How to understand something –

Do you learn or do you just collect information in your brain?

The journey to be able to understand is the journey of learning. People have the tendency to think that the more they read, they have learnt more, but is that true?

Are we smarter after we read a lot? The answer can be yes, or no.

We are not smarter after we read, we just collect more information. Observing how people do things are also a very good way to learn by imitating, which is a very proven way to produce good results.

Yet, reading and observing are just the act of collecting information. How to extract value from the information collection process then?

I break it down to this:

information to wisdom

From the image above, we can see that we actually need to read, observe, and listen to finally gain wisdom.

So if there are people who said reading is useless and only implementing is useful, it’s not true. Collection information / data in our brain is useful too.

How it works

After collecting information from the right books, articles, videos, people, experts, teachers, etc. We will be able to recognize certain pattern that we then convert into knowledge. Our knowledge is our playbook. These are certain rules that we have made in our brain after processing all the information. It doesn’t stop here. Knowledge is not enough, we need to apply it. When we actually do things, we will make mistakes, I ensure you (based on real experience). If you are not making mistakes, you are not pushing yourself far enough to gain wisdom, you are doing easy things. After getting real implementation experience and making mistakes, we gain wisdom.

What is wisdom? For me, it is an understanding about a subject after we actually implement it, and able to connect it with every aspect and component around that subject. In a way, you will know whether something is bullshit when people say something that is not supported by certain facts, because you know the reality, you have been there.

For example: I have gained a little bit of wisdom about internet startup. I am able to connect the dots about internet startups with product development, marketing, analytics, financing, sales, team development, UX. I built web application, ran digital marketing campaigns, used digital analytics to gain insights, approached VCs, and made a lot of mistakes along the way. These experiences helped me to actually gain wisdom in these field, and as far as I know it, there are still a lot of things to learn. The more you understand something, the more you know you don’t know.

In The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh offers his perspective on what it means to truly understand something:

“When we want to understand something, we cannot stand outside and observe it. We have to enter deeply into it and be one with in in order to really understand. If we understand a person, we have to feel their feelings, suffer their sufferings, and enjoy their joy.

“The sutra uses the word ‘penetration’ to mean ‘full comprehension.’ The word ‘comprehend’ is made up of the Latin roots com, which means ‘together in mind,’ and prehendere, which means ‘to grasp it or pick it up.’ So to comprehend something means to pick it up and be one with it. There is no other way to understand something.”

As Sean D’Souza, author of, states:

Listening or reading something is just listening or reading.

It’s not real learning.

Real learning comes from making mistakes.

And mistakes come from implementation.

Shortcut / hack to understand better and faster 

The only shortcut to understand something is to filter the source of information. That is the reason mentorship is very valuable. Learning from the right person can save a lot of your time.

Gaining information from a bad source is like eating junk food hoping to gain a fit body.

The whole idea is to get information from the right sources, recognize patterns and convert into knowledge, implementing it with backup plans to limit damages,  gain understanding and wisdom.

I hope this blog post is useful for you.

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