Sunday Wisdom No. 78

Metalearning is the process of figuring out how to learn a particular subject based on how knowledge is structured and organised so that it can be easily acquired.

Welcome to Issue 78

👋 Hi, I’m Abhishek. Welcome to Sunday Wisdom, a weekly newsletter packed with timeless insights on better thinking and decision making that you can use at work and home. I appreciate you being here. If you are getting value from this, you can buy me coffee or share this newsletter with a friend.

Metalearning: The Essential First Step of Learning That Nobody Taught You

Metalearning is the process of figuring out how to learn a particular subject based on how knowledge is structured and organised so that it can be easily acquired. If learning was a building, metalearning helps you figure out how to reach the top floor—whether to take the stairs, or the elevator, or scale the walls like Spider-Man.

Metalearning creates a map of the territory we are about to venture into, and is thus an essential step before actual learning happens. Unfortunately, most of us plunge right into the ocean without understanding the waves. Metalearning is the most crucial step that most of us either don’t know or completely ignore.

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Reality is Grey

As a child, the world for us was something to be explored. Our views weren’t fixed. But as we got older, our thinking started to get rigid. Instead of questions and explorations, we fell in love with conclusions; rigid conclusions. Socialism is good. Socialism is bad. College is indispensable. College is useless. War is good. War is bad. And so on.

These black and white absolute conclusions are easy to form and effortless to digest, and often become substitutes to actual understanding. At the end, they replace the act of thinking in many people.

But the fact is, the reality is grey. All of it. There are very few black and white answers. This fundamental truth is easy to comprehend, but very hard to practice.

Grey Thinking is understanding the simple fact that nearly all things are OK in some dose but not OK in another dose. Some level of socialism actually works well in a capitalist economy, but pure socialism doesn’t tend to work. College works for some and not for others. War must be avoided, but as history has shown, sometimes war is necessary. And so on.

There is no one right answer. There isn’t supposed to be. Life and world we live in is far more complex than the simplistic conclusions we jump into every now and then.

Does any of these ruffle your feathers? Great! The first step towards structured thinking is realizing that you carry many of your cherished positions too strongly. Most of practical reality lies outside the realm of mathematical certainty. Reality is grey!

Explore RE:Thinking

My Insanely Intellectual Morning Routine

This is how we read. We come across a nice idea and say to ourselves, “Huh! That’s a neat thought,” and then forget about it completely. Once in a while, we highlight some text, but never return to it ever again. 

The fundamental problem is that we consume a lot of information, but never convert them into actionable ideas, whereas that’s the main purpose of reading.

Like everybody, even I used to read the same way. And then I started to notice that despite reading so much everyday I’m not able to recall ideas when I need to. The time and effort I put into my intellectual development isn’t going anywhere. But with a lot of tinkering I’ve upgraded this process a while back, and in this video I’ll tell you all about it.

Thoughtful Summaries

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Being smart means thinking things through. It means trying to find the real answer, not the easiest answer.

Being stupid means avoiding thinking by jumping to conclusions. Jumping to a conclusion is like quitting a game. You lose by default.

That’s why saying “I don’t know” is usually smart — because it’s refusing to jump to a conclusion.

— Smart People Don’t Think Others are Stupid

Few Life Lessons

  1. Prefer a handful of truly close friends to a hundred acquaintances.

  2. Do what makes you fulfilled. Don’t let yourself make excuses for not doing the things you want to do.

  3. Pick the right thing to do, develop personal connections with people that will help you, learn to identify talented people, and work hard.

  4. Figure out your own productivity system—don’t waste time being unorganised, working at suboptimal times, etc.

  5. Work very hard, but not so hard that the rest of your life passes you by. Keep your personal burn rate low.

  6. Don’t be afraid to take some career risks, especially early on. Most people pick their career fairly randomly—really think hard about what you like, what fields are going to be successful, and try to talk to people in those fields.

  7. Money may or may not buy happiness, but it can buy freedom. Make money because lack of money is very stressful.

  8. Making money is often more fun than spending it.

  9. Most people waste most of their time, especially in business.

  10. Have clear goals for yourself every day, every year, and every decade.

  11. Don’t be afraid to do something slightly reckless.

  12. As valuable as planning is, if a great opportunity comes along you should take it.

  13. Spend time with people who are either among the best in the world at what they do or extremely promising but totally unknown.

  14. Develop very strong ways to avoid letting crap you don’t like doing pile up and take your mental cycles, especially in your work life.

  15. Don’t worry so much. Things in life are rarely as risky as they seem.

  16. Ask for what you want.

  17. Regret is the worst, and most people regret far more things they didn’t do than things they did do. If you think you’re going to regret not doing something, you should probably do it.

  18. Existential angst is part of life. It affects all smart, ambitious people; you aren’t alone.

  19. Don’t hate other people’s success. Some people will hate your success, and you have to learn to ignore it.

  20. The days are long but the decades are short.

— The Days are Long But the Decades are Short

The Gift of Silence

By the age 45, Beethoven was completely deaf, but this is when he became more original and brilliant as a compose in inverse proportion to his ability to hear.

His previous works were heavily influenced by his instructor, but his later works where spectacularly original. Beethoven didn’t have the soundtrack of the society to refer to any more. Deafness freed him.

Sometimes it’s an advantage of remove the society’s soundtrack from your ears. Sometimes, the sound of others become more noise than inspiration. To be able to hear yourself, sometimes you have to be deaf to others.

— On Beethoven and the Gifts of Silence

👋 That’s All!

As always, please give me feedback. Did any of the stories resonate with you? Do you disagree with anything? What do you want more or less of? Any other suggestions? Please let me know in the comments.

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