You have heard it said all of your life, "knowledge is power." Where did this saying originate? Emerson wrote:
"There is no knowledge that is not power." Ralph Waldo Emerson
While Emerson lived in the 1800s, two centuries earlier, Taylor wrote:
"Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands, and there is no knowledge that is not power." Jeremy Taylor
More than 2000 years before Taylor, Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived, said:
"A wise man is strong, And a person of knowledge increases power." Proverbs 24:5 NAS
These three witnesses date back to around 900 BC, nearly 3000 years ago, with each realizing"knowledge is power."
Having given it considerable thought, the only caveat I can add is knowledge that is not applied, or acted upon, is of little use. Unless it supports other worthwhile knowledge, that is. There is always a caveat, isn't there!
How knowledge becomes power and more
Before delving into this topic, let's clarify how the Oxford Dictionary defines knowledge and power.
Knowledge - noun
- facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
- awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.
Power – noun
- the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality.
- the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.
- physical strength and force exerted by something or someone.
A simple way to view knowledge as power is to look at how it applies in our lives. Knowledge gives us something someone else does not have and needs. This provides us with a certain amount of power over them if they wish to obtain the result of that knowledge. Of course, this is also true for them if they have the knowledge we desire as it gives them the power to ask for something from us in exchange for it.
The typical example of knowledge giving us power is in your job. If you are self-employed, and to a degree, everyone is self-employed, the company or customer desires your knowledge or some form of expertise and will pay you for it. You, therefore, have the power to demand compensation for the knowledge you provide them. This knowledge could come to them in the form of something written or some work performed.
The less common or more specialized the knowledge is, the greater the value it may command, and therefore the greater compensation you can receive.
When discussing this knowledge as power thing, note how what you have, the knowledge or skill, is translated into creating something for the employer or customer. This gives you the power to command payment. In other words, knowledge is creating and power. Knowledge provides you with the ability to create something they want, thereby creating something you want as a reward in exchange, such as money!
You could put this into a simple formula such as:
- Knowledge = power
- More or greater knowledge = more or greater power
- Specialized knowledge = more power
Because of creating something of value, you can further expand this equation to:
- Knowledge = the ability to create something of value = power over the employer or customer = reward or compensation
- Knowledge = creation/value = power = reward
- More, greater or specialized knowledge = a more valuable creation = more or greater power = more or greater compensation
The simple lesson in this is that the more knowledge you have of value, the more power you have to command greater compensation.
Making it real
Let's look at a simple illustration of knowledge being power in an everyday transaction; work. Whether you work for a company or yourself, you are in the knowledge business.
Yes, even the proverbial "ditch digger" is in the knowledge business. He knows how to use a shovel and his body and be compensated for creating a ditch. He is doing it through manual labor, so the value of his knowledge is common enough it brings little value.
The supervisor telling him where and how deep to dig has more knowledge of what is needed, giving him more value and more power than the ditch digger. The supervisor's manager has even more knowledge than the supervisor, creating even more value and power than the supervisor. The company owner has more knowledge than the manager bringing greater value yet. Outside the company is the engineering company. This company assigns an engineer to lay out the design of the ditch for the project. His specialized knowledge gives him good value and power over the project as well.
As you can clearly see, the greater the knowledge, the greater the value, and the greater the power and reward. And so it goes in your work and mine. Bring better knowledge to your work to create more value to make more money!
The important thing to remember about knowledge and its resulting power is in Taylor's words in his earlier quote – keep your eyes always open and your hands working!
Why not examine your knowledge and how much power it provides. You can do this in your work, friendships, family, and anywhere else you may need some power in life.
To uncover the power of the knowledge you possess, all you need to do is understand it better. The value of the knowledge, that is.
The wonderful thing about knowledge is if you don't have enough, you can always get more, and if it needs to be more specialized, you can get that knowledge too! All it takes is the effort to obtain it, let others know you have it, and trade the knowledge in the form of something you create so, as we say down south, you can bring home the bacon!