Fueling the learning machine

I was always a curious child, and have loved reading for as long as I can remember. I used to peruse the old Encyclopedia Britannica before the advent of the Internet, google and wikipedia, often with no particular purpose in mind but to explore its mysteries. I spent two years during 7th-8th grade in Hockessin, Delaware and used to stockpile books from the local library every chance I got. However, like most people I didn’t realize the magnitude of the edge that could be obtained from seeking to learn constantly. Not until I stumbled upon the writings of one Charles T. Munger, who said –

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads–and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out. I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.”

I was intrigued by the idea, and the more I studied Munger’s life and cause for success, the more I became convinced that I needed to try and emulate it. There is another great nugget of wisdom related to this pursuit, and it has to do with something one of Munger’s own role models – Benjamin Franklin had to say.

“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other”

I think that one way of interpreting what old Ben was trying to tell us is that only a fool would choose to learn entirely through his own experience. Inverting the idea, a wise man would try and learn vicariously from other’s experience, and by seeking wisdom widely, would avoid cost mistakes that he would have made had he only relied on his own experience.

Armed with these two ideas, one of the things that excites me the most when I wake up in the morning is the prospect of learning something. Given that as of now, I do not yet have complete freedom over my time, I decided that some effective time-management and structuring my day to be more productive would go a long way. Some tools I find particularly useful include

  1. Kindle: I received one as a gift, but even if I hadn’t, I would have bought one. This device has to be the single greatest invention for bibliophiles everywhere, because it allows you to carry with you hundreds of books, make notes and highlight paragraphs and read in just about any condition. Suffice to say, I carry mine around everywhere  and spent the bulk of my commute reading and nearly forgetting to get off at my stop.
  2. Feedly: I use this fantastic content aggregator to lump together all the blogs, magazines and websites I follow.
  3. Podcasts: I use podcasts as a medium for when I can’t read (While walking around or working on something).
  4. Twitter: Besides striving to follow interesting people, I like to make lists because it is very easy for good content to get buried in a general Twitter feed.

I take notes using Evernote and save interesting articles and content on Pocket for future reference when I’m trying to relate something to something I read or studied earlier.

Some people might balk at the idea of spending so much time in what looks suspiciously like “studying” after finishing your formal education. Yet I’m happier and more motivated to learn new things than I ever was in school / college, where the curriculum was rigidly defined and people competed with each other for marks. I approach everyday with the excitement of an explorer in an unexplored land, seeking out new treasures and wonders alike. I am constantly humbled and  in awe of how vast the sea of human knowledge is (and how little I know in comparison), and my anti-library grows daily. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My idea of paradise
My idea of paradise

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2 thoughts on “Fueling the learning machine

  1. Beautifully written, Indraneal…I too face the same problem…A sea of books everywhere , yet so little time to read it all 🙂

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