Reess Kennedy

Ideas, sharings, projections

Category: Uncategorized

The efficient technique I use to become more knowledgeable

Writing out all the things you know you don’t know about a topic and then finding answers is possibly the most efficient, effective learning practice I employ.

One cool thing about my mind is that I think it mostly knows what it doesn’t know. Meanwhile, all the authors of all the content in the world DON’T know exactly where the particular gaps in my understanding about something are so why should I just pick up a book on a topic and passively go from page 1 to finish? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just write out what I know I am ignorant of but think I need to know to start understanding and then quickly seek out those answers. These answers then beget new questions and pretty soon you have a pretty comprehensive roadmap for what you to be conversant in a topic.

Google makes finding the highest quality responses or answers easier than ever. Using a personal Q and A style of learning, I find, makes the process both fast and fun. It’s like a scavenger hunt. The active process of scavenging and writing out answers also makes me a more active participant in the learning and, I suspect, helps me retain the information. Writing is a highly effective retention tool.

I’ll expand on this technique in the future as I figure out others using this, or similar , techniques. I’m a major supporter of the 80/20 rule as it applies to learning about something as well–the idea that 80 percent of the utility of something can come from deeply understanding the most important 20% of the material on a topic. Tim Ferriss talks about this as it applies to language when he recalls creating a simple rosetta stone of the most common Japanese characters when he was overwhelmed by the task of learning the VERY foreign language while studying in Japan in high school.

Starting with a blank sheet of paper and list of questions you think are important and you know has proven to me to be both an accelerator of my understanding and has also provided me with a good roadmap for continued study.

My mind thinks in threes

In comedy there is the rule of threes. It’s this comedic device that you can list two things that make sense then a third that doesn’t and laughter ensues. You set up one thing, then you confirm that thing by listing another and then you derail the train with a non sequitur. Comedians use it all the time–so much so that unless you’re a master it’s use can be hack-ish. It’s like hitting a baseball from a tee.

But beyond this, you see the rule of threes in writing and poetry and music. It’s really, at its core, a musical device.

I don’t know enough about music theory to really explain why, but the rule of threes is relied on heavily by musicians to create pleasing compositions.

I share all this because I use the rule of threes in my prioritization and daily to dos. I’ve realized my mind can’t go beyond three levels of prioritization. I have tried to be more granular with stuff like: 1) urgent, 2) not urgent, important 3) not essential but nice 4) unimportant.

Even with this, at four levels, things fall apart. My mind can’t think in four tiers.

I try to make my buckets as large as possible so that I never exceed three.

All these fancy task apps like Asana make it really easy to impose fancy levels of prioritization but I’ve found you soon realize you’re well beyond three levels of task organization and you just can’t hold it all together in your brain and the whole system falls apart, so it’s important to start any project management endeavor understanding the rule of threes.

Otherwise you spend you’re life categorizing and get less done as well.

Three is the magic numbers. It’s somehow, written in the Cosmos.

Code as much as you can before checking that it works

One is able to make progress faster if he just trusts his training and process and keeps going without looking back too much.

This is especially true with coding.

There are so many tools you can use for debugging later but in order to make real progress you must download the way this complicated application you’re building works and keep that in your head while you continue to add new features or refactor old ones.

Don’t form the bad habit of checking your work after each little tweak. Checking your work is important when you’re in school and submitting an essay or exam but when you’re just pushing to get as much done as fast as possible you need to stay in a state of productive flow and this is injured by stoping to check success.

Good programmers can trust their training and understanding of best practices, pushing on in a productive rhythm to get their entire idea written out and then go back and edit later.

In this way, it’s just like writing in English. Spending too much time on one sentence can be crippling. You spend hours trying to polish a small thing but you’re writing an entire book and can’t afford to do that. Get your ideas out there! Then restructure and edit later.

Polish is for poets. Most coders working on sufficiently large apps need to be prolific producers. Sure, have a proper understanding of form and don’t write spaghetti code but don’t overthink it!

I’m not saying optimization isn’t important. It’s a balance and depends on the type of project. If you’re Facebook and Google and already at massive scale then I think you can wait to polish and be neat and poetic about your approach but if you’re on a limited timeline and a limited budget, as most projects are, speed to a working app is more valuable than a long delay to a more optimized app.

So don’t be thoughtless but also don’t let overthinking and constant checking mess with your valuable, post-coffee, high energy flow!

“I do” versus “I will”

My Grandfather said the wedding vows command us to say “I will” instead of “I do” love this person. Reviewing common vows online I don’t see “I will” explicitly but it does seem clear that the vows are about a lifelong commitment of action instead just a statement of the way one feel now.

Reflecting on this, there is simple but powerful distinction between “I will” and “I do.” We all are capable of doing good things every once in awhile but very few of us are willing to discipline ourselves to do good things all the times — or the things we know we should. This is the power between making a commitment of what you “will do” — it becomes your lifetime mission statement, of sorts.

This distinction reminds me of people talking about how they haven’t found anything they are passionate about. I don’t relate to it but I do hear it. I recently read someone talk about how people ought not wait to “find” their passion but just choose something, make a commitment to it and get really good at it and you’ll become passionate about it.

I think this is true and comes from the same power of commitment that comes from choosing you “will” instead of you “do.”

 

 

Sketches

I think we all contemplate artistic merit sometimes. We see art of all forms everywhere.
 Living in NYC I am constantly confront with new, often modern and abstract paintings and sculptures. I love that about New York. But I 
What makes for an objectively good work of art? Is there such a thing? If not what, at least, is my subjective concept is 
I’ve always loved looking at an artist’s sketches. It started with a fascination with sketches of the true masters like Dad Vinci and Michaelangelo …. You’ll sometimes see an exhibition with this … They’re just raw and beautiful … It’s the closest connection between you and the artist because their is so little abstraction between the artists creation and you … Only the mind of the artist to the charcoal to the paper to you own eyes and into your own mind. 
Everything beyond this in art is some form of abstraction that makes it more challenging for you to evaluate and that renders objective appraisal impossible. 
I like that with sketches that are making an attempt at naturalism we have this even playing field for evaluation … 

Punch the keys for God’s sake!

The (somewhat) new-style computer keyboards may look compact and pretty but this is a case where fashion impairs function.

Improved accuracy:

The tactile response from a keyboard is helpful. At the highly pratical level, a keyboard with well made and easy to punch keys decreases the number of errors we write and, thus, increases speed typing.

Improved rhythm: 

Writing is challenging and like many human-persuits is easier when you figure out way to find your rhythm. This is easier when you not only have better tactile response but also better when you have louder key pressed — a better audio repsonse!

I am reminded of a few scenes from the movie Finding Forresster that speak to this:

More good advice on writing: “The first draft you write with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is … to write! (Not to think.)”

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