Proverbs and sayings are popular nuggets of wisdom, often in circulation for centuries and even millenniums. This post contains proverbs and sayings on education and learning, divided into six categories.
If you’re looking for more proverbs and sayings, you can find plenty of them in the resource below. It contains proverbs on topics such as life, family, friends, love, health, happiness, money, hard work, time, time management, teamwork, leadership, business, education & learning, and more.
1. Why learning is important?
Proverbs in this section tell us the importance of education and learning.
Money spent on brain is never spent in vain.
Money spent on acquiring knowledge and skills never goes waste.
Example: Tom: Why do you buy books $50 + books? Jerry: To learn the topic in-depth. And BTW money spent on the brain is never spent in vain.
Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.
A Chinese proverb. Knowledge (or skill) is no less than a treasure as it can bring us wealth and, moreover, that knowledge will stay with us for long.
Example: This is my first job and I’m focused on picking few skills even if I’ve to compromise on my living standard because of modest salary. These skills, I know, are a treasure that will follow me everywhere and will hold me in good stead in the years to come.
Write Sentences Like in Newspapers and Books
Step-by-step process. Little grammar. Real-world examples.
Knowledge is power.
Education and skill are power in your hand that you can use to make money, influence people, and do more.
Example: Skilled people can command top dollars and are wooed by head hunters. Knowledge is power, after all.
Giving your son a skill is better than giving him one thousand pieces of gold.
A Chinese proverb. Give your children skills. Skill will not only help them earn a living but also keep them meaningfully engaged. Bequeathed money is also helpful, but it can go away, and then they’ll have nothing to fall back on. Moreover, money without skill won’t keep them meaningfully engaged, which can lead to problems of its own.
Example: The film actor’s son inherited quite a fortune but frittered it away in foolish ventures. He isn’t left with much money now and, unfortunately, doesn’t possess a worthwhile skill to maintain his lifestyle. His father should have remembered the saying: Giving your son a skill is better than giving him one thousand pieces of gold.
When land is gone and money is spent, then learning is most excellent.
It is important to have good education to fall back on if you lose or use up all your money and material assets.
Example: I lost most of my money in bad ventures, but I could come through even better because of the skills I had.
Learning is better than house and land.
Similar to the last one
2. Prerequisites to learning: open mind, feedback, and willingness
Proverbs in this section delve into prerequisites, without which learning is ineffective.
A closed mind is like a closed book: just a block of wood.
A Chinese proverb. Just like a closed book can’t benefit anyone, a closed mind can’t learn.
Example: Without being open to new ideas, you’ll struggle to learn. That’s because a closed mind is like a closed book: just a block of wood.
Doctors make the worst patients.
It’s difficult to advice a person on a matter in which she is an expert. This is because she thinks that she already knows the best about what to do.
Example: When I tried to advice my friend on how to increase revenue from his gas station, he argued why my suggestions wouldn’t work. He was clearly jumping the gun and not open to ideas. Doctors make the worst patients.
Every animal knows more than you do.
A Native American proverb. Accept that others may know more than you do.
Example: I’ve been learning how to play guitar for some time, but I accept that every animal here knows more about guitar than I do.
There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.
A Russian proverb. It’s fine if you don’t know something, but it’s not fine if you don’t want to learn it. If you’ve willingness to learn, you can outpace the most knowledgeable who doesn’t want to learn.
Example: Tom: I don’t know how to write well in English. Can you write an email for me? Jerry: There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.
You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.
A native American proverb. You can’t teach an unwilling person.
Example: Majority struggle in school and college because of sheer disinterest in studies. You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.
Believing has a core of unbelieving.
To believe in something new, you’ve to first unbelieve the existing thing.
Example: To increase human longevity, scientists had to first unbelieve the existing dogma that every living being’s lifespan is predetermined by God and that it can’t be changed. Believing has a core of unbelieving.
Even from a foe a man may learn wisdom.
A Greek proverb. Your rivals will be good in something in which you aren’t. There is no shame in learning from them.
Example: Tom: I don’t want to ask him about this problem. Jerry: Why? Tom: We are competitors in the class. Jerry: Even from a foe a man may learn wisdom.
