The Thursday Thesis -22/8/2019
They are two words I adore.
They’re solid words, and there’s something very reliable and dependable about them: they stand for accuracy and certainty, a gimlet-eyed no-nonsense attention to detail and a straight-backed “X marks the spot” rigour that borders on being finicky.
I love the words, but recoil from their rigidity.
Nobody could argue against Precision and specificity in the study of absolute measurements: mathematics, logic and the like.
But they’re words which don’t play nicely. Their strictness excludes them from the creative act, because they lack the sense of fun which is the hallmark of invention, creativity, the arts and true insight.
They are also the sworn enemies of learning.
So, how do we learn best?
It turns out that learning can be learned and accelerated - just like any other skill.
The trick is to begin with what I call Useful Generalisations: the core ideas which are true for the great majority of cases, the great majority of the time. In other words, find out what works most of the time, and which – logically – has the highest probability of being correct, most of the time.
With the most common and therefore most useful concepts secured, we can shift our attention to the next most likely occurrences: the most common exceptions to the Useful Generalisations. By noting their deviations from the Useful Generalisations we can develop a set of rules – an algorithm – we can now handle the great majority of situations and occurrences.
This learning pathway always delivers the most “Bang for the Buck” for us, because it always attends to the highest-returning investment of our time first, and prevents us from becoming lost in the fine detail of the seldom-encountered, the rare, and the unusual.
So to begin learning anything always try to find experts - teachers, coaches and mentors to show you the most important ideas first.
With hindsight, trying to teach myself something I didn’t know how to do was not a wise approach, and it cost me too much time.
Yet I tried it, and the chances are that you have done so, too.
The Broad Sweeps, the Big Ideas and the Useful Generalisations must come before the unlikely, the Rare, the Precise and the Specific, because (to quote Goethe) “...the things which matter most must never be at the mercy of the things which matter least...”
© Neil Cowmeadow 2019
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