A huge focus of this website itself is to shift my primary mode of content interaction from consumption to production. Or at least to balance the scales as much as I can. As I consumed more books, blog posts and other sources of insight (like public notebooks) I began to realise that what I thought was a huge accumulation of knowledge in my mind was more like a rolling window of knowledge, with almost every idea or thought associated with this content being shredded at the 30-day mark (or earlier!).
This prompted a total review of my learning process. Even if I managed to take a few notes from a posts, I was rarely connecting the dots. I was intellectually lazy, blindly consuming instead of asking questions of the concepts. I had no sense of an internal knowledge network, no connections to draw between two fields. This is a lack of metacognition—thinking about my thinking.
More than any other reason, I find writing forces me to think with intentionality about the content I consume. Isolated blog posts become threads of ideas. These ideas lead towards a theme, each filling in a few blanks for the others. Unsuspected connections are discovered. Focusing on the production of content, I am able to form hypotheses about the subject at hand.
This process is about embracing ambiguity, reconstruction, collaboration and creative paradox. It is taking useful parts of every new piece of content you consume and transforming the whole into more than the sum of it’s parts. It is curation and a unique vision. Exploring, combining and collaborating. Stepping past the passive intake and slowly but surely developing an engine for your own growth and understanding.
The simple act of taking notes and writing forces you to become self-reflective. You stop letting events or ideas pass you by and start formulating them for your own use, drawing out their implications and proving to yourself that they are indeed useful (or not).
Learning in class was probably easy until the teacher left you to complete the problems on your own, when you were forced to rely on your real understanding.
In articulating your thoughts you are forced to come to terms with the true extent of your knowledge. Like entering an exam after a semester of classes, relying only on what you really know. It is a sobering yet crucial process if you are to truly understand what it is you are learning. With enough practice, you may even begin to formulate answers as you intelligently articulate your problem!
“Jeff Bezos doesn’t use PowerPoint or bullet point lists because writing a narrative forces you to explicitly state all of your assumptions and complete your thoughts. And this is something that we can all put into practice.” —Greg Dickens
Thoughts from your past experiences feed your present understandings. These conceptual frameworks, in turn, define your capacity for future experience. We must acknowledge this dynamic and seize as much value as possible from our consumption. Only through the capture of life’s minutia are we able to systematically build coherence and intellectual relevance in our lives.
To this end, we must engage the use of a personal repository of information—a ‘commonplace’.