Pascal Derrien

5 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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How To Know The Know How

How To Know The Know How

Is it the know-how of how to know or how to know the know how that is important? Now I don’t know but if you do, would you let me know. Gosh I am all confused now :-). 

How do you acquire knowledge is very often associated and not limited to apprenticeship which is where you learn and perfect your craft it can also be education through mentoring where you are guided step by step thru a specific learning channel fuelled by an abundant well of wisdom and expertise. At a time where numerous economic publications and other online titles are obsessed by the 30 most influential people under 30 or busy compiling the latest 25 under 25 fast and furious something it does not really seem that time and measured pace have any place any longer on the agenda of today’s world. 

Hail to disruption and let’s worship half-baked ideas rather than expertise, nobody really gives a damn anymore about if only I knew then what I know now approach. I guess we have all been there some of us grew old and some of us grew up (not all of us :-) ) and if you are not there yet the only certitude in life I can share with you is that it will happen to you too. 

It was a family evening meal and I was probably about 16 going on 17 when I clashed violently with my maternal grandfather. I actually don’t remember the subject but we were both History fanatics and I think our altercation was probably about something related to WW2 which was a topic we had often debated before. I don’t remember either how we gradually ended up arguing but I clearly recall that he angrily barked at me that I did not know what I was talking about….. I was strongly opposed to that point of view obviously almost to a point of stubbornness but deep down I think I knew he had a point, he had been a prisoner of war and had lived thru those times not me. 

The whole experience left me shaken I must admit I was shocked and perplex. Part was that I idolized my grandfather and this was the first time ever that in non-equivocal terms he was making clear that my lack of experience in life did not give me any authority to push boundaries. His tone reinforced the feeling of inadequacy of my demonstration. I spent the rest of the dinner avoiding eye contact and tried to make sense of what had just happened. To this day I almost regret this episode, I think I broke the fragile complicity we had and after that day I decided to back down and avoid any further conflict in order to preserve our relationship.

What a little nice, gentle and polite punk I was in those days hey!! The rebellious teenage sniper fading away after the first encounter you may say… you need roots before you get wings. This had actually a very profound impact on me as from then on I started to listen more carefully and paid more attention (or respect) to my grandfather and those of his generation, I guess I was also trying to rebuild something and he obviously knew stuff I did not know. I think all young impetuous boys test the boundaries as opposed to wait to get the baton passed on, we all want(ed) everything immediately we want(ed) to grab it all and all without permission. 

Generational disagreement is not new I suppose, not having a joint view on what is right or wrong or good or bad is pretty common!!! The new cohort of entrepreneurs swear by the bible of disruption yet Richard Branson (who once was young too) set up the council of the elderly in order to address and reflect on the problems of the world and then young economic tribesmen set up advisory boards and require experienced angel investors to guide them thru their first steps …

So what if the dictatorship of youth being at the forefront of innovation is an urban myth what if the stories of young inventors are anything but old ideas being recycled what if it is the same present with a different wrapping paper…… ‘’nothing new happen in the world it is just that the same things happen to new people’’ (Confucius) 

When I think about that, I kind of like the fact I can settle for that view of the world, I know it is convenient but has the advantage of being stress free with minimum worry and very comforting at the same time there is a clear path and a solid protocol. The ancients know it all and we learn from generation to generation and it does require patience and humility. It sounds like a pretty solid statement to me. OK we have a deal then, subject is closed. 

That’s when and it was bound to happen, my ten years old son got back from school one evening with a question I could not answer. Being in Ireland I should have seen that one coming: Papa can you tell me what is the Salmon of Knowledge s’il te plait? At first I tried to waffle an answer on brain food which was far from being convincing if I am super honest hence I ended up admitting we needed to consult the oracles. I also had to explain that in my days it meant a daunting adventurous dive in a sea of books called encyclopaedia but on that day exceptionally we would settle for a series of clicks on Wikipedia. So here is what we found on the Salmon of knowledge. 

The Salmon story figures prominently in The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn, which recounts the early adventures of

Fionn mac Cumhaill .

According to the story, an ordinary salmon ate nine hazelnuts that fell into the Well of Wisdom (aka Tobar Segais) from nine hazel trees that surrounded the well. By this act, the salmon gained all the world's knowledge. The first person to eat of its flesh would in turn gain this knowledge. 

I suppose both generations learned something at the same time and that’s kind of a cool exchange of good procedures. Ecstatic with my new eureka moment I also realize I have somewhat digressed from my original intent big time, stepped away from the title of this article and walked the introduction statement on its head too. You may now be hugely disappointed as I guess we are not any wiser on how we know the know- how, how we go about from knowledge first aid to becoming first head. I guess I won’t produce a seven steps food for thought guide on how you acquire the absolute wisdom either but maybe I could leave you with a possible tip 





Irish legends

Lessons learnt the hard way


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Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #3

Thank you Donna-Luisa Eversley at the moment he is way ahead of me I need to do some catch up on the salmon side of things :-)

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #2

your comments are so musical debasish majumder :-)

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #1

Good to know Brian McKenzie I will be careful :-)

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