👣What Knowledge Should be Accumulated?

I have seen many questions like these: “what knowledge should I accumulate?”, “I love cooking, so should I take notes about recipes?”, “I am going to run a marathon, so should I take notes about preparations?”, or “I love reading. Need I to take notes about my favorite sentences?”

If we only react to a single point, an article, or a book rather than build a area , then we may lead to chaos, which can’t be solved by any advanced techniques. Nor bidirectional links or AI.

1. Area: your long-term responsibility

According to Wikipedia, area means the coverage of a range of professions and things. Or we may translate it into “the motif of our lives”.

But it is still blurred.

Take me as an example. When I started working for several years, I happened to organize all the areas I was interested in. It surprised me that there was such a wide range I was curious about. Maybe I spent a lot of time learning these areas, but since there were a lot of areas as well, the time I spent on each area could not make me be professional.

Among these areas, I followed some because of my greedy curiosity, while some were my interests and short-term projects. I was interested in physics and mathematics, but I didn’t need to apply them in my daily tasks. As for the recruitment and cooperation, they were projects with precise deadlines and goals. I didn’t need to go further in these two areas.

Areas, interests, and projects are three concepts that are easy to be mixed up. I would like to try to differentiate them here:

Interests are something you are willing to spend time on without any returns. If you stop learning, it won’t do any bad to you. Why was I interested in physics? Because at that time I was inspired by Elon Musk’s first principle. But if I stop learning physics, it won’t influence my other tasks.

Projects are something with a precise beginning, a deadline, and a goal. Because I needed to finish the interviews of summer interns in a short time, I spent some time learning the recruitment and interviews. The interviews had standard criteria. All I needed to do was to remember and follow them.

Areas are something without a precise deadline and a quantified goal. But if you screw it up, you need to be responsible for it. Take flomo as an example. I need to think about the future of thinking tools as long as flomo exists. I have no idea about the end of this exploration and I could not stop learning. Once I stopped learning and flomo was out of date, then I am the person who need to take responsibility.

Keeping fit is another example. It is a area because you are responsible for your health. But the daily practices including running or something else are projects. We make progress in this area through various projects. While the pilates you are fond of recently is an interest. Because it won’t influence the whole area if you stop.

We keep making progress project by project. Some interests may transfer to be areas and some areas may be left behind as time changes.

  • Areas without any projects can hardly make you refined.

  • Projects without areas can sometimes get you lost.

2. Choices about areas: should you learn everything?

About ten years ago, I was working in a company with Lightory (co-founder of flomo). He was going to resign and start his own business. I persuaded him: “This company is great. Though there is nothing to be learned in area A here, you can choose to learn B.” But Lightory asked me a question that I could not forget forever. He asked:” why should I?”

“Why should I learn this?” Why was I astonished at this simple question? Because for years I am taught and required to “learn diligently” and “knowledge is never a burden”, which caused my cravings for learning everything without distinguishing whether I need them and whether I am good at it. Until that moment, I realized that I had the choice to not learn something and to give up some areas.

Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of passing ships. —— Omar Bradley

The area each person needs to learn is not isolated but intertwined. Each person may be good at different areas, and these areas may add up or disappear as time changes. So I may draw some premature conclusions here:

  • As human beings, we have to learn many areas and be responsible for them.

  • Each person may choose different areas to learn. One man's wilderness is another man's theme park.

  • Areas change as time and place change. Such learning is not once and for all.

Everyone lives a different life. There is not a common rule that everyone must follow. So forget about those words like “you need to get married at the age of 20”, “you will meet the middle-age crisis at the age of 30”, or “you will be unsuccessful at the age of 40”. Instead, if you still want to make any contributions to the world, it is vital to choose your own areas. It is time to stop and ask yourself: who you wanna be (rather than others want you to be), and start from here.

I felt so insecure around 2016 because I found I was not professional at any of those areas. So I made a decision to give up the exploration in coding, design, and management. Instead, I focused on the arae of service design. Back at that time, I believed that the full-process service would be important in the future. Think about it: if the takeaway you order could not serve you on time, can a better user experience of the app make up for it? So perhaps the future requirement to a product manager is to make users feel the same online and offline.

Since then, you could see the areas I learned have changed.

Why not spend some time counting all the areas you are in? Inspect them like inspect the investment moves and ask yourself: what returns do they make?

And then think about your future investing tactic: which areas need to be bought in and which sold out? Do you want to spread risks round or to all in?

Just remember, the big difference between time and money is that you can never deposit the time.

And no one can help you to make the “right” choice about areas.

3. Refine in areas: take real and concrete actions

Have you ever read the book Stories of the Sahara written by Sanmao? Were you interested in living in the desert after reading that? I was. But the first time when I rode a camel and walked on a sand dune, I only felt overwhelmed: a wobbly giant camel, and a vast desert. Anyway, it is beyond words. If you have never been to a desert, you would not understand the feeling of living in a desert.

What I’m trying to say here is that real knowledge is not the words in books but the thoughts, ideas, experiences, or something you gain after practice. If your flomo is full of web clipper: others’ opinions or undigested articles, then the map you are grabbing is not yours, and your brain is the playground of others’ thoughts. The shortcut is always the longest way. So you need to record and think honestly. This is the basic requirement for making progress in areas.

Besides the record, we also need to see the fruits of our progress.

If we buy stocks, we can see the changes easily in our account. If we raise children, we can see the differences in their ages and personalities.

But how can we know the result of our investment in areas?

The MEMOs of flomo is to quantify your knowledge (Well, you can choose any tools to practice deliberately. I just take my love flomo as an example). The statistics, the recording days, and the MEMOs you accumulated are your investment in some areas.

And then, when you are going to export something, you will feel the results brought by your investment.

Here I’m going to share a wallpaper with you so you can re-read the famous pun from Richard Hamming, the Turing Award winner and inventor of Hamming code:

What are the important problems of your area? Are you working on one of them?


[1] Richard Hamming:https://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.html

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