💡 Knowledge vs Wisdom

Why we are reading fewer books this year | Wisdom Letter #80

“The best way to learn something is to teach it.” — Richard Feynman

Hello and Welcome to The Wisdom Project. Your weekly dose of human-curated wisdom in a world full of algorithmic noise.

Today we talk about a couple of concepts we have been wrestling with for some time now.

Knowledge and Wisdom.

And we share our 5 Step Path To Wisdom.

But first, let’s back up a bit — let’s back up about 2 million years👇

The Wisdom of Fire

Imagine Abe — a prehistoric hominid — A Homo Erectus, living in the African Savannah, almost 2 million years ago.

He is part of a forager tribe of 15 people.

They haven’t discovered fire yet.

Imaging Abe’s amazement when he looked at a burning forest for the first time.

The fear and the fascination gripped him.

He couldn’t stop thinking about Fire after that — The heat, the colors, the capacity to devour entire forests, kill animals and his fellow tribe members.

Abe obsesses over Fire from afar, watching it, studying it, talking to his friends about it.

Within months, he knows everything there is to know about Fire.

But he dare not touch it.

He is the most knowledgeable member of his tribe in terms of Fire. But he is no better at dealing with it than anyone else.

Until one fateful day.

When he accidentally uses a burning stick to scare away a predator.

That’s the day he became aware of The Wisdom of Fire.

And then he just couldn’t stop himself. He tries to use fire for everything.

To warm himself in the cold of the night, to kill small prey, and to soften the meat.

He teaches the skill to his friends, learns to control it, master it, and changes the fate of the planet one flint stroke at a time.

What is Knowledge?

Knowledge is a beautiful thing. It's super interesting.

It's when you know stuff about stuff.

You consume all this information, devour it, and just store it in the grey cells of your brain.

And knowledge builds.

How Knowledge Builds

When you consume a wide variety of information, you start to see patterns emerge. You notice how seemingly different things are connected.

You see how the world works, how society functions, how people function.

Knowledge amazes you, intrigues you, fascinates you.

And then, it fades.

Your grey cells are limited, they start to run out of space, they grab onto new information, new knowledge.

You consume more, devour newer stuff about stuff, and you have new knowledge.

While old knowledge withers away.

What is Wisdom?

Wisdom is a mundane thing. It's super boring.

It emerges when you grab hold of knowledge and wrestle with it.

Question it, understand it, make sense of it.

When you make something out of it, only then are you wise about it.

You store wisdom in your grey cells by doing something with the knowledge you have— This happens outside of your brain.

It can be as simple as having a conversation with a buddy about anything that intrigues you.

Or it can be when you write about it or make something from this knowledge.

And Wisdom builds as well.

How Wisdom Builds

When you build something, you get Wisdom.

And when you build a wide variety of stuff from a wide variety of knowledge, your wisdom compounds.

And it lasts.

You can seamlessly apply Wisdom from one field to another.

This is most obvious in entrepreneurship.

That's why you see serial entrepreneurs build one successful business after another, while everyone else just struggles with just making a daily living.

You can do an MBA from the best B-school in the world, read all the books on entrepreneurship there are to read, and yet not be a success in your venture.

And you can also do scrappy jobs all through your teens, run small businesses like lemonade stands and lawn mowing, and turn out to be a successful businessman in the long term.

As they say — You can read 20 books about swimming and it means nothing, you will learn to swim only when you throw yourself in the water.

Why we are reading less?

We have always been a fan of books.

And over the last 18 months, we have recommended scores of books in this weekly post.

But for a long time, reading a lot of books was a vanity metric for us. It was something to boast about.

We tried to read 18, 24, 36 books in a year.

And we saw people reading 52 books in a year — A book a week.

And then those people would talk about retention strategies, and speed reading strategies.

As if stuffing themselves with more knowledge, at a faster pace, will make them any wiser than anybody else.

As if we are all running a race to consume more and more wisdom.

As if we can consume wisdom.

This year we decided to stop running the rat race.

For 2021, we have a modest target around reading — Read Every Day, that’s it.

Read new books that excite us, but more importantly, re-read old books that interest us.

Read them, and then do something with them.

Write a summary, make a podcast, or build a workbook around the books we like.

Do something with them.


Anything that forces us to deploy the knowledge of the book and gain some Wisdom in the process.

Our biggest lesson of the past 80 weeks is this👇

“The pursuit of Wisdom is not static, it’s a dynamic process that changes you.


It’s not Consumption, it’s Creation.”

The 5 Step Path to Wisdom

We have derived a 5 step method to convert knowledge into Wisdom:

  1. Read/ Watch / Listen. Consume the stuff.

  2. Have a conversation about it with someone.

  3. Write about what you consumed, write for yourself, for your own understanding. Just write as if you are explaining the idea to a 10-year-old.

  4. Create something. Make something with that knowledge, write for the world. Write a well-polished article, or a podcast, or a video around the topic.

  5. Iterate. The previous 4 steps will reveal the gaps in your own understanding.

    Go back to the original content, and consume it again, and refine what you made.

Hope this process will help you turn your Knowledge into Wisdom.

Thank You for Reading 🙏


Based on buyers feedback, we are raising the price of — The Toolkit for Atomic Habits.

It will now sell for $10 instead of $5.

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Next week, we go back to our favorite models of Risk — Black Swans & Grey Rhinos.

We take a fresh look at them and try to understand them better.

We wrote about them a year back and a lot of our readers loved that post, but now, it’s time to iterate, to read, converse, write and create again.

So let’s meet then, next weekend. In your inbox!

Important Note

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ICYMI 👉 The Wisdom of Atomic Habits - Advanced Tactics | Wisdom Letter #79

This Week Last Year 👉 Of Black Swans and Grey Rhinos | Wisdom Letter #28 | The One About Risk

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This was Wisdom Letter #80. In case you want to revisit any of the previous 79 letters, check out our entire archive.


Aditi & Ayush