When looking at an outcome and trying to replicate it, I often try to break it down by analyzing the things that contributed to it’s success. It makes logical sense that if I can break down everything that happens, I can figure out the reasons that things happened the way that they did.
People do this all the time. Books are written, talks are given, and curricula are organized all with the intent of formulating a step by step process to achieve a certain goal.
But it’s rarely that simple. As The Black Swan argues, “no evidence of black swans does not mean evidence of no black swans.”
In my experience, I find that even when I follow all the rules, and do everything that I theorized based off what I learned from other people, that the outcome is rarely the same outcome as someone else. Human life is so complicated that taking a specific habit or routine directly out of someone else’s life will work when applied to yours.
For instance, consider the area of health and nutrition. In my recent study of nutrition (reading In Defense of Food), it was brought to my attention that the results of eating natural, organic vegetables is completely different and much more positive than eating the exact nutrients known to mankind within the vegetables. In other words, having a healthy diet is much more than simply counting the nutrients in the foods, even though much of nutrition-ism claims equivalence.
The truth is, most things are so utterly complex, circumstantial and unpredictable that simply trying to sum parts together will leave gaping holes and blind spots that are impossible to be aware of.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that people should stop learning as much as possible from as many people as possible. The value in sharing experiences and learning from people isn’t in applying things verbatim, but having a wider range of perspectives in how to approach your own endeavors.
On one end of the spectrum, having too much information can be paralyzing and overwhelming, but with the right attitude and framework for learning, a vast wealth of information can be used to create a breadth of understanding that allows a person to be well rounded and wise in all areas, being open to the vast ranges of possibilities of things to come without the expectation of a single outcome.
Summing the parts you know doesn’t always result in the outcome you want, but it’s better than nothing.
I’m weird. While most people study different subjects, I study different ways of studying.
After reading things from Tim Ferris, Michael Ellsburg, and others, I have found that the 80/20 rule applies practically anywhere.
The idea is that 20% of the work produces 80% of the results.
The challenge then, is deconstructing and figuring out which 20% gives you the most results. For example, in every language there are words that are the most commonly used words, which often make up a large majority of the whole language. If you are able to supercharge your learning by learning what matters, everything else comes a lot easier.
This concept has saved me countless hours of academic work, by prioritizing material to learn. In my most recent writing class, I experimented on how to read and analyze multiple articles and write a two to three page response in less than half an hour. With the end paper in mind, I began typing my response to the articles while I was reading them, knowing that all my teacher wanted was a thoughtful response to the articles.
This concept explains how people like Tim Ferris are able to master skills in extremely short periods of time. (Look him up if you’ve never heard of him)
Therefore, it is no longer about how you study, how long you study, but also what you study and the order you study it in.