If the shoe/cap fits, wear it.
If a critical remark or feedback is true for you, accept it. We often resent critical remarks as we take it personally, but we should take it as a way to improve ourselves.
Example: Tom: Your performance in the current academic year hasn’t been up to scratch. Specifically, you’ve performed poorly in science and have hardly participated in extracurricular activities. Jerry: But…. Tom: If the shoe/cap fits, wear it.
Good advice is often annoying. Bad advice never is.
A French proverb. Good advice is meant for your improvement, and it often goes against some of your vices and bad habits. That’s why a good advice is often annoying. Bad advice, on the other hand, is to please you and, therefore, is never annoying.
Example: I know why you didn’t like the counsel from your teacher. Good advice is often annoying. Bad advice never is.
Examine what is said, not him who speaks.
An Arabic proverb. When you receive feedback, you should focus on the feedback and not on the person who gave the feedback. If we focus on the person, we may attach motive to the feedback, but it is meant only for our improvement.
Example: You shouldn’t badmouth your team leader just because he pointed out few areas of improvement. You should examine what is said, not him who speaks.
Discontent is the first step in progress.
If we’re happy with the existing state, we wouldn’t make the effort to improve. That’s why, discontent with the existing state is the first step towards progress.
Example: Elon Musk wasn’t happy with single-launch rockets as they made space launches unduly expensive. As a result, Space X now uses reusable rockets. Undoubtedly, discontent is the first step in progress.
3. How to learn?
A questioning man is halfway to being wise.
If you are curious, you already possess an important ingredient of learning and being wise.
Example: The reason she is ahead of her classmates is that she is curious and asks plenty of questions. A questioning person is halfway to being wise.
He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
A Chinese proverb. Similar to the last one
To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.
A Chinese proverb. Many pursue a degree, job, or project they hate later, wasting precious years. This can be avoided if you ask few who’ve experienced the same earlier.
Example: I could’ve made a more informed decision about the field of my undergrad degree. To know the road ahead, I should have asked those coming back.
Ask the experienced rather than the learned.
An Arabic proverb. An experienced person will be a better counsel on an issue than someone who has learnt from books.
Example: In ancient Greece, apprenticeship under an experienced person was a common practice to learn a new skill. They certainly believed in asking the experienced rather than the learned.
Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.
An African proverb. If you work only on regular problems, you won’t be challenged and hence not become better at what you do. So, volunteer into few challenging problems as well.
Example: In my new project, I’m leading the team that will launch a new product, an experience, I believe, will provide a steep learning curve. After all, smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.
There is nothing new under the sun.
There are very few original innovations. Most innovations are inspired from things happening in other industries or even nature. Swimming suit used by professional swimmers, for example, was inspired by watching sharks. In other words, it’s fine to seek inspiration from existing knowledge and use it in new ways.
Example: Aly Orady hated visiting gym for his strength-training routine. One day, while staring at the massive cable crossover machine in the gym, he thought if he could replace the resistance offered by big metal plates with the one offered by electricity. As a result, sleek wall-mounted device, which people can install at home, was born. It’s rightly said that there is nothing new under the sun. Most new things are inspired by existing things.
Little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Don’t get part-knowledge of something as it can be harmful.
Example: The apprentice shocked himself with his inept handling of electric wires. Little knowledge can be dangerous.
4. Skills are more important than theory (or degrees)
Cowl does not make a monk.
Like a cowl, a dress worn by monks, doesn’t make a person monk, appearance doesn’t reveal the truth. To give an example, Companies aren’t taken in by what you say in the interview, what you write in the resume. They want to see actual work done by you to know your skills. If this is extended to fresh graduates, degrees matter far less than what most think. Maybe they help land the first job but not much thereafter.
Example: Recruiters are more interested in testing your skills during the interview process than merely engaging in Q&A. They know very well that the cowl does not make the monk.
A carpenter is known by his chips.
A person is known by the work he has done. These days, Companies aren’t taken in by resumes alone as people can fake things there. They want to see actual work done.
Example: You can’t just talk your way through the interview. The Company would want to see the code you’ve written in your earlier projects or even give you a task to complete. A carpenter, after all, is known by his chips.
