Do A Thing to Understand It

Hearing and seeing are not enough.

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” ― Confucius

To experience a thing is to truly understand it.

Seeing and hearing is not enough. All senses must be engaged to acquire the intimacy required for understanding. You must be fully immersed as an active participant to know the true nature of a thing.

“I hear and forget.”

What you hear begins to fade within four to eight seconds. It is pushed aside by the endless assault of other information competing for attention. Your brain stores sounds in temporary memory, and without repetition, these sounds have little chance of being transferred to long term memory.

“I see and remember.”

The brain processes visual information differently than auditory information. The precise difference is unclear, but what you see is retained for a longer period of time than what you hear. So if you want a more memorable experience, seeing is better than hearing.

“I do and I understand.”

The brain processes tactile information in a similar manner to visual information. Combine them with the other senses, and the full experience is much more memorable. You have undoubtedly observed this effect yourself.

Add feelings into the mix, and you benefit from how the brain indexes memory by strength of emotion. Experience something more than once, and memory is further enabled by repetition and a relating of similar experiences.

This is why I do very little talking in athletics. I approach every new skill in the following manner:

  1. I give a short verbal description.

  2. I demonstrate what success looks like.

  3. Athletes do the skill over and over again.

  4. We discuss the skill as a team while resting.

Confucius observed what I and other coaches know well. If you want to truly understand something, you must roll up your sleeves and experience it for yourself. No one can do the work for you.


🤔 Food for Thought:

What is your own experience with remembering things you’ve heard vs. things you’ve seen?

What works best for you when learning a new skill?


⚙️ One Small Step:

Try reading something that interests you. Instead of just highlighting a passage, try writing a note in your own words. You’ll find the act of writing the note (or doing) aids in understanding and memory.