The human mind is an amazing computer. It has adapted to learn things through a myriad of inputs. You can read something and learn about it, you can hear someone talk about something and learn important facts and aspects of it, you can watch someone do something and learn the machinations of how to perform. But if you want to get good at something, you just have to DO it.
I read. In fact, I read A LOT. When I was growing up, I used to read fiction. But as my interests matured, I have switched mostly to technical references and news sources. I read about a lot of new technology, and I like to think that I have learned about these things that I have read about. I have a cursory knowledge in a very wide swath of subjects, both technical and non-technical. I like to think of myself as an intellect, although my capacity leaves me somewhere in the area of the second standard deviation. I've never been able to pull off the Mensa scores, but I've gotten close enough to taste it (I took the ACT when I was older just to try to earn my way in - imagine taking the SAT/ACT by choice - I'm a lunatic), and I enjoy hanging out with people smarter than me.
So you think I would have learned a great deal through all of this reading. Yes....and no. I've certainly picked up a lot of knowledge through all of it. I've picked up others opinions and enough facts to try to make a decision as to where I stand on some issues. I've picked up some 'architectural' knowledge of how things fit together (constructing world view). But of all the things I tell people I've learned in the past few years, each one was something I didn't so much read about as something I learned by doing.
I asked myself this question: What have you learned (over some period of time)? Well, I've learned to juggle. Yes, at first I read a booklet (Thank you Klutz(c)). But I learned to juggle by doing it over and over and over. Through hundreds of failures I found success. I've learned to play the piano. With all of the missed notes, and the inordinate patience of my family that has listened to me practice for hours, I can passably play the piano. I've learned Pi to the 133rd digit (what has kind of spurred this post). I've learned to play chess well enough to beat just about any non-chess-player. I've learned some technical things as well, but that's my job, after all. All of those things I feel I've learned have not been through reading and understanding - all of them have really been learned by practicing, repetition, embedding these things into my muscle memory...like riding a bike.
I think this gets back to the question: What is meant to know something? When you KNOW something, you can just do it. Your mind gets out of the way of your ability to perform, and you enter a new level of constant change (and improvement) that is done subconsciously.
Not sure why any of this matters - just a random thought that crossed my mind and I felt like writing it down. So my new motto is 'Just Do It' - thanks, Nike.