Seek to learn

Embracing a growth mindset means to get pleasure out of changing for the better (inward rewarding) instead of getting pleasure in being praised (outward rewarding.) […] to seek as many opportunities to learn as possible is the most reliable long-term growth strategy.

~ Sönke Ahrens from, How to Take Smart Notes

Ahrens of course discusses, and gives credit where credit is due, to Carol Dweck’s ideas. (See Dweck’s, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.) Her comment about “reliable long-term growth strategy” struck me as insightful. Her use of, “most reliable,” is an understatement. What other strategy would even be reliable?

If I want to grow, I need to learn. If I want to learn, I need to maximize those opportunities.

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slip:4c2se1j.

Spaced repetition

Spaced repetition comes up in discussions of optimal learning. Once one learns something, it’s best to review it after a period of time, then a second review, third, etc.. with the time between the reviews increasing. There are class structures and software packages which implement this. (Randomly over the years I’ve even considered dumping everything I ever wanted to learn into such a system.)

Part of the power of the spacing is that you don’t come to expect when a particular bit of information will be reviewed. “Oh! I need that knowledge, I guess it is important.” It all apparently causes the brain to not allow the knowledge to expire and be lost. I’ve discovered that my regular usage of the slipbox is randomly, (in the sense that I have no sense of what or when to expect to bump into an idea again,) reminding me of things.

For example, I had a slip, “4c2se1j” with an idea for a blog post on it. As I was writing the post, which involved Sönke Ahrens, I flipped to her name in the slipbox to add this slip’s address to things related to her. She’s on the slip at “4c1ae(3)”. (Because “4c1ae” overflowed to a second “4c1ae(2)” and then third slip “4c1ae(3)”.) Next to her name I added “4c2se1j”. Your eyes may have glassed over, but that’s just another random moment in my using the slipbox—nothing particularly interesting there.

While doing that, my eyes flashed across two addresses already on Ahren’s line…

First, “2ho1”. Just four characters, but I instantly recognized the “2” as a book reference, and Ahren’s book is “HOw to take smart notes.” Several of the ideas from the book flashed through my mind.

Second, “4c2ko1a”. That looks gnarly, but “4c2” is themes. “4c2ko” then must be a word with first-letter K, and first-vowel O, and it has to be related to Ahrens? …that’s easy. That would be the slip for “KnOwledge systems”. I don’t know for sure (without looking) what’s on “4c2ko1a” but lots of ideas related to knowledge systems popped into my mind.

Don’t be distracted by my insane, paper-slips in physical-boxes system. There are countless ways to take notes. (Ahrens has a lot of great stuff to say about that, and I’d argue she has The stuff to say about it.) My point here is that by taking notes into a system that is designed to help me think—not tell me how to think—it does in fact help me think and helps me learn and remember.

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slip:4c2ko1c.

What shall 2022 be?

I’ve begun pondering what shall be 2022’s touchstone phrase, or word. 2021’s “festina lente” has served me well. I’ll miss it, but it’s been worn smooth after a year.

I was flipping through my notes. First my notes about previous years’ phrases, but then wandering through the slipbox. I wandered into the section audaciously labeled, Mastery Projects, and then swung a left into the aisle labeled, On Learning Itself. There’s a stack of slips in there, many of which are notes from a book. This captured quotation held my interest:

If writing is the medium of research and studying nothing else than research, then there is no reason not to work as if nothing else counts than writing.

~ Sönke Ahrens from, How to Take Smart Notes

Perhaps something chosen to remind me to write? …or why I want to write? “Seize the pen?” I feel I’m too far off in the weeds . . .

The next aisle is labeled, Fitness & Health and I swing in there. There’s a slip in there about one’s “first body” versus one’s “second body”, which I noted in 2017 based on a podcast with Jerzy Gregorek. That reminds of something else Gregorek said. I had to go elsewhere in the slipbox—via his name, and then into the huge section on Analects, to find his comments about, “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.

“Choices” then, perhaps?

cerne sapienter?

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Seriously

I know I’ve been off on two long tangents recently: The long series of posts about practicing self reflection kept this blog busy for two months, and before-and-after that I’ve been doing a deep rabbit hole exploration of Slipboxes. I’m still yappin’ about Slipboxes, but I think we’ll be seeing more random things here in April.

But before that happens here’s another thing related to the Slipbox: I found this really detailed summary of Ahrens’s, How to Take Smart Notes. I’ve been reading and studying these notes, as I’m reading and studying the book. Take a look at this post, How to Take… —the site is literally named The Rabbit Hole. You’ve been warned.

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slip:2ho1a.

A structure to work _in_

Having a clear structure to work in is completely different from making plans about something. If you make a plan, you impose a structure on yourself; it makes you inflexible. To keep going according to plan, you have to push yourself and employ willpower. This is not only demotivating, but also unsuitable for an open-ended process like research, thinking or studying in general, where we have to adjust our next steps with every new insight, understanding or achievement—which we ideally have on a regular basis and not just as an exception.

~ Sönke Ahrens from, How to Take Smart Notes (2017)

I know I’m reading the right thing when—POW—I feel like a whole bunch of loose threads in my mind suddenly make sense. I’m a master at plans and organizing. (Outlines, processes, Allen’s GTD system, etc..) But my current quest for a knowledge system began in earnest when I could no longer ignore the aching feeling that there was something I’m missing; there’s something I’m not doing correctly. Ahren’s point about “imposing structure” on oneself is the insight. There’s a time for that. (And again, I’ve got that sorted.) I’m gleefully skipping off into experimenting with a new structure to work in. This isn’t all clear to me yet, so these blog posts aren’t going to be perfectly clear either. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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