Knowledge and skills are different, but related sorts of things. Knowledge has to do with what you know; what you are aware of and what you understand about how things work and how things fit together. You may have come by knowledge first hand through life experience, or you could have taken it from books, websites and other means of recording. Skill or ability, on the other hand describes your ability to influence things; to take what you know and apply it so as to cause a real effect to occur. A certain amount of knowledge is a prerequisite of skill; you can't be skillful without first being knowledgeable However, you can easily be knowledgeable without being very skillful. Knowing something intellectually is a very different thing than knowing how to make practical use of knowledge.
When the world was young and people lived exclusively in small tribal and family groups everyone knew each other intimately. Everyone's areas of strength and weakness were common knowledge and there was no need for certification. The modern world is a far more complex place. Knowledge has become highly developed and specialized and it is no longer possible for one person to know it all, first of all. Secondly, it is now normal for people who are essentially strangers to one another to work together for the same employer. People need to have ways of demonstrating that they have mastered bodies of knowledge and skill to strangers who don't know them. Credentials, such as high school and university diplomas, professional certifications, and commercial licenses issued by trusted institutions and governments have become the way that people demonstrate their accomplishments to one another.
Life problems can be caused by a lack of knowledge, skills or ability, or credentials at most any stage of life. Your ability to learn more advanced knowledge and skill depends on your having first learned basic knowledge and skills. If you never are able to master basic knowledge and skills, your opportunities for further advancement will become very limited.
- As a young child you might struggle to learn to read. You may lack proper instruction, or have an undetected learning disability. You may be left back a grade, or be passed on without having mastered that important skill. You may reach adulthood without having mastered reading if your circumstances are not fortunate. Because reading is a prerequisite for later knowledge acquisition, your ability to learn further knowledge will be severely stunted and your access to opportunities in life that depend on this further learning may also become artificially limited.
- As a young person you may find yourself interested in someone as a potential romantic partner, but honestly not know how to approach them. Feeling unable to ask someone out on a date or make your feelings known for fear of making a fool of yourself can lead to painful self-doubt, a lack of self-worth feelings, and (if the situation does not resolve) years of lost time and experience that you cannot recover.
- As an adult you might be interested in performing a particular sort of work but lack knowledge, skill or credentials necessary to take on that sort of work. Being prevented from working in this manner may cause you to be depressed. If your lack of knowledge, skill or credentials is keeping you from working at all, you may find yourself hungry; an altogether worse situation.
- Also as an adult you may become depressed and then not know what to do to help yourself recover from that depression. Because you don't know what to do to cast off the depression, you may suffer with it for a longer than necessary time.
In all these cases, it is possible to improve your situation through study, practice, or enrollment in a credentialing program (assuming that you have access to the resources necessary to study, or practice, or enroll in a credentialing program). Studying helps you to gain the knowledge you lack, practice helps you to build and improve skills, and enrollment in a credentialing program (such as a college, university, or training institute) will, if you are able to stick with it for the duration, result in your being issued a credential that may open doors for you that were previously closed.
Skills such as reading are basic and should be mastered before you can help yourself to learn on your own. If you cannot read your first step towards improving your knowledge should be to learn how to read. Search the nationalliteracydirectory.org website for assistance locating an adult literacy program near you. If a telephone is handier than the Internet, you can call the National Literacy Hotline at 1-800-228-8813 for similar referrals. Many communities have adult literacy programs offering assistance with reading and writing for native speakers and persons learning English as a second language.
If literacy is not an issue for you, you are faced with a different set of starting problems. You must figure out what to study; what body of knowledge you should learn in order to best fulfill your need or desire. You must also figure out whether you should peruse that course of study in a formal, public manner, which will result in your earning a certificate, or if you would be better off learning in a more private, relaxed self-study manner.