A formula for knowledge

I want to know a lot. It drives a lot of what I do in my life. Here’s a (wrong but perhaps useful) formula for how much knowledge I have:

Knowledge = Information taken in * Percent retained * What you do with it

Information taken in

I’ve always focused my life on information taken in. This is why I try to read a lot. It’s why I try to talk to interesting people. It’s why I listen to ted talks. It’s why I read books. It’s why I like Vice. It’s an important variable for sure, but I think I’ve perhaps over-focused on this in the past.

Percent retained

Retaining information is critical. A lot of times I read blog posts half skimming the page. Hoping that if my eye touches the words and 20% of the idea goes to the very top of my brain, it will turn into knowledge. That’s not how the brain works. I (and probably most of us) need to focus more on retaining information. This means having an active brain as I process information, summarizing key points, talking about what I’ve learned, connecting the information to my life, using the information etc.

What you do with it

At first I wasn’t going to have a third variable, but the model felt incomplete without it. What you do with it gets at the idea that we can make connections with information that we take in. I can read a book about the economy and other book about education and take the information in each of those books, connect it to my thoughts and experiences, reflect on it, and eventually create new ideas. Combining information can create new information. Perhaps this is why my friend Sean likes the idea of “ideas having sex”.

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