Part of the Praxis curriculum is a deep dive into philosophy, history, and economics. Participants have discussions about the material and often examine how insights from these disciplines might apply to their lives as creators and entrepreneurs. We want the curriculum to provide real value, so we love to see this kind of application, but there’s value in not taking it too far.
I’m not one of those people who thinks trying to get practical, actionable wisdom out of abstract concepts is somehow beneath the pursuit of knowledge. I don’t think practical application sully’s the beauty of philosophy. But I’m still cautious about looking for such application. Not because using new ideas to improve your life isn’t the goal – it is – but because we’re not smart enough to know how those ideas will be useful to us right away.
Great conceptual breakthroughs often happen when two separate ideas unexpectedly collide. This may happen years after you gained the knowledge of each. Grappling with big ideas changes you. If you let that change sink in, and let new paradigms transform your everyday worldview, you become a different kind of person. That new person will be able to do things the old one never could. As your thinking is transformed your potential grows, though you won’t know how it might manifest ahead of time.
Puzzling over the mind-body problem may not have a clear connection to improving your mood or your sales numbers today, but it’s expanding your mental and creative capacity and allowing the germ of new ideas and ways of seeing the world to enter. Your ability to think about that issue may allow you to see some unrelated terrestrial problem from an angle no one else has.
Yes, the point of learning new things is to gain something of value. But don’t shy away from the crazy abstract stuff just because you can’t see the immediate value. Most of the best entrepreneurs I know are deeply philosophical. That’s not an accident. They developed a way of thinking and an openness to new ideas, even those far outside the mainstream, and it helped them see opportunity to create value.
Dig into big, challenging ideas that excite you and don’t worry too much about immediate relevance. If you’re going hard at it, your thinking is being transformed and you’re gaining new tools in your mental toolkit.
(The only caveat is this: if you are not fully engaged in the pursuit of a subject, but doing it only to satisfy some external requirement, don’t expect to reap much. You have to be the driver of your education in order to get the transformative value. Go where your interest is.)