Why You Should Create A Wisdom Bible
How To Record And Organize Your Greatest Lessons, Learnings And Epiphanies
The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance — Benjamin Franklin
In November of 2016, I read a book on marketing. When I came across a passage of importance, I put a small star next to it. When I finished the book, I rummaged through the pages and reread all the starred passages.
Some of them no longer seemed as important now that I had the full context of the book behind me. Some of the starred passages were redundant — an unfortunate constant in nonfiction business books.
I transcribed the crux of the remaining passages into a document. I didn’t know it at the time, but this action began my Wisdom Bible. It has grown into a fifty thousand word compendium of all the significant knowledge I have accumulated over the last two-and-a-half years.
As time moved on, I continued the habit, transcribing tidbits of information to this growing manuscript. Within a few months, I had over twenty pages of material. Only then did I realize the significance of what I started.
The Oh Crap Moment
When I reached forty pages, I realized something depressing. I had a mess on my hands. I had transcribed material in sequential order, giving no thought to the type of content. I put the project on hold and dedicated a good deal of effort into categorizing the material.
I now use seven different categories.
General Human Nature
Writing — Blogging
Writing — Fiction
Writing — Nonfiction
I read books on a multitude of topics, but I apply all lessons to one of the seven categories. I suggest you pick types that are most meaningful to you. You can pull wisdom from anywhere and apply it to multiple domains.
Here is an example.
I once watched an interview and noticed the interviewer complimented his subject on a random, seemingly minor accomplishment. The interviewee gushed like he had never received such praise before.
That interview taught me the value of narrow, ultra-specific compliments that offer the recipient useful information about their work. That kind of lesson is generic enough that you could apply it to any of the categories I mentioned above. You can see the snippet in the screenshot below.
That snippet turned into this story — “How To Give A Mind-Blowing Compliment.”
You see from that example, the best learning opportunities don’t always come from books. These golden nuggets come from anywhere. You only need to pay attention and take notes.
I’ve discovered some of my most inspiring epiphanies from these sources.
Let’s start with the obvious. When I read a book, I make a small notation in the margin and then review all the notations after I finish. For audiobooks, I’ll add a clip and return to it later. I’ve found that the best lessons come when I take a snippet and then apply it to one of my domains mentioned above, like the compliment example.
I journal every night. I’ve been doing it for almost three years now. It’s primarily a tool of self-discovery, but many of the lessons you learn about yourself apply to other domains. You can read more about my journaling process, and how to use it as writing and idea inspiration.
How An“Experience Journal” Will Turbocharge Your Daily Writing And Ease Your Anxiety…
All You Need Is A $2.00 Notebook and 15 Minutes Before Bed
These sources prove to be more indirectly valuable as opposed to directly valuable. When I find something interesting in a blog or podcast, I’ll often dig deeper into a book for additional research. Podcasts and blogs typically spark an interest that encourages me to discover more about a particular subject or writer.
TED talks rarely produce anything worthwhile for my Wisdom Bible. The information is too generic and flowery. The TEDx talks (smaller, regional talks) often provide more specific, actionable information. On rare occasions, I’ll find something useful in a YouTube video.
How Do You Choose?
Don’t overthink this. You can always edit. That said, try not to add junk. The more trash you include, the less utility it provides. When I first began this process, I had no direction or instruction. I added anything that sounded remotely interesting. It took a significant amount of editing over several months before I filtered out the crap.
This experience caused a shift in my process. I now wait at least forty-eight hours or longer before I transcribe something to my manuscript. When I find something in a book, I only transcribe after finishing it and then reviewing it a second time. When I complete a journal, I go through the notebook and cull out the most salient, significant, and profound experiences.
You’ll be amazed at how much information seems mind-blowing at first glance and then descends towards unremarkable after thoughtful consideration.
Say It Again
Don’t worry about redundancy. It will happen. Redundancy comes with a surprise benefit. A concept that doesn’t click with you the first time often makes more sense when you hear it a second or third time, or when you engage with it from an alternate perspective. Embrace the redundancy as a learning opportunity. You can always edit out the weaker snippets later.
Recording Your Information
You’re not writing a book, article or blog post. Edit for comprehension not for publication.
You don’t need an introduction, preamble or lead-in. State what matters. It shouldn’t take more than a paragraph. It requires effort to do this, but the act of simplifying a complicated concept benefits your learning and retention. You should also include an example of how to apply your newfound knowledge.
Here is an example from my book. This screenshot shows you the definition and an example of how to apply the knowledge. You can also infer that I applied it to the Marketing category from my use of the word prospect.
What Do I Do With This Thing?
My book is now over one-hundred pages. Yours will start small but will grow to an impressive size. You’re not going read it cover to cover. It’s not intended for that purpose. It’s merely a compendium of your greatest learning experiences. It teems with useful information, but how do you exploit it?
The best way to learn the material you record in your bible is to write about it. If you journal, look for interesting stories from your life and try to tie it into one of your lessons.
One of my favorite examples is from a few years ago.
I took my kids to a burger place. I got the bill and gave my credit card. The server came back with the receipt and a crayon. I had recalled the bizarreness effect from my Wisdom Bible — we tend to remember bizarre experiences. I used the crayon experience to teach the bizarreness effect. I called it The Crayon Effect, borrowing from another one of my lessons — the naming effect, giving something a name makes it feel real.
You will no doubt come across information that conflicts, reinforces or alters your understanding of a concept. All of these situations benefit you. When new information strengthens your original understanding, it helps the learning process through repetition. If it conflicts, it forces you to re-examine and do additional research, or at least make a notation about the new information.
New information can also show you a concept from a new angle and enhance your understanding. It results in one of those epiphanies, oh, now I get it.
Ideate and Problem Solve
Have you ever felt strapped for a new idea? Pull up your bible and skim through it. Try combining some of the concepts and see what ideas result.
In what situation would this concept be useful?
Where would this concept benefit [me, my business, other people] most?
What are all the possible applications of this concept?
How could this information solve my problem with [X]?
Start small. Categorize. Be judicious about what you include. Apply the information you record. It’s not a race. And most important…
Take action on the concepts you collect. There is no wisdom without exploration and experience.