Knowing vs. Understanding

So over the last couple of months, I’ve been catching myself giving advice to others that I rarely apply. This brought me to think…

Why is it always so much easier to give advice to someone else, instead of applying it yourself?

The gap between “knowing” and “understanding” hangs on one simple thing… ACTION!

It’s easy to tell someone else what they should do, but to actually take this advice and apply it to your own life is like climbing a psychological mountain. Applying knowledge is hard because you usually have to change behavior and your own or someone else’s behavior is close to impossible.

You might ask… What are some of those “psychological Mountains” you’re talking about? Well… I’ve got plenty, but the more recent ones are around patience, relationships, and constraints.

Let me add a bit of detail to each…


  • Over the past 8+ months, I’ve embarked on a self-studying journey into all things tech (e.g. computer science fundamentals, networking, web development, data science, machine learning, etc.)… And yes, I now realize that I was trying to boil the ocean (Haha!), I’ll get to that in point three, but hang with me… While studying these topics, I found myself rushing through most of the content, basically attempting to drink from a fire hose of courses, videos, blogs, books, etc. That approach has taught me a lot, but nowhere near as much if I actually took the time to slow down and savor the process… But instead, old Dylan was chasing the end product (e.g. future Dylan). With that context, the piece of advice that I was not taking here is…

enjoy the process and f*** the end goal

  • This advice has begun to sink into my thick skull and in the past month I’ve genuinely slowed down during my study sessions treating each new concept as a form of “play”. When I shifted my perspective towards a play/curiosity-centered approach each of the ideas began to sink in more… This led to more “ah-ha” moments.
  • The moral of the story here. Stop comparing your knowledge to everyone else around you and enjoy the process because this whole skill-gathering thing is a lifelong game with no end… 


  • Now, this advice is something I’ve “known” for a long time, but never actually applied that knowledge into my own life. The advice is simple, but life-changing when you internalize it and change your daily behavior

Most of your happiness originates from meaningful relationships

  • Most people have heard some form of this advice, but during our daily lives we rarely prioritize relationships over other things. Think about it! The gym, studying, work, mindless Netflix (or YouTube) binges, etc. all somehow emerge as our default focus. And this is the trap I’ve fallen into time and time again, A.K.A. not prioritizing what matters most to my overall happiness and putting more energy into the important relationships. This acknowledgment has hit my psyche pretty hard recently and I’m actively trying to transition it from “knowledge” to “understanding”… For me, the most difficult piece around prioritizing and applying this advice is that we live in a society with very little cultural norms on prioritizing relationships… Instead, it’s all about working hard, studying hard, and “succeeding” (whatever that means), which seems to be what most people focus on. But we all see over and over that this pursuit brings very little meaning without strong relationships backing it. So what does this mean more practically… Well, I personally have changed a few behaviors
  1. When eating meals with my partner we remove all screens unless she would like to watch something…
  2. Another one is to ALWAYS dedicate at least one evening, afternoon, or morning to “date night” where my partner and I do something together that’s preferably new for both of us (novelty is the spice of life!)


  • After seeing the ridiculous number of topics that I initially attempted to tackle during my self-learning journey it’s obvious this advice has struggled to get into my head. Ha!

Narrow your focus and avoid trying to boil the ocean

  • This is another piece of advice we’ve all heard, but it’s easy (at least for me) to be distracted by the next shiny thing… And for me, it was different ideas within the computer/data science area. After bouncing around for 6+ months I realized I’m learning a lot, but not going deep enough to freely apply these concepts. That realization was a downer, but we humans are luckily good at retrospectively reassuring ourselves about that past. So after a few days of frustration, I’ve come to grips with the fact this time was not a complete waste. 🙂
  • This advice has slowly begun to seep into my learning journey through my creating a curriculum, which forces me to stick to a set number of topics for at least 3-month windows… if after 3-months I want to jump to something new I can, but I’ve agreed with myself that 3-months is a good start. Moral of the story…
    • Explore in the beginning, but once you find something that’s “good enough” (perfect doesn’t exist) jump on that and stick with it for a set period of time… Avoid FOMO at all costs!

These are only three of the many pieces of advice that I “know”, but struggle to “understand” and apply to my own life. 

Next time you’re giving advice, remember to ask yourself…

I “know” this, but do I actually “understand” it?