TLDR: I’m actually really dumb. So I ask dumb questions and get the answers by the smart people. Then I break it down to explain to myself, so my dumb ass 100% gets it. That’s how I learn.
It’s perhaps time to learn how to learn. With the world innovating at insane speed, sleep is becoming a costly affair, in terms of opportunity cost. It’s time to learn how to learn.
Most importantly, learning is to empty the tea in the teacup before filling them up again.
That is tough. It took me 10 years to learn that. To empty what I know, fill up with new knowledge, then aggregate the old and new knowledge.
Why? Because of my ego. Ego is more of a hinderance than friend, I’ll say. My ego made me believe that I am so much more than myself. That’s absolutely false. I am limited by what I don’t know. And that is a lot.
It took a long time to finally understand that I am more than my ego. I had to let my ego go (meditation and daily reflection helps) and to remember to be humble and keep learning.
So here I am now, learning to empty my teacup every day. So my teacup is filled with new information and knowledge.
3 Learning Methods
- Read read and read some more.
- Question everything. Ask experts. Open discussions from various perspectives.
- Boil down the fundamentals and link them together.
Read. And read widely. I read books, research papers, articles. LinkedIn can be useful if you follow the right people. Twitter can be insightful sometimes. Reddit and Quora are a hit and miss. It’s best to read Quora and Reddit via links other people share with you than to dig through the path.
I’ve done my fair share of digging through the trash to find gold. Now I do this:
- Always ask my friends to recommend books. I love my friends for they are my libraries and always recommending me books to read
- Read for specific authors that you know you like.
- Explore new topics. There was a period in my life when I was reading a lot of psychology books. Then it became self-help-ish. Then business and management. And now economics. So I’m grateful that my friends are always recommending other books like fiction, biology, other sciences, other skillsets.
- And once in a while, just head to the library, pick a random shelf and find something there. Pleasant surprises.
- Subscribe to you favourite researchers on Google Scholar. They recommend 1-3 papers per 10 days. They also recommend other researchers to follow.
- Sign up to newsletters about research papers.
- (I don’t do this) Universities have their own research labs and newsletters. Sign up to those and your specific professors.
- Good articles and posts are usually shared more often by others. So a random scroll through twitter to see what people are reading.
- Or curated whatsapp groups where people share high quality content and information
- Also, newsletters!! I stop getting information from 24/7 news coverage. I subscribe to specific things that I am interested in.
There is only 24h in a day. Curate the information you want to put inside your head and remove unnecessary information. The world is a big place with lots of people. Someone else will care about those other topics that you don’t care about.
Because the topics you care about are what other people do not. Division of labour baby!
I’m so grateful to have the most wonderful friends and family, which I can always reach out, chat and have conversations with. It could be some work issues that I’m clueless about, it could be my fears and doubts, it could be new insights and perspectives. The most precious souls in the world — I will not change a single thing.
I’m immensely grateful that my incredibly smart friends are willing to take their time to answer my basic questions. When I read a paper and am unclear, I write a list of questions down. Then, I either go to specific friends and ask in “interview style” or to have open discussions with a group of friends.
It’s incredibly wonderful to have this ability to ask questions. Sure, I first research on the web. Then, the web doesn’t answer my questions and my encyclopedia friends will come to the rescue. We don’t always have a concluding answer, but it gives me new perspectives and insights to satisfy my curiosity.
Another learning is to have open discussion.
1920s, life without Lisa: at a Viennese cafe on Sunday mornings, having coffee, tea and intellectual talks
2020s, life with Lisa: at a bar on Friday nights, having sake, single malts and intellectual talks
Life with Lisa is 100x better.
To have open discussions is something I value so much. It started back in Hong Kong, where I was still a growing mind, we had almost-daily evening chats about everything in life. Culture, insights, behaviour, art, love, society, brains. I love these people with my entire heart, life and being. Today, we can still have those chats despite being hours and 10,000km apart. They give me new perspectives, insights and viewpoints. They help me to start questioning everything.
Then I also have other friends in the specific domain knowledge that I can tap into. Like economics, finance, technology, math, science, life. That’s just incredible. I’m so lucky to have these wonderful gorgeous souls. Sometimes I feel like a zombie, because I love the brains of my friends 😛
Something I told myself a long time ago:
“knowledge without application is useless“
Such simple words, but it has governed my life so far. I love to read. I read the newspaper, articles, newsletters, books. Since young, reading was just a hobby. It’s fun. I love to accumulate knowledge. But I realised that I never really use them. What can a 17 year old do about knowing who’s the president of Country A and that trade with Country B is linked to personal friendship with that president?
At the same time, as an economist, it’s all about opportunity cost and proper allocation of resources. Reading and acquiring knowledge without using them is costly in terms of opportunity cost and improper allocation of resources — time and knowledge.
So, I started to add those information into conversations. It was hard at first, but as years go by, it is second nature.
Then, I started to hone my skillset — to specialise in Economics. It gives me depth in a subject.
It became easier to apply my old knowledge into economics. I always think of knowledge as individual flowers. And I am a bee, going to flowers to acquire knowledge pollen and cross-pollinate them to other flowers.
Many years in the working, many years of frustration. Finally, it’s becoming unconscious competency of cross-pollination. I could use concepts in subject C and apply them in subject D. It was just… easy.
And there, empty my teacup and keep filling them up with new knowledge. Oh also, reflection helps. As this site serves to be my reflecting portal.
Here’s to more learning.