A couple of weeks ago I put a post up about taking notes when reading books. Note-taking is something I’ve been doing for years but have been exploring find and using effective methods to not only take notes but to also make connections and find the information later.
The process of exploring and thinking about the concepts captured in note-taking helps to strengthen learning and retention of information we read about. It’s something I’ve been working on doing more of.
Speciality or Multipassioned Learning?
Conventional wisdom has held that we should develop an interest in one area and learn it fully. The argument is we put our full attention on to mastering one field and that will contribute to getting the good jobs and overall success in life.
To divert our attention to other fields is a distraction and weakens the level of expertise.
Yet many people find themselves unfulfilled trying to lock themselves into one area of expertise as their life work. Their desire to broaden their knowledge and the application may not be as contrary as some think.
What Makes Elon Musk What He Is?
We’ve been hearing a lot about Musk these days as he negotiates to acquire control of the social media platform, Twitter. He’s the richest man in the world having built four multibillion dollar companies across different technologies before reaching his mid-40s.
Is he really a once in a lifetime genius? Or does he cut across the convential wisdom to embrace learning methods we’re not taught in schools?
The answer may be yes to both questions. He’s a bit of an extreme example of what could be. Or is he? If our educational system shifted to embrace the same learning methods would we start to see more versions of Musk?
What Does Musk Do Differently Than Most People?
One common thread among highly successful people is they are consistent readers. Musk has read an average of two books per day since he was a teenager. His reading is across multiple disciplines.
His current areas of expertise include:
- rocket science
- artificial intelligence
- solar power
People like Musk are considered to be “expert-generalists” also referred to as polymaths. They include people who:
- study widely in many fields
- deeply understand the principles of the fields
- sees the connections between fields
- is able to apply the principle to core specialty
Musk has honed his ability to transfer learning across fields. He views knowledge much like a tree:
- the fundamental principles are the trunk and large branches
- details are the leaves and small branches
- without the fundamentals there is nothing for the details
It’s knowledge broken into deep, abstract principle that creates his strength in transfer learning. He’s able to apply a technique known as “contrasting cases” using the knowledge he’s learned.
Contrasting cases looks at fields for what is the same and what is different between them. Breaking them down into their most basic levels is a powerful method of understanding underlying principles and transferring learning from one field to another.
Can We Use These Methods?
Amongst all this acquired knowledge there are two core questions to use when exploring the knowledge and connections:
- What does this remind me of?
- Why does it remind me of it?
Two simple but powerful questions. Using them regularly can help build your own ability to make connections across traditional boundaries. To help you see links and connections you’d never considered before. To gain ideas of new areas and ideas to explore.
That’s one of the reasons note-taking can be such a powerful way to learn. It gives us a base to explore and find connections between materials we’d never have made. It gives us the ability to go back and review what we’ve learned as we add more ideas and information to it.
So yes, we can use the methods Musk uses. It’s unlikely we’ll become a Musk but, we can always be learning.
The wisdom of specialization needs to be questioned and indeed challenged.
NOTE: Header image from Pixabay.com
Shadowspub is a writer from Ontario, Canada. She writes on a variety of subjects as she pursues her passion for learning. She also writes on other platforms and enjoys creating books you use like journals, notebooks, coloring books etc.
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