Constant Learning And Progress

Progress by ~gursesl
Progress by ~gursesl

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.

6 Comments

  1. If we allow free markets to work, without government interference, mankind can achieve the highest, loftiest goals. Mankind needs free markets to give him the impetus to reach for goals because competition is good and stagnation is bad. I’m being rather metaphorical here, but free markets bring out the best in the achievers.

    Jeff

  2. Jeff – I agree in general with what you said above because I have experienced socialism and capitalism. Unfortunately, the words with “ism” suffix are highly [OVER]loaded and, as a result, subject to interpretation. Therefore, to be precise, I have experienced a form of socialism (in space time) and a form of capitalism (again in space and the current time). The topic is very complex and probably not to be settled until a few more generations pass (that’s if I’m being idealistic, else never to be settled) but my basic view is that human freedoms should not be limited (such as the freedom to trade with other humans). But here again I catch myself agreeing with my basic view only when it comes to the positive side in the yin yang of human nature. Either it’s a really complex issue or I am highly uneducated as I struggle very much with what I hear happening daily all over the world. So, instead I let people “in charge” deal with these issues and I focus on the small things where I can make my small differences always at every fork in the road making the best decision to live a life of no regrets. Sorry, I got carried away here… the mind works in strange ways.

  3. All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.

    “The perception of small things is the secret of clarity…”

    Very true that it is in the small things, that real differences can be made.

    Don

  4. Don – Thank you for the visit. It took me a while to understand that big things are the sum total of small things. Almost everything around us is screaming about the big things and very little is pointing out the small things. Small things are not as “exciting.” They are “insignificant.” Constantly readjusting the eyes of our minds to the correct magnification is not an easy challenge.

  5. Nice post LD. I need to get back to doing some real learning, not pretend learning of just reading interesting articles and forgetting them the next day!

    There are so many examples in history of world changing discoveries and ideas being forgotten or ignored by society, stalling the progress of man by many years. I believe the internet is playing a major role in plugging this gap, by disseminating ideas so widely that if there is any worth in them, they are less likely to be lost in time, and and certainly for less lengths of time. Indeed, beyond advanced scientific and technological knowledge it looks like we are fast moving to a world where quality knowledge and teachings is moving away from being gated and restricted to the few. This has to be great for the future of humanity.

  6. Thank you very much. I wrote a post about the future of the Internet 🙂 and completely agree with you that it captures quite a bit that used to get lost. As the Internet continues to evolve to encompass all human knowledge, I am afraid that it may become harder to find the true jewels in the heap of junk. I hope Google or another engine will evolve with it to help us get answers. However, the Internet is also not a substitute for the human mind that can make so many connections so quickly. I appreciate the visit and the comment!

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