Categories
Personal Growth Science

The Art of Becoming A Buoyant Learner

Do you know what ‘polymath’ means?

Polymath, Renaissance man, multipotentialite these all have the same meaning. The above picture depicts the meaning perfectly.

It means a person having the expertise or skilled at multiple things.

Take Leonardo Da Vinci for example or Benjamin Franklin or Richard Feynmann. In fact, most people who left their impact in this world were all polymaths.

There is a famous quote which says-

“Jack of all trades, master of none”

You must have heard about this or at least definitely experienced it at some point in your life.

Remember the times when everyone including our family, friends, relatives tells us to specialize in one particular thing and abandon everything that has no link with that specialized goal.

But guess what, most successful people lived in the earth were polymaths. They had multiple interests and often one interest has nothing to do with the other one.

From a very early age, our mind has been programmed in such a way that we born to excel in only one specified area. We can’t be good at multiple things.

And then we read about people like Leonardo Da Vinci and others like him, and think ‘Oh come on! they were genius people, I can’t be like them’

Really! is that so? Henry Ford has a beautiful reply to that

“Whether you think you can or cannot

Either way you are correct”

‘What your mind can believe, it can conceive‘ as Napoleon Hill said in his ‘Think and Grow Rich’ book.

And then even if you believe that you can become a polymath, but then you would ask How would I learn so many things? How can I become good at multiple things in this short span of lifetime?

The most important question should be

How should I approach learning to learn better and faster?

This is one question which most of us never ask ourselves. Maybe we are not programmed to ask so. We think it’s an inherent natural ability that can’t be improved.

And one might think ‘why should I even bother about becoming multipotentialite’?

Fair enough. Not everyone is interested in learning multiple things. If someone wants to dig deeper only in one specified subject, that’s also great. We all have our own choices.

But skilled at many things doesn’t mean you have to monetize all those skills. A lot of times people learn something just to quench his curiosity or to have fun.

You look at the lives of great scientists, artists, writers, most of them had/have multiple hobbies which people don’t even know. But somehow these hobbies helped them to focus better on their main job. Today, scientific research also supporting such claims. I have written an article about this before.

Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, you probably have heard about all of them. They were great scientists, everyone knows them. But do you know they were also skilled musicians? Einstein used to play the piano. He was really good at playing the piano. He said once-

Life without playing music is inconceivable for me.”

Music helped Einstein in this thought process and helped convert the images to logic. Similarly, Heisenberg and Max Planck were also expert musicians. In fact, there is a beautiful article named ‘Symphony of Science’ on the Nobel prize website. You should read it sometime.

Anyway, coming back to the question ‘how should I approach learning?

I captured a beautiful (as well as meaningful) image from the book ‘The Intelligence Trap’

From the book ‘The Intelligence Trap’

If you just understand this curve properly, learning something (you like) will become easier and more fun.

So what does this learning curve conveys?

Psychologists have described four distinct stages of learning and they are as follows

1. Unconscious Incompetence

This is the very first stage before even learning something new. At this stage, most of the ignorant, overconfident people lie. Here people don’t even know what they don’t know (wow!).

You must have encountered such people who behave like they have all the knowledge of the world and they need to learn anything new. Basically, their mind is full of ignorance and it has no place to fill with any sort of new knowledge which ultimately leads to overconfidence. Therefore, you are incompetent as well as unconscious about it.

2. Conscious Incompetence

At this stage, people realize that they lack at certain skills and they need to work towards it. This is the beginning stage of learning anything new.

Until you don’t realize you don’t know something how can you even start learning? You have to empty your mind first to fill it. Here still are incompetent but you are at least conscious of that.

3. Conscious Competence

Now you are ready to put effort for learning. You start to look for the most efficient ways to learn.

Here I would suggest you to use the Feynman technique to learn anything new. This one I really found a great approach for learning anything.

What is the ‘Feynman Technique’ to learn?

This technique was named after the famous scientist Richard Feynman. In addition to being a great scientist, he was a fascinating teacher. In fact, one of his nicknames was ‘The Great Explainer’ because he was able to boil down incredibly complex concepts and put them in simple language.

