Phases of Knowledge

You’ve probably heard the saying, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

The path to mastery passes through a window where the intermediate practitioner, getting their first taste of knowledge and experience, knows more than the beginner — but less than they think.

This creates a widening gap between “how much I think I know” and “how much I actually know.”

I’ve never seen this concept better expressed than via the below graphic, created by Simon Wardley:

In addition to showing tbe hazards, the graph illuminates the “why” behind three things.

First, it clarifies why the path of mastery is a long and fulfilling journey. The more you learn and experience, the more you realize how much yet remains to be learned and experienced. As nuances and subtleties and possibilities increase, the journey becomes even more engaging.

Second, it clarifies why a proper sense of detachment is necessary, or at least quite helpful. The person striving to “nail it” or “get it right” out of a sense of ego misunderstands the journey. It isn’t like a crossword puzzle with a finite solution or a point of being “done.” It just keeps going. There is a kind of peace in realizing you never reach “the end” — you simply travel along the path as far as you choose.

Third, it shows why true masters of a craft tend to be humble rather than prideful. It takes arrogance, born of delusion or ignorance, to have a self-righteous attitude in the presence of all that is left to be learned.

Go to top