Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

A giant ship’s engine failed, and the vessel’s owners consulted one expert after another, but none of them could fix the engine. They finally brought in an old man who had been fixing ship engines since he was very young. After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag of tools and pulled out a small hammer and gently tapped something. Instantly the engine started and was fixed.

A week later the owners received a bill from the old man for $10,000 and couldn’t believe it. In their eyes he hadn’t done much, so they wrote him back and asked for an itemized bill.

His bill read: “Tapping with a hammer = $2. Knowing where to tap = $9,998.”

We’ve all heard that “knowledge is power,” but there’s one caveat: It still must be used. I like to say knowledge without action is worthless. It’s not what you know, or even who you know – it’s how you use what you know.

Knowledge is more readily accessible today than at any time in our history thanks to the internet, 24/7 cable TV, online media and so on. 

We start absorbing knowledge as infants and continue the process through years of schooling. Really smart people don’t stop learning then, however. Being a student of life will provide practical knowledge that continues for a lifetime.

As Jim Rohn, a motivational genius, said, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”

It’s all about learning as much as you can to make yourself more marketable. Building knowledge has so many benefits, as seen in the following.

Knowledge creates opportunities, as any entrepreneur will tell you. They identify a need and seize it. They look for opportunities for learning and growth.

Knowledge helps you minimize risks and make better decisions. When you are informed, you make better choices, so do your homework and learn as much as you can. I always check with people I trust to give me guidance from all sides.

Knowledge helps you solve problems by using the information you have at hand or learning how to deal with issues. Knowledge allows you to handle adversity and persevere.

Knowledge improves relationships. When I meet with employees, customers, suppliers or anyone with whom I want to develop a relationship, I try to learn as much as I can about those persons and make note of the information for future use, which I compile in a tool I call the Mackay 66 Customer Profile. A copy is available on my website (harveymackay.com). You can only talk about business so much. Your people are not one-dimensional, so you must humanize your strategy. People don’t care how much you know about them once they know how much you care about them.

I also pass along my knowledge to my valuable employees, customers and contacts. I tell them I’m available 24/7, and to call me if they ever have a need.  I’ve built my business on this philosophy.

Knowledge can keep your business relevant. Change is inevitable; you need to be aware of new technologies, advancements and improvements. What you don’t know can hurt you. Just ask Blockbuster, Kodak, RadioShack, Toys R Us or Pier 1 Imports.

Knowledge can certainly improve your health and well-being. I am always studying ways to improve my health, whether through nutrition, exercise, sleep or whatever will allow me to live a better life.

Knowledge can also improve your finances. According to an article in “Forbes Magazine,” 54 percent of Americans are having trouble with some aspect of their financial lives. There is so much information available in this area that there is no excuse not to learn.

Knowledge might be most important in the customer service area where companies must identify the needs and wants of their target audiences. Nothing is more important than customer service. Don’t wait for customers to tell you there’s a problem. Go out and ask them if there’s a problem. 

Having and using knowledge will never go out of style.

At a 1962 dinner for the American Nobel Prize recipients, President John F. Kennedy celebrated the importance of knowledge. He said: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Mackay’s Moral: Knowledge is like a garden; if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.

About the Author

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.