It’s a simple four-step process-

  1. Take a piece of paper and write the name of the skill/concept you want to learn.
  2. Explain the concept to yourself and write it down (whatever comes to your mind). Draw diagrams, charts or whatever you find convenient to learn easily. This is like making your own notes.
  3. Introspect about your understanding of the subject. Identify the areas, which you haven’t understood properly and review them.
  4. The important part of this technique is to challenge yourself to make understand your learning to someone who is not an expert on that. Think about how can you explain your understanding to a child. Initially, you might think how is that possible to explain complex concepts to a child but with practice you can.

Take Einstein for example. You would agree with me that understanding the concept ‘Theory of Relativity’ is not an easy one.

But Einstein gave an amazing analogy to explain it simply. He said-

“When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.”

Now it’s easy to understand relativity right. So anything you learn, think about how can you explain it to others simply.

“A great explainer is a great learner”

I found a great video of Josh Kaufmann on learning anything new faster (in just 20 hours). You can see the video below-

4. Unconscious Competence

In the earlier stage (Conscious competence) you have to put effort, you have to think, make decisions to learn. In other words, you are aware of what you are doing. You are consciously doing everything.

But at this stage, after a lot of practice and training, you become skilled and now things happen effortlessly. You are unaware of the fact that you are even putting any effort.

You must have experienced this. Think about those times when you were reading an amazing book and you were so engrossed in the book that you were unaware of your surroundings. You felt like time just flew

. Or you were playing any musical instrument and you were so lost that fingers were coming automatically on the strings, you didn’t have to consciously put your fingers on the strings.

There are many instances like that you encounter frequently. This is known as ‘Flow State’, a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It’s a blissful state and to live a fulfilled life all of us should strive to experience more of such Flow state in all the areas of our life.

But there is a danger at this stage. Now that you know you are skilled at something, there is a great danger that you become overconfident and no longer want to consciously put any effort to improve. Your growth, learning might hit stagnancy. You will find many examples like that.

There is a famous quote by Bertrand Russell that says-

Becoming dead sure about everything is the danger at this stage. Do not fall in this ‘expert bias’ trap as described by David Robson in his book ‘The Intelligence Trap’.

5. Reflective Competence

If you can reach up to this stage of learning, you will achieve mastery over the subject you want to learn. Here, you are aware of your feelings, intuitions, and identify biases before they cause any harm. You reflect over your learnings and learn from your previous mistakes. You are aware of your shortcomings.

This reminds me of what Lao Tzu said-

This stage of learning is exactly the reflection of this quote.

See, I don’t believe that we are born to excel only in one particular thing. The biggest boon to born as a human is that our lives are not predetermined, unlike animals. We have the choice to explore our life as much as possible.

There are so many things to learn, to get excited about. Sometimes we just take it for granted that we are born on this beautiful planet as humans and we have the choice to learn so many things.

Explore your life as much as possible. That’s the best piece of advice from my side. As long as you are alive LIVE YOUR LIFE TO ITS FULLEST.

Every time I become hopeless, I remember the following quote and become excited again.

Death Quote

Have a learning week. Until next time.

Joy

Source:

  1. ‘The Intelligence Trap’ by David Robson
  2. Symphony of Science
Categories
Personal Growth

The ‘Relativity of Time’ and how it affects our daily lives

From last one year, if there is one question I have been asked most of the time, it’s this

How do you find time to do all these?

If you love to explore things, I am sure you have also heard such questions. Although, I don’t think at all that I am potentially doing many things. At the moment, I am a doctoral student, so a major chunk of my time I spend in a research laboratory.

Beside that yeah I do have multiple interests. I love to read and write. Love to call me a fitness enthusiast with a keen interest in running (ran 3 half marathons), and occasionally pursue web designing.

When I think about people in the Renaissance era (Leonardo da Vinci, William Harvey, Michelangelo, etc.) I literally believe it’s quite normal to pursue things which you love. That may be one, two, three, or even multiple things depends on your personality.

Having heard the above question multiple times, I thought

Have I changed a lot in the last 5 years?

When I recall those days (4-5 years back), I realized my interests have grown over the time and somehow I have managed to nurture them. Five years back my life was all about going to college, doing assignments, preparing for examinations, etc. Occasionally I used to read books, magazines but those were not a regular part of my life.

