When I catch myself thinking about something worth sharing, I take down a few sentences to come back to them in a future post. A few days ago, I wrote “An interesting longer term cycle seems to be repeating. We all learn something new every day but from time to time I find myself having the urge to learn a new discipline, new subject, or a new profession. The learning process is very exciting as it brings renewal and new ways of understanding the world. One such wave caused me to start learning English. Who would have thought where that effort would lead years later…” This morning I saw a comment from GM Davies where he says “Well I think that one very good thing to do right now is to invest in oneself. Whatever comes out of this people with certain skills and know-how will always be needed.” I couldn’t agree more but will take that comment a bit further by replacing “right now” with “ALWAYS.”
I have been working on a small project recently. I’m “writing” a small piece of software to automate one of my Excel spreadsheets with a goal of learning four or five new web technologies. The outcome may be less useful than the Excel spreadsheet but the learning will be worth it. If in addition, others find value in the outcome, then I’ll have more than achieved my objective. I won’t go into the details of it until I have something to show. But wanted to mention a couple points.
Learning does not happen overnight. This project is progressing very slowly and the result so far is nothing exciting or spectacular but I continue to spend a few minutes here and there as much as I can. Inch by inch, one small improvement at a time, I learn a new option, a new method, and a new statement. I often learn something new and find myself hitting the proverbial brick wall discovering that I need to redo a lot of what I have already created. Obviously, if I had all the knowledge up front, I would avoid the mistake in the first place, but that is the price to pay for learning the lesson. This process in many ways is similar to value creation and research, one step at a time with frequent setbacks but never getting discouraged to the point of quitting due to personal limitations. Learning lifts those limitations but does that in slow subconscious way.
The other thought I wanted to share is that of digesting knowledge created by others. I often have to refer to a web site or a sample created by someone else to figure out how to accomplish my task. It takes me ten seconds to find and use the knowledge that someone spent hours creating. Very often I jump from one site to another in fifteen minutes “digesting” many hours of the work of hundreds of people. Imagine that! How many people take a moment to think about the hundreds of people and the months / years of their life that go into creating a two hour movie? I said this to my father who after devoting most of his life to astronomy expressed some regret that “… all that work was for nothing …” It is not for nothing! His work is all over the Internet, referenced in many recent papers. We can never predict how the value we create will be compounded by others. The lightning speed by which new information, new knowledge, new thought (this post for example) gets absorbed by others and becomes part of them is absolutely fascinating. Credit is not always given, the source is often forgotten, but humanity progresses and we all fullfil our individual role in that constant march toward our combined ideals.