Do You Understand The Concepts?
Ever met a person who knows a lot and when asked to explain utters a bookish mechanical language which manages to flatter some but fails to make others understand? Einstein once said “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Is that whom you want to be? Or do you want to be a socially acceptable and approachable person who easily explains and tackles the problems and manages to escape from the problematic situation by applying knowledge? The rule is to study and to use that knowledge in a practical manner. This means that you don’t have to swallow whole books, isn’t it a relief? Mugging up the statements will do good for nobody, neither for you (because eventually you will forget what you read) nor for anybody else (as they are not getting any benefit from the knowledge). Hence, mugging up the words is not a key to success; rather whether you are able to use the knowledge when required determines the rate of your success. Albert Einstein said that “never memorize something that you can look up”. So a person as great as Einstein himself acknowledged the fact that mugging up things is not required.
Ever went through the question paper for the selection in IIT? If yes, then you would understand that mugging up mere facts will not do, instead you have to apply the theories that you studied in order to gain marks (as majority of the question paper is application based).
One must try to expand the circle of knowledge and experience by coming out of the world of books into a practical reality. ‘Knowing’ plays a vital role as it forms the base of the knowledge. It is said by Dalai Lama that “Know the rules well so you can break them effectively”. So before taking any action we must have some knowledge of it. Unless and until we have a full-fledged understanding of the concepts we can’t apply them effectively in the practical manner. Think of a situation where you are asked something but you are unable to remember, you become totally blank. Now, why does it happen? Because you didn’t know! Or may be you knew but not in the fullest sense that is why you couldn’t respond. So what is the use of such reading that cannot even help you out in difficult situations? There is no shortcut for studies. One should not only read the concepts but also analyze and criticize them to have a deeper and more intense understanding. Such deep and intense knowledge will always remain with you because it is not what you merely read to pass the examination but which you studied thoroughly (and it will come to your rescue in solving many difficult problems).
Here are the three steps to develop an in depth understanding of the concepts:-
The first step is to read: read in order to know. Socrates said, “There is only one good, knowledge and one evil, ignorance”. Ignorance can be easily removed through the enlightenment that comes from knowing or being aware which itself comes from reading. Therefore, reading forms an inseparable and most important step of gaining knowledge. Moreover, once you know something then only you will be able to analyze it.
The second step is to understand: don’t just take the words as they are, decipher the meaning behind them, grab the essence of the statement, ask the three basic questions – what, why and how- as these will lead you to the core of the meaning of the statements, helping you to understand the nature, significance of the presence, effects, etc. Ask what is it? Why is it so? How is this working? etc.
The last or the ultimate step is to use the knowledge: know how is this (e.g. the fundamental forces) affecting and yielding effects on other objects, how is it catalyzing other processes etc.
But why taking so much of trouble to understand? Simply because if you continue reading without understanding then your whole world will revolve around books or words and not around ideas or concepts. Such people are less likely to be creative and they hardly improve or become successful. Only those people are appreciated who have the conceptual knowledge of the subject matter. Think of anybody like Steve Jobs or A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, they were all masters in their field. Sometimes, it takes time but knowledge never goes unacknowledged. Once you know something you become confident of it, that is then reflected in your attitude and such attitude is very much important for having a successful life. To some extend, it increases your social skills as well because people want tot talk to you, they will come to you but whether you want to talk to them or not is your own choice. So we can say that with knowledge come a lot of benefits including choices, success and happiness.
Only an intense understanding of the subject matter will help you out in a practical world, not the superficial knowledge. Therefore, the emphasis must be on developing a clear image of the concepts. Ask knowledgeable people around you, refer to different books, participate in discussions and devote time in solving questions. The study with your involvement will become more interesting. And once it becomes interesting you will become more curious to know more. The more you understand the easier it is to understand more.
Hence, in order to get the concepts, there should be a practical and realistic approach instead of a theoretical approach towards the books. It is said by Francis Bacon “Crafty Men Contemne (condemn) Studies, Simple Men Admire them; And Wise Men Use them”. Therefor, don’t just read but use them. Some people read, others discuss and some stare blankly at those who know. So which category do you belong to? Be creative, innovative and have originality in your approach and don’t just obliquely follow the statements. Choose to be wise, intelligent and smart, ask questions instead of blindly following others. Read, understand, let others know that you know and ask yourself ‘do I understand the concepts?’