Inspired Education
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Inspired Education

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How to Be Knowledgeable

And use that knowledge to your advantage!

People who live in the developed world — or those in less developed countries but with comfortable finances — must consider themselves extremely fortunate.

They have access to an almost unlimited library of information right in their pockets. Yet, most people fail to realize how lucky they are and miss many opportunities to learn. Time is a limited resource, and so is energy.

Unfortunately, too many people get hooked on the addiction of pointless social media scrolling. Two hours pass without notice, and in the end, you get nothing but exhaustion. And then you ask yourself why you are exhausted because you’re not even doing anything.

It is wrong to assume that just because something is unproductive, it does not count as work. On the contrary, almost everything we do — except for activities that refill energy — constitutes work. Therefore, you can get tired from pointless doom scrolling, Netflix bingeing or arguing in the YouTube comment section.

If we internalize the premise that everything constitutes work, it makes sense to divert our energy into more constructive means. The art, news, and media we consume should be used as tools for us to deliberately become knowledgeable instead of simply as a means for passing the time.

Here are some tips for using media to your advantage instead of distraction:

Consume only long-form content

Short-form content, such as beautifully designed but shallow Instagram infographics, is ripe for spreading misinformation, albeit without malicious intent.

For instance, if you are interested in learning about the symptoms of various mental health issues, search an actual medical article online instead of infographics on Instagram. Of course, it takes more time to read paragraphs instead of bullet points. However, it’s going to prevent you from embarrassing yourself when you think you’re depressed when you’re just overstimulated.

The Internet is also ripe with articles about the stock market which urges people to speculate constantly. Whereas had these people chosen to read an investing book such as Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor — only then might they be intelligent at investing.

When reading the news, one must also ask why the article is being written in the first place. Is it to provide the reader with a nuanced understanding of a complex political issue? Of course not.

Journalists write to get ahead in their careers when they garner a lot of reading time. This necessitates a clickbait headline and an article that elicits strong emotions — regardless of whether these emotions are beneficial.

When you read in-depth books covering topics you are interested in, you wouldn’t be surprised when a new event comes along. Because instead of reacting to seemingly surprising things, you’d realize these things come along in a pattern. You wouldn’t be surprised at another recession if you are familiar with business cycles.

Long-form content gives you a bigger picture. With a more nuanced understanding of the issue, we are less likely to jump onto pointless, heated debates with people who similarly only understand a piece of the pie. The bigger your pie, the more you know why people think the way they do and extend your sympathy instead of judgment.

Here are some concrete examples of choosing long-form content instead of short ones:

  • Seek educational and reliable YouTube videos that are at least 10 minutes long instead of shorter summaries.
  • Read less news and more books instead.
  • Avoid Instagram infographics and Twitter threads for knowledge-seeking purposes. If you still like learning through social media, try Medium.

Store your knowledge

Methods of storing your knowledge vary depending on where you want to keep it and how much effort you can afford into storage.

It can range from only wanting to retain it in your head to creating whole spreadsheets filled with links to primary sources. Start by bringing up the things you learned in conversations with your peers. If you use the knowledge you learned, your brain will associate that knowledge with importance, and you’re less likely to forget it.

If you find it useful, you can then move on to taking book notes and keeping them on Notion, Evernote, or any notetaking software you prefer. I recommend using Notion because there are plenty of templates you can download and use online. Then, all you have to do is read or watch the media and fill in the template.

Storage is helpful if you want to refer to the information you learned in the future, for example, when writing an essay or impressing someone in a bar.

Here are some ways you can store knowledge, beginning from least to most intense:

  • Bring up what you read during a conversation.
  • Underline parts of the book worth remembering and write comments on the margins.
  • Create a database on Notion for summaries. Here’s an example:
Screenshot taken by the author

Utilize your knowledge

In 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, Sarah Cooper recommends that you start your work presentation with a shocking fact. Then, introduce your project by comparing it to other more successful projects in history. If you’re an avid reader and notetaker (whether physical or in your head), presenting well would be a piece of cake — it’s going to feel intuitive instead of hard work.

It would take forever for me to write out how the knowledge you have can be helpful for you. It’s also pointless to do that because avid learners don’t usually have a concrete vision of how their learning will benefit them. Instead, they accidentally discover that some events can be turned into opportunities, given their background knowledge.

Having more knowledge increases the probability of encountering opportunities in your life, enabling you to seize them. Conversely, someone with less knowledge might not realize that they’re in a situation that is an opportunity that they can take hold.

For instance, suppose I’m knowledgeable about cosmetic science. I get invited to a networking event. Due to my background knowledge, instead of socializing without aim, I can try to find industry experts and get their contacts to work with them in the future.

Furthermore, when creating value in the world, knowledge can be a tool that unconsciously guides our thinking. Unlike a robot or computer software, human minds don’t just receive and store information passively. Instead, the human mind is perpetually in motion, and every knowledge fed into it would change its structure.

Our patterns of thought change depending on the amount and quality of information we accumulate. It is not only that we have more data that allows for more reasonable judgments, but the way we think itself is different.

This is why many agree that people with any liberal arts degree have the same chance of succeeding in business as someone with a business degree. You don’t have to read Frederick Winslow Taylor’s The Principles of Scientific Management to do business effectively because it’s intuitive to most people now. It’s intuitive because the way people think changes — not just the content.

In Francis Bacon’s The New Organon, he talks about different categories of thinkers.

The ant is someone who only collects information and uses them in their raw material. The spiders do not collect information and instead create things and make judgments purely out of their internal reason. Finally, the bee is a synthesis of both — gathering information and using them in addition to inputting a bit of themselves into making the decision.

Perhaps we all have something to learn from bees!

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Inspired Education is a Medium notebook for sharing ideas & stories about teaching, learning, creativity, and education

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Celine Hosea

Celine Hosea

Indonesian writer. 18 years old. Read my articles: http://linktr.ee/celine.hosea

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