1.21.2013

Knowing A Lot Doesn’t Mean A Lot.

One time or another, you’ve had the thought running through your head that if you only knew more you would be more successful in life.

It’s only natural to think that. Most of the first 20 years of your life are completely focused on how much you know. And who you know more than.

So it’s only natural that you think knowing more will make you more successful.  Perhaps another degree, a conference, or a DVD business series is what you need to turn your situation around.

It’s frustrating.

Because the more you learn, the less you feel like you’re becoming successful.

That’s because, despite what you hear about success, it has very little to do with formal education. How much you know doesn’t really matter. It never has.

Some of the most successful people of all time did it without all the education you think you need:

  • John Glenn was a dropout from the science program at Muskingum College.  He went on to become one of the most important astronauts in American history.
  • Steve Jobs stayed in college for only six months.  His breakthrough inventions in mobile technology and movie animation are perhaps the greatest business marvel of the last fifty years.
  • Henry Ford had no college education at all and few years of formal education at all.  He went on to reinvent the manufacturing process and the entire automobile industry.
  • William Shakespeare dropped out of middle school.  He would later create almost 2,000 English words and write the most famous literary works of all time.
  • John D. Rockefeller left school as a young teenager to get a job.  He would build Standard Oil into a massive petroleum monopoly, ultimately becoming the richest man of all time (considering current inflation).
  • Mark Twain only had a 5th grade education. His Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered the greatest American novel of all time.
  • Horace Greeley had no schooling at all.  He would later become a Congressman, found the Republican Party, and today is considered one the most influential journalists in American history.
  • Albert Einstein was a high school dropout and failed his university entrance exams.  He came up with the Theory of Relativity, published 300 scientific papers, won a Nobel Prize, and is considered the greatest mind of the twentieth century.

Success isn’t really about how much you know.

What matters is what you do.

How hard you work.  What you are willing to do without until you realize your dreams.  That is what matters.

That is what has always mattered.  Then.  Now.  And forever.

One of the greatest inventors the world has ever know explained success this way: “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”  Thomas Edison didn’t just say that;  he lived it.  He would attempt over 10,000 separate tries in creating the light bulb.

Some people probably thought he was crazy.  And some will think you are too.

Maybe you’re just on your way to doing something mind-blowingly amazing.


  • http://www.Salesiology.com/ Mazen Zogbi

    I lived this illusion for few years in the past. I stress, illusion.

    In my case, the illusion was a cover up for a deeper issue; fear of criticism. The fear of being laughed at. Yup, that’s it.

    Once I worked on this, my life has changed. Most importantly, I was blessed to help improve many lives around me with whatever I knew. Very cool.

    I continue to be hungry for “one more book” and “one more training”. However, this is hunger for knowledge and improvement, not an obstacle for production and creativity.

    If you, the reader, suffer from the same, please know that you are not alone and there is a way out –> START sharing what you’ve got anyway. You will feel proud.

    Thanks for this, Dan!

    • http://www.DanWaldschmidt.com/ Dan Waldschmidt

      Thanks, Mazen, for your honesty. I know exactly what you are talking about. I have been there myself many times.

      Dan

  • http://milaspage.com/ Mila Araujo

    I always enjoy your posts Dan. This was another great one! Have a fantastic week!

    • http://www.DanWaldschmidt.com/ Dan Waldschmidt

      Thanks, Mila. I really appreciate your kind words. Go be awesome…

      Dan

  • http://twitter.com/TomGTR Tom Rochford

    I agree with others on this post. Some may disagree but I’m sure that everyone, even those you mentioned, at times questioned something about their background or education. The key though is to not let it stop you from moving forward.

    It’s not about yesterday but about committing today to be better each day going forward. Yesterday is good for reminding us what not to do – again.

    Thanks Dan, thought provoking as usual!

    • http://www.DanWaldschmidt.com/ Dan Waldschmidt

      Thanks, Tom, for all the kind words and thoughtful comments. Glad that thi spost made sense.

      Dan

  • Mari Anne Vanella

    This is a great post because people forget that some of the greatest, or most well-respected figures were people with little formal/college education. Another example was Peter Jennings who failed 10th grade and then dropped out, and later attended college for what he said “lasted about 10 minutes.” But stands as one of the most well respected journalists of all time.

    When the economy is down, the pressure to do something different academically is increased because education is a business that needs to market itself. And their biggest and most effective strategy is fear, you are a loser if you aren’t more educated–only the most educated will succeed, this will fix your problem, etc.

    But it’s like what you said, it’s what you do. Many of the people that went back and got that pedigree still are in the same place, and many others that just kept doing more accomplished more. You can teach yourself whatever you need to learn in most cases and a person’s education should never stop. What many people lack is the ability to see the learning experience of so much of what they have access to, how to map it to what they know, and expand it into something bigger. People walk around like zombies with opportunities slapping them in the face and they are so narrowly focused on what they can’t do they don’t even see it. “Oh I could never do that…..”

    There is a really great book I recommend called Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America.–interesting read that touches on this topic of rewarding hard work in the past among other interesting transformations of business.

    • http://www.DanWaldschmidt.com/ Dan Waldschmidt

      Thanks for the book recommendation. I’m going to get hands on that. You shared some very insightful thoughts. Thanks for stopping by.

      Dan

  • Susan

    Can’t run before you walk EDUCATION or INNOVATIVE ability and DETERMINATION TO SUCCEED not giving up no matter how hard the road

    • http://www.DanWaldschmidt.com/ Dan Waldschmidt

      I like where your head is at, Susan. Well said…

      Dan

  • Pingback: Knowing A Lot Doesn’t Have Much To Do With Success Read more: http://danwaldschmidt.com/2013/01/attitude/knowing-a-lot-doesnt-mean-a-lot#ixzz2JEtbuNTN | The Dealer Genome Project

  • Crrrrrrrrrrrrazy

    Aw, do you come in pill form?

    • http://www.DanWaldschmidt.com/ Dan Waldschmidt

      HaHaHa… This is an explosion of awesomeness that is “not safe to swallow”…

      Dan

      • Crrrrrrrrrrrrazy

        Well, you are a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel. Your style is refreshing and thoughtful. I like it.

        • http://www.DanWaldschmidt.com/ Dan Waldschmidt

          Thanks…. :-) Love you too.

  • John Bennett

    I’m going to suggest that it’s not that these people you mention (and others) didn’t know much; it’s that they didn’t know much in terms of the material that was presented to them in formal education. They indeed knew a lot!!! I’ll suggest, as many others have suggested, that the successful people (and you have a good list to start with) are (1) good learners, (2) not phased by mistakes or failure – learning from the same, and (3) supported by a formal or informal group – those people to whom they could turn for important dialogue.

    There is another way the title of this posting is indeed true! Because of the digital access to information, the level of “knowing” is important only for CORE KNOWLEDGE (my definition: knowledge that allows you to gather other information, understand it, organize it into a useful vision, and determine if it’s useful for the situation at hand; also knowledge than enables one to successfully communicate with experts). As I often tell students, “I don’t want to fly in that airplane if you designed it from memory.” I want them to get the latest information, organize it, understand it, evaluate it for appropriate use, and then to use it if should be. THE DIGITAL ACCESS LIMITS KNOWLEDGE NEEDED TO CORE KNOWLEDGE. Beyond that, formal education should be efforts to develop the skills and experience necessary to deal with the situations we face in our personal lives and careers.

    • http://www.DanWaldschmidt.com/ Dan Waldschmidt

      WOW! Great insights, John. I like your added perspective. Thanks for adding some intellectual thoughts from your experience. We can never stop learning. That’s the key to success… :-)

      Dan

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