Wisdom Day 23, June 2016: Disciplined Instruction

Give yourselves to disciplined instruction;
    open your ears to tested knowledge. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 23, Verse 12, The Message,

I always love it when my time invested seeking wisdom actually leads me to wisdom! Is that strange or what? How do I know when I have found relevant wisdom? Answer: When I know I don’t have it and must work to acquire it. You see, with me, wisdom does not come naturally. As mentioned in a previous post, I am by nature a fool. So if in my search for wisdom I come across something and say to my self, “Hey, self, look at that. Just like you!” then I have a pretty good idea I just slipped into foolishness.

Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark; photo by Johan Mouchet,

Anyhow, when I was listening to Kelly Ryan Dolan’s awesome recording of Chapter 23 of the Book of Proverbs this morning, Verse 12, cited above, was one of several passages that grabbed my attention. I thought, “What is disciplined instruction? Is there such a thing as undisciplined instruction? Pondering this question brought to mind a success nugget from So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. This MIT alum and MIT professor of computer science holds that all practice is not created equal. The practice that really counts is “disciplined practice.” In Chapter Seven: Becoming a Craftsman, Newport explains why in spite of years of practice he never became a great guitarist on a par with Jordan Tice. During a visit with, Tice, Newport realized it was not so much a matter of total hours of practice but rather a question of how much of the much vaunted 10,000 hours of practice was “deliberate.” In Chapter Seven, Newport credits psychologist K. Anders Ericsson with coining the term “deliberate practice” in the early 1990’s and credits Neil Charness, a peer at Florida State University, for his research in this domain.

Yes, So Good They Can’t Ignore You makes for a great read, and for me, at least, provides some pretty good insight into Verse 12, Chapter 23 of the Book of Proverbs, a verse which is otherwise known as Precept 7 of the Thirty Precepts of the Sages: Disciplined instruction is not just any instruction. It is first of all instruction that requires discipline, no insult intended to any reader’s intelligence, duh! That does mean, though, it may not provide you flow. It may require effort. It may in fact be the one thing you’d least like to do when you’re thinking about vegging out for an evening of TV.

So, the take away on disciplined instruction from this post? Among many possible answers to that question, I would say one big take away is that disciplined instruction may just save your ass, whereas a class on underwater basket weaving or the latest TV series likely won’t.

So “happy trails to you until we meet again:”

Meanwhile here are some good sources of disciplined instruction: