We live in a knowledge economy where the production of knowledge in different domains happens at an exponential pace.
The half-life of information, which is the time for half of it to become irrelevant or untrue in different disciplines, has been shrinking over the years.
The revision of knowledge and sharpening of specific skills, the process by which we shed irrelevant facts, revise wrong facts, and gain additional facts, is one of the 21st century’s unavoidable imperatives.
We must follow up learning with unlearning and relearning. We can no longer follow yesterday’s laid back way of learning. The price of inaction is the loss of competitiveness, disruptions in careers, and personal lives.
A knowledge-deficit is not only a handicap in a digital economy but also portends the loss of status and erosion of well-being.
Traditionally, we used to learn from teachers, mentors, and books. There is no guarantee that teachers and books will provide us with innovative knowledge. We need to learn from multiple sources like podcasts, online courses, masterclasses, learning communities, newsletters, newspapers, and articles.
Multiple sources of learning provide us with a holistic perspective on what we have learned. No single source can provide comprehensive knowledge about any subject. The more diverse the source of knowledge, the more insights we can expect to learn.
Our capacity to tap into multiple sources of knowledge depends on our ability to learn by ourselves. We are not only students but also are our own teachers. Never in history has access to knowledge been so easy and democratic as now.
Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, taught himself rocket science with the help of textbooks and by talking to experts.
The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks
— Mortimer Adler
Gaining knowledge does not end with learning. We must gain the ability to internalize it and convey what one has learned in a way that even a child can understand. We must test our knowledge by writing it down in simple language.
According to the Farnam Street blog, there are four steps to the Feynman Learning Technique:
Teaching others is the best way to internalize and solidify our grasp of knowledge.
We can volunteer to teach at a local school/college. Or we can start a YouTube channel to teach others.
Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
We must never consider learning as a painful chore. We must be curious to know more and more about a field of knowledge. We must integrate learning into our daily routines. Continuous learning will check our innate tendency to consider what we think we know as what we know. Complacency is the biggest enemy of learning.
We have a tendency to cling on to the knowledge that appeals to our sense of right and wrong or what we validate with our cognitive biases. Falsifiability is one of science’s pillars. We must be open-minded and revise our knowledge in the face of additional facts that emerge after rigorous scientific investigations and expert consensus.
Learning does not end with getting a college degree or a Ph.D. It is a lifelong process. We must be curious, open-minded, tap into multiple sources, learn on our own, and solidify our knowledge by teaching it to others.
Unless we come out of our comfort zones and explore new frontiers of knowledge, we will enter a state of deep slumber and end up like the fictional character Rip van Winkle who slept for 20 years and woke up to find a new world he could not make sense of.