A simple innovation that helps me think clearer
I have been journaling for some years now. Different writing mediums have worked for me over the years for different purposes: reflective journal writing works best done long-form (and on paper), while knowledge feels best organized and retrieved using computers.
For last 2 months, I have been using an outlining software. To my own surprise, I have been using it very enthusiastically, without getting bored of it. I use it to organize knowledge on different areas I care about. As I read a book, I collect the most important and actionable takeaways and feed it into my master outline. Every time I encounter more ‘data’ on the subject, I feed it to the outline, and it grows iteratively, and my ‘cliff-notes’ data-set keeps on growing. I also try to review the list every day, which helps me reinforce the learnings.
What can be interesting about something as simplistic as Outlining? Well, it helps me organize my thoughts. It lets me zoom in and out when appropriate. I can go into any Nth degree of a topic, and still have a macro view and not be lost. The ability to collapse a node is very useful, as my brain can visually focus only on the topic of attention and not get distracted.
Elon Musk has this to say about all of this:
Reddit user: How do you learn so fast?
Elon Musk: One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.
Consolidate learnings in one place
It also helps me consolidate all the material in one place- in one file, and instantly accessible by a quick keyword search. Here is a nice quote by Swami Vivekananda, a celebrated sage from early 1900s India, talking about the powers of concentration:
In making money, or in worshiping God, or in doing anything, the stronger the power of concentration, the better will that thing be done…In the present state of our body we are so much distracted, and the mind is frittering away its energies upon a hundred sorts of things.
I have also been borrowing notes from a friend who reads voraciously on complementary topics.
How useful will it be in the long run? I will share progress. As of now, it is looking (very) good.
Here are some screenshots from my workflow.
What is Lollapalooza? This is a term used by Charlie Munger, business partner of Warren Buffett. He describes it as the confluence of multiple factors working in the same direction in a complex system, producing an inordinately large outcome, what he calls lollapalooza!
Why I love to read? Again, I’m inspired by this thought by Charlie Munger: “My prescription for misery is to learn everything you possibly can from your own personal experience, minimizing what you learn vicariously from the good and bad experience of others, living and dead.
As you can see, I am a huge Charlie Munger fan.