before and in the neighborhood the sod between the street and the sidewalk had been removed as part of a drainage project. Between the rain and the lawn sprinklers there was mud everywhere! As I was walking the dog I experienced an a-ha moment. I realized ‘I am grateful for these sidewalks because my shoes aren’t getting muddy and my dog isn’t going to track muddy paw prints all over my house.’ I was grateful for having a safe sidewalk to walk on and roads to drive on. That day I understood what gratitude could do for me. It was the simplest thing that I took for granted every day of my life, but on that day I realized how important it was and I was truly grateful.
The second thing that I did to place the focus outside of me was to focus on serving others. Serving others may sound trite. I used to think so, in fact. I had a very limited view of service. I thought I was hot stuff and that people should buy from me because I’m an expert in my field and I know what they need. Needless to say, I didn’t sell much with that attitude! Focusing on service brings two dynamics into play. The first is the obvious one; it is relating well with others. If you’ve ever read Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” you’ve had an excellent introduction to service as it relates to interpersonal relationships. In business and sales service is everything to the customer.
The part of service that takes it to the next level is when you realize that part of service is bringing as much value to the world as you possibly can. Bringing value not only includes an others-centric attitude, but in sales and business it also involves being a master in your industry. You should be reading to stay up on trends in the market. It means honing your skills and looking for ways that you can help people get what they want. It may mean selling another product to your clients because you know that it addresses a pain that they have. It may mean taking on a new product line in your business because you have clients that it would benefit. In short, it means working on yourself and your abilities to bring more value to the marketplace. The great thing about bringing more value to the marketplace is that you’re able to help more people. And the more people that you are qualified and able to help, the more money you will earn.
In closing let me share that I am not even close to where I want to be. I have very little attachment to that though. In this transformation that I’ve described I went from a person who was staunchly in the “life is a destination camp” to a person who lives “life is a journey.” I realize that my journey of personal growth and mastery is never going to end. I’m never going to stop. When I climb one mountain I’m going to be preparing for the next. I am thankful that I have had mentors who were in my life when I became so exasperated that I finally looked for guidance. It’s like the Buddhist saying: “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” In fact, it’s not ‘like’ that. That’s exactly what happened. Now I put my energies into the things that I have control over. Things like what goes into my mind. Things like how much exercise I get. Things like how focused on others I am. Things like building my knowledge and skill set so that they align with my purpose.
I hope that you the reader have identified some things in this post that you found helpful and actionable. If you have, I’d love it if you shared them in the comments selection. If you have feedback on the length or writing style, share that as well. If you liked this blog post please share it on your social media.