We ducked off the street, through the low doorway, and into the warmly lit restaurant.
There were 20 people in the wooden walled room, tucked away in the heart of the city. We sat on low chairs at the bar table, and the conversation flowed.
Business. Relationships. Death. Life. The intimate parts of life.
Our experiences and the philosophies that informed them.
He learned of the dream I’d held for so long:
To take time off work, off business, and travel the world while spending my days studying philosophy.
He also learned the reality of the dream:
It made me miserable.
Learning At 147 Kilometers Per Hour
When you get onto a new motorbike, one of the first things you’ll learn is how heavy it is.
One of the second things you’ll learn is how much trust you’ll need to have in yourself to lean it around corners.
These are lessons that cannot be truly internalised by reading a book. You must experience them to understand them.
The understanding comes through application. Through action.
And as you hurtle along a road, watching the needle move along the dial, you will know death. Intimately.
You will imagine grinding your teeth along the asphalt. Skin ripping from bone. Phone calls made by strangers to family back home.
This will not be pleasant.
But you will no longer be afraid. What is will be what is. And you accept the risk, or you cease the activity.
Now reading Seneca’s Letters From A Stoic will give you a framework to imagine this death. To imagine death without fear.
But imagining death from a 204kg vehicle at 147 kilometers per hour will have a greater impact on your understanding than doing it from a cosy cafe chair.
Studying The Operation From An Armchair
Reading alone will not change your life.
Yes, you’ll learn new things. You might even have new ideas. But the thinking alone does nothing.
The truth is that learning, without taking action, is like wearing a self-imposed set of handcuffs. The learning shows you what is possible. Your lack of action restricts you.
The more you learn, the more you become an expert in theory. You understand the concepts and ideas and can argue them on message boards with finesse. You can spit them out over a coffee to whoever you choose to impress.
But you still know nothing. You are no better than you were before.
You are commentating on the operation from an armchair.
To truly understand a concept, you have to experience it.
The scar on your right knee taught you that skateboarding down that hill was a bad idea.
The scars on your knuckles taught you how not to throw a punch.
And the emotional devastation you felt after being let down by the girl you’d fallen in love with? That taught you how to value yourself and self validating.
Until you have scars from failure, and symbols of victory, you have truly learned nothing.
Get Your Skin In The Game To Keep Your Skin Off The Road
Want to ensure you succeed? Have a reason to achieve your goal. One that inspires you to not fail, to not die.
Don’t just digest Black Swan and develop the ability to regurgitate the core concepts with confidence. Gamble on yourself with a calculated risk.
Don’t become a student of politics. Learn how the game is played, and then play both to win, and to not lose. Then, when you know the rules, take a stand.
Learn the framework. Put yourself in a position where you have no choice but to move beyond theory. Take action.
That’s how you study philosophy, how you ensure your study isn’t a waste of time.
By living in a way that could skin your knees.