A few months back, when some of my friends asked me that they want to do things they love beside the professional job at the hand, I was like ‘yeah man go for it‘.

But then came the climax, my friends were like-‘that’s easy to say man but I don’t have time to do anything else‘.

Of course, I can not completely understand their situation because everyone’s life is unique and you cannot put yourself entirely in anyone else’s shoe.

However, today I firmly believe that most of our conception about time management or whatever we call it is entirely wrong. If you just think little deep, you will realize that everyone doesn’t perceive 24 hours in a day equally.

It’s like people still believe in a Newtonian way of time. Newton believed that time is absolute. One hour is one hour for everyone, whether you are in space or any other part of the universe.

It’s Albert Einstein in 1905 showed the world with his ‘special theory of relativity‘ that time is not absolute but relative. One hour is not the same for me and you. Different people perceive time in a distinct manner.

Let me give you an example.

Have you heard about ‘Twin Paradox’? Watch the video first

Now you know what ‘time dilation’ is and one hour is not same everywhere.

Now might argue in terms of physics, Einstein said either if you are moving in a very fast rocket (close to lights velocity) or travel near a black hole time slows down.

But how this alteration of time happen on our earth (where we don’t travel near a black hole or in a vehicle close to lights speed)? Why do people perceive time differently?

Time is one of the most enigmatic things for us. We can sense touch, temperature, pressure, pain for that we have receptors in our body. But we cannot sense time. There is no association between time and sensory-specific systems.

We can just measure time which is always moving in the forward direction. For that, we carry watches but we do not need similar devices to determine whether it is cold or whether a sound is loud or soft.

Our perception of time refers to subjective experience and depends on an internal clock (our biological clock). our brains have an inherent ability to process time through the functions of neuronal mechanisms and neurotransmitters.

Think about your childhood, when you were a child you had limitless time. You used to go to school, play with your friends, hung out with your family, friends and even then you had a lot of time. But now it always feels like a shortage of time. You never have enough time.

Why are you experiencing like, time is moving faster as you are aging?

In fact, even scientific studies have proved that time passes faster for older individuals. And there are two major reasons for that- Lack of experience and reduction in dopamine neurotransmission. Let’s discuss them separately

1. Lack of new experiences:

This one is pretty easy to understand right. Compare your 5 to10 year life span with 40 to 45 year of life span. When do you think you have experienced more number of newer things. Obviously, it’s between 5 to 10 years life span. you were a child without any biases, open to learn anything new, had more curiosity, enthusiasm.

But as you are becoming adult and then eventually older most of us live a repetitive lifewith almost no or very few new experiences. It takes a prolonged time to learn something new like reading books, playing guitar, playing tennis, living away from home. This has a strong impact on our memory.

We can vividly remember the beginning of each new experience that occurred to us. when we experience newer things we feel like time is slowing down. This may partly explain why a random day can seem longer for a child than an adult. Most external and internal experiences are new to children, and most experiences are repetitive for adults. So indulge yourself in new experiences, learn something new. Most importantly don’t make your life too repetitive if you want to experience more time.

2. Dopamine and neuropathways:

The ability of our internal clock to estimate the passage of time depends on both attention and memory. To determine the time necessary to perform a given task requires both concentration and memorization of a sequence of information.

You must have observed some people who can do a particular job really fast but for the other person, the same job requires a lot of time and effort. Why does that happen?

It’s because the concentration and memory of the first person are better than the second person for that job.

In humans, concentration depends on the function of dopamine neurotransmission in the basal ganglia and memory depends on acetylcholine neurotransmission in brain areas related to memory in the hippocampal-prefrontal cortex axis. You can read more about the human brain in one of my previous article here.

Dopamine (a hormone and a neurotransmitter) has a strong connection with one’s perception of time. Anything which can increase the function of dopamine can accelerate your perception of time.

Imagine you are at a party with all your friends, enjoying your time. In such scenarios, you will feel time passing pretty fast, while the feeling of sadness or depression (which decelerate dopamine transmission) slow down your perception of time.

