Have you heard of “FOMO”? Wikipedia defines it as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.”
I remember a period of time as a child when my biggest fear wasn’t the monsters hiding under my bed; instead, it was the horrifying idea that I would die of old-age before I had a chance to read all the books in my local library. I guess I had a severe case of “knowledge-FOMO.” Fast-forward 10 years, the magnitude of this “fear” (not being able to fulfill my desire to read and know everything) has increased exponentially.
In the face of incredible amounts of information readily available, we must learn to choose. Cherry-picking what to learn is crucial to learning important and essential content.
We are constantly flooded with information through email subscriptions, social media news feeds, increasing numbers of self-publishers, … etc. The number of things we want to learn has also increased significantly: engineers are learning management philosophies, business owners are learning programming, children participate in different extracurricular activities every day of the week… and we are constantly searching for new content such as knowledge management, paths to become a millionaire, communication skills, powerpoint skills, art, photography, writing, and career development, … and much more!
There are so many domains of knowledge, so how do we choose? How do we learn the most with our limited time available?
In 2016, I began studying for the American CPA exams and CFA Level I while enrolled in a Computer Science Bachelor’s degree program at UBC. Due to my ambition, I stretched myself very thin and slept an average of only 4 hours each day. The result? I didn’t learn much, my mental capacity faltered, and I resented my lifestyle.
I walked away from the five months of torment with a lesson well-learned:
Sometimes, it is necessary to block out irrelevant information in order to absorb knowledge. We need to choose what information will add value to our existing abilities and help us develop.
The way that I approach this is by writing down a general list of everything that I want to learn in the year, the month, and the week. Computer Science, Business Strategy, and Communication are currently on my year-list. I’m a firm believer in economies of scale in learning. Once the fundamental concepts are within solid grasp, learning similar topics becomes more straight-forward. In other words, focusing our learning efforts toward important fields rather than everything of interest can help us avoid confusion in a mountain of unorganized ideas.
This is not to say that we should stop learning. The focus is to learn something about everything, but also learn everything about something.
Different domains of knowledge requires different approaches to studying. For example, a person learning to cook would not spend his or her time memorizing the recipes; rather, he or she would get out the pots and pans to taste the result of learning to cook. A person learning math will spend time to study the theories of arithmetic, algebra, and build their knowledge little by little on top of what they already know.
This process requires constant summarizing and making connections to previous knowledge, because application of knowledge is an essential part of learning. If we only focused on the inputs but not the outputs, then the information we filtered through will remain only as trivial knowledge in the back of our heads. Since all information come from a part of our lives, we should make use of this knowledge in our lives as well.
Practice makes perfect.
Since I’m not planning to make an appearance on Jeopardy at time soon, I will focus my efforts to learning everything I can about Computer Science, Business Strategy, and Communication so that I can apply my knowledge in my everyday life.