Proof of pudding is in eating.
You can’t be sure of something unless you test it. In other words, mere certificates or degrees are not enough.
Example: Our Company stipulates the recruiters to test candidates’ writing skills in a 30-minute session before the interview. After all, proof of the pudding is in the eating.
An old poacher makes the best gamekeeper.
A reformed wrongdoer is good at preventing others from committing the same offense, because he or she can understand their thinking and anticipate their actions. In broader sense, the proverb underscores the importance of real-world skills and nuances (and not degrees and certificates).
Example: For this role, the cyber security firm wants a former hacker. After all, an old poacher makes the best gamekeeper.
A Jack of all trades is master of none.
A person with some knowledge of several fields (jack of all trades) can’t be a master in any of them. What is valued, however, is deep expertise in one field.
Example: You’ve hopped from marketing to sales to business development in your organization. That’s too many. A Jack of all trades is master of none.
A rolling stone gathers no moss.
A person who is constantly changing his job and relationships won’t have depth in any of them and would be unfulfilled. Implication for career: Stay in one field long enough and gain deep expertise in it to be valued.
Example: You’re now in your third industry in the last eight years, which doesn’t make you an expert in any of them. Remember, a rolling stone gathers no moss.
Even though you know a thousand things, ask the man who knows one.
A Turkish proverb. Ask a specialist, who knows one thing but knows it deeply, if you want to confer on some topic. Bruce Lee famously said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Example: When it comes to finding answers to critical questions, users typically visit websites that specialize in one or two things. Even though you know a thousand things, ask the man who knows one.
If you run after two hares, you will catch neither.
It’s hard to have deep expertise in two fields. Focus on one. In the modern workplace, the metaphor for ideal skillset is T-shaped skillset, which means deep expertise in one field (represented by the vertical line in ‘T’) and shallow knowledge of few related fields (represented by the horizontal line in ‘T’). For example, in digital marketing, if you’ve deep expertise in SEO, then it’s good to have at least shallow knowledge of marketing on different social media platforms. T-shape expertise helps you to get a holistic picture and know where your work fits in.
Example: You’re thinking of learning programming as well. Think over it again because if you run after two hares, you will catch neither.
There is no royal road to learning.
There is no shortcut to learning something.
Example: If you’ve to learn skating, you’ve to put in the required hours. There is no royal road to learning.
The frog in the well knows nothing of the sea.
A Japanese proverb. If your experience is limited to a narrow field, you would know nothing of other fields. Adam Grant in his book Originals mentions how both Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos were way off in predicting success of Segway, a battery-operated inter-city transport vehicle.
Example: Many ‘experts’ on the internet today dish out advice in a field in which they’ve little first-hand experience. They’re no more than a frog in a well not knowing much of the sea.
When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
People who have narrow range of knowledge try to apply the same solution to whichever problem they come across.
Example: In the meeting, the marketing guy suggested to increase ad spend to increase our stagnant sales. That was clearly an over-simplistic suggestion. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
In the country of blind, one-eyed is king.
Someone with only few skills and talents is in a better position than someone with none of them.
Example: You’re surviving in this organization because most people here are average. In the country of blind, one-eyed is king.
You are never too old to learn.
You can learn at any age.
Example: Tom: I wouldn’t want to take a course this age. Jerry: Why? I was reading that a Japanese woman was learning English at the age of 92 so that she could volunteer at Tokyo Olympics. You are never too old to learn.
You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.
An Irish proverb. You can’t rest on family laurels, position, or inheritance alone. You’ve to become competent yourself.
Example: You’ve to learn nuts and bolts of your family business if you want to take it forward. You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.
The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.
A Swedish proverb. You know more by afternoon. In other words, you get wiser with age.
Example: I laugh at some of the decisions I took in my twenties. The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.
Adversity is a great schoolmaster.
Difficult times teach us much more than peaceful times. Don’t they?
Example: Clawing my way back up from near bankruptcy taught me many things in human behavior and learning new skills. Adversity, without doubt, is a great schoolmaster.
The next two proverbs are similar in meaning to this one.