The perception of time during a stressful or fearful situation also seems much longer than the actual time that passes. That’s why when you watch a horror movie, you feel like time is moving slowly.

All these suggest that if you are happy and in a state of contentment in life, you are more likely to accelerate your perception of time. While bitterness, anger, jealousy just do the opposite.

Do you still believe that you don’t have time in your life?

Then your priorities in life are in a haphazard state. If your priorities are right, you must be able to find time for doing things which matters to you.

I have another suggestion to get more out of your time. And that’s the ‘power of observation‘. You know ‘to have a look’ and ‘to observe’ are not the same right. Today our attention span has decreased to such an extent that we losing our ability to observe things.

Having read the biographies of people who were skilled in multiple things (like Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin) I can tell you that it’s their amazing ability to observe even micro things which helped them to become a multipotentialite.

If you become more mindful in your life, I am sure you don’t have to say again lines like ‘I don’t have time’.

It’s not necessary to have multiple interests. You may be good in one particular thing and want to go deep only in that subject. That’s perfectly OK.

The problem is not whether you are interested only in one subject or multiple subjects, both are great. The Problem arises when you love doing something but not finding time to pursue that.

“Everytime you are telling yourself that ‘I don’t have time’, you are limiting your potential”

If you are someone like me who has multiple interests then I am urging you to follow your heart and pursue your interests. You will be happier and fulfilled in your life. Time is not the problem. Remember time is relative, not absolute. If you plan correctly you can get more out of your time. Don’t limit your potential.

Just look around you there are people who instead of their busy schedule able to follow their multiple interests. There were people like Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Alexandar Graham Bell, Aristotle, Archimedes, and of course, there are a lot of modern day polymaths. All these people have proven that time is not a barrier between you and your interests.

In conclusion, I want you to remember six key points from this article-

  • Time is relative, not absolute. Everyone perceives time differently.
  • As you are getting older, you will feel like time is passing faster.
  • To prevent or reduce that, explore new experiences frequently, learn something new.
  • Whenever dopamine transmission in your brain will get high, you will accelerate your perception of time. So don’t work to become happy someday, be happy and work.
  • Having multiple interests is perfectly normal. there were and are a lot of successful people like that.
  • Set your priorities in the correct order. ‘I don’t have time’ is a wrong statement, ‘I am not interested’ is a correct statement.

Have a joyful week. Until next week.

Joy

Source:

  1. Quartz.com
  2. The conversation.com
  3. Time perception and age

Categories
Personal Growth Science Uncategorized

The Road to being creative

I have a question for you. What’s the most important resource that humans have? Without it, nothing new could ever happen.

Think about it… It’s creativity. Think for a moment, it’s because of creativity humans have come so far from jungles. We have progressed so much over the decades. Without creativity, we would repeat the same pattern again and again. And nothing new can ever happen then.

Now a lot of questions are floating on the mind. What is actually Creativity?              Where does it come from? Is it something only for a few gifted people or anyone can learn to be creative?

Ok, let’s address them one by one. In layman language                                                                     ‘ We understand Creativity as the ability to generate new ideas, new connections between different ideas and applying those to solve problems in any field or realm of our lives’.

Creativity is the greatest asset humankind have. It’s never a one-track answer to explain where does it come from. People have various explanations but I believe creativity comes from our need to survive and constantly improve with evolution. It’s to cope up with life’s uncertainty and be in control. It’s due to creative thinking we have made our survival so easy.

There is no doubt we have to think more creatively to progress with time. However, the biggest question is what’re the criteria for being creative? Can anyone become creative or it’s just a few people on the earth?  

Think about your childhood, when you were a small kid. Were you creative?                         Of course, Children’s are always creative although we may not notice it every time. But then what happens as we grow older, as we become an adult. Most of us start believing, creativity is a gift to a few people. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.                                                 Do you also think the same way?

Let’s see what our scientific studies say us. How to be creative?

There are two schools of thoughts on this. According to one group of people

To contribute creatively in any field, one must have detailed knowledge and skillsets in that particular field. The time and skills required to become master in any field are too great for any individual to become an expert at more than one field in one lifetime.            According to them, People who are polymaths (previous post on Polymaths) or multitalented are rare and gifted. Creativity arises from an intense focus on any single domain. In fact, for them learning more than one area is a distraction for creativity. In short, these people believe in-

                                                 “Jack of all trades, master of none”

There is another group of people who think, creativity is not limited to any single domain but it’s the transfer of knowledge, skill, and experience from one field to another. According to them-     

                  “The more Creative a person is, the more varied their interests are”

Confused about who is right. Ok, let’s look back to the history of some of most creative people on the earth and how they were.

We all know Charlie Chaplin as a great actor and director but he was also a professional dancer, musician, and photographer.                                                                                  Bertrand Russel, a world-class mathematician also won a Noble prize in literature for his writings.                                                                                                                                                    Linus Pauling won two Noble prizes, one for chemistry and another in peace for his efforts to ban on atmospheric nuclear testing.                                                                    Hannes Alfven wrote a bestselling science fiction novel called ‘The Great Computer’- the prototype of Matrix movies more than a decade before he won a Noble Prize in Physics. 

There were many more people like that. Of course, how can we forget Leonardo Da Vinci.

  Looking at above examples one group of people will say ‘Oh, they are gifted people who excelled in more than one field’.

  However, there are a greater number of people who although are skilled at more than one field but not known to the world for all their skills. They have not developed all their skills to the professional level. 

Take, for example, Albert Einstein. The whole world knows him for his intellectual ability to define the universe in terms of Physics.  But very few people probably know about his passion for music. And no, music was just not a hobby to him as you might think. In one of his interview, he said-                                                                                               “ If I were not a physicist, I would be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I get most joy in life out of music.”    

 His son Hans Einstien once said-                                                                                                         “Whenever he (Einstien) had come to an end of the road or in a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.”

Now you know music was not just a mere hobby to Einstien. He had pursued music throughout his life. Einstein even told once Shinichi Suzuki, the famous inventor of the Suzuki method for teaching music, that –                                                                                  “The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition. My parents had me study the violin from the time I was six. My new discovery is the result of musical perception.”

He himself once told that he never thought in logical symbols or mathematical equations but in images, feelings and musical architecture that have no domain-specific identities. 

This reminds me of another great mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan who said-            “A mathematical equation means nothing to me unless it expresses a thought of God”

Nobel Laureates in science from van’t Hoff to Peter Debye to Roald Hoffman (and many more) again and again said that ‘ having interests in diverse domains (whether it’s painting, poetry, writing or anything) shaped their scientific thinking. In another way, scientific thinking has played an important role in the thinking of many Nobel Laureates in Literature

In fact, the great minds never differentiate among disciplines. As Einstien once said- 

                                            ‘ The greatest scientists are artists as well’

What the discussion about polymaths shows us is knowledge and skills in various fields provides us a great platform for being creative. It increases our chance to think something different and new. But opportunity, persistence, environment and other factors determine whether multiple skills will actually manifest and we can pursue that professionally also. Some individuals find the opportunity and environment in multiple fields to apply their diverse abilities. There are many examples as discussed above also where people have many skills but known to the world for a particular skill. Just like Einstien, Max-Planck and Heisenberg were also talented musicians (pianist). However, they are known to most of us as only great scientists. But they never left their music avocation as Max-Planck also believed-     

                                  ” The creative scientist needs artistic imagination”

The whole point all these discussions is what’s the better way of being creative (Yes, we all are creative).    Which school of thought you belong to? If I have to answer this

Focus and attention is, of course, necessary for creating something new but at the same time, sticking to just one idea or area very early in life may not be a good idea. It can work as detrimental to creativity as it will make you think only in one dimension. The best way would be to explore and learn from different domains (which interests you) and connecting to all those knowledge and skills together with intensive focus. This way chances of creating something new in any field would increase by many folds as all the great minds have shown us. 

What characterizes creative individuals is their ability to find connections among apparently unrelated domains of activity- artist in a scientist, scientist in an artist etc.        Polymathy is not only possible but necessary for being a creative individual.

 We all are born as a creative, let’s revive that creativity.

steve-jobs-creativity-quote

 

Have a creative week. Until next week                                                                                                                                                                  -Joy

 

 

Source:

  1. Multiple giftedness in adults
  2. Creativity Science

 

Categories
Uncategorized

Why Being Polymath is the way to success

How many times in your life have you heard the line ‘ Focus on one area, give your everything to this and you will be successful’. I guess every one of us has heard this pretty common lines. There is a very famous line which says

                                  “Jack of all trades, master of none”

Which means you may be good at a few things but if you are not excellent or outstanding in one thing, your chances of being successful will reduce. Think about your own life, what are the skills you have? How many areas have you studied? Chances are that one, two or very few. We have grown up believing that we need to study one subject deeply and stick to that forever. 

However, if you see the lives of the most successful or I would say the most impactful people in the world they don’t fall in the ‘One area specialist’ category. Take anyone for example from Elon Musk, Steve jobs, Richard Feynman, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos to Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, A.P.J Abdul Kalam, Charles Darwin, Galileo and many more. If you look closely at the lives of these people you will find no one of them studied just one area. Wait, What’s going on here? If we all are being taught to specialize in just one area then why all of the successful personalities did not follow this. 

Something is wrong right!                                                                                                                   Even Scientific research today firmly believes that people who have wide interests are likely to have the creative impact. Have a look at this paper.

But what is the meaning of ‘Polymath‘? (you must have noticed in the headline)                   A ‘Polymath’ is someone who has knowledge of diverse fields and integrates them into one particular skill set. Many examples you will find in my previous posts from Johannes Gutenberg, Steve Jobs, Leonardo Da Vinci, modern entrepreneurs like Naveen Jain, Elon Musk etc. All of them had or have diverse interests and knowledge and they combined all the knowledge to produce something unique. There is a great story about Charles Darwin how he discovered ‘Theory of Evolution’. To solve the natures mystery he had to think like a biologist, geologists, naturalist all at once. He approached the problem from different angles. Take our beloved president A.P.J Abdul Kalam, how do you describe his specialization. Although an Aeronautical Engineer, you can see his life how diverse it was and the kind of knowledge he had about various fields.

So you want to be a Scientist. Study about Science of course but have time to read about history, business, literature or whatever interests you. Still pondering why to study all those. Remember what one of the greatest ‘Polymath’ Leonardo Da Vinci said

       c0438045065f670464e920fd3bd00c68

In fact in this modern era becoming a ‘Polymath’ is even more valuable and easy. Need justification. OK.                                                                                                                                      Things are changing most rapidly in this generation. What was precious yesterday becoming obsolete today. Now if you give all of your time and energy in just one particular skill set. What’s the guarantee that it will not become obsolete tomorrow? No guarantee right. You must know what’s trending now and what is the possible future. Imagine the scenario where someone is giving all his energy and time for becoming an excellent driver and tomorrow the driverless cars become famous. What will he do?        One must be aware of possible future like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Nanobot and many more. Having knowledge about more than one domain gives you access to know the broader and better picture of the world. It will make you much more valuable.

And it’s so easy to become a ‘Polymath’ today than ever before (if only you have interest). The world is connected all the time. You have access to almost all the knowledge humankind have acquired. There are many examples today where someone learns amazing stuff from home just by using the internet. There are Online learning platforms like Coursera, Udemy, edx which has courses about almost everything you want to learn. Masterclass, Khan Academy is another good platforms. Youtube is a great learning platform, which is completely free. Today a 13-year-old learning coding and developing best apps. 11-year-old learning about astronomy. Issac Newton said

                             “If I have seen further than others,                                                                                                                              it is by standing upon the shoulders of  giants”

Today we have more giants than ever.                 

So ask yourself an honest question ‘what are you willing to learn’? What interests you?      And what is stopping you from learning them? Is it the deep-rooted belief that we can’t be good at more than one things. You have got this one life, learn as much as you can.

Be grateful that you born in this era, your ancestors didn’t get this much chance to learn things so easily like today. 

robert_greene_mastery_the_future_belongs_to_those_who_learn_more_skills_and_combine_them
Robert Greene quote

Have a learning week. Until next time                                                                                                                                                                 -Joy

 

 

 

Source-                                                                                                                                                                  1. Michael Simmons on ‘People Who Have “