According to popular dictionary entries, erudition can be characterized as “having or showing great knowledge or learning”. I am much more fond of the characterization of an erudite provided by Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan (Random House, Copyright 2007, 2010 Nassim Nicholas Taleb). Mr. Taleb describes an erudite as”…signaling genuine intellectual curiosity. It accompanies an open mind and the desire to probe the ides of others. Above all, an erudite can be dissatisfied with his own knowledge, and such dissatisfaction is a wonderful shield against Platonicity*, the simplifications of the five minute manger, or the philistinism, overspecialized scholar.” By this description of erudition, I assert myself as an erudite. Mr. Taleb also adds, “Indeed, scholarship without erudition can lead to disaster.”
After nearly 15 years as a consultant of one form or another, I still find myself longing for newness in just about every aspect of my life. I am rich with analytical ability and yet I thoroughly enjoy helping others reach whatever it is that inspires and fulfills them. I find myself more and more relishing in the softer side of leadership.
Over the past few months, I began to explore the possibility that a Ph.D. be my path to deeper self fulfillment. I marvel at all I read about the behaviors and conditions behind why we make the decisions in life that we do. Many researchers and authors have already given us much fodder to stimulate thinking. I was beginning to wonder if my contributions existed in background unearthing new knowledge as well.
I have had some amazing conversations with many academics, professors and other Ph.Ds. Their collective insight has been amazing! My key take-aways are that as a Ph.D. candidate you learn to amuse yourself. What is meant by this is that your inquisitive nature drives you to explore new things. A plus for me here as I have oft enjoyed amusing myself. I also learned that along the continuum of knowledge, where at one end it is created and at the other, it is common among the masses. A lot happens to transfer knowledge from non-existing to commonly known. The Ph.D. mindset more often than not (like everything else, there are exceptions) spends nearly all its time at the beginning of the continuum. Just to the right of that there is compilation of the new knowledge. Next we have dissemination and application and finally common acceptance.
After much thought, I believe that compliation and dissemination are where my aspirations lie. Though I do find myself perpetually questioning all that is around me including my own knowledge. Who knows, I might pursue the Ph.D. after all. I can’t wait to learn how all this unfolds.
(*Platonicity: a philosophical term usually used to refer to the idea of realism regarding the existence of universals after the Greek philosopher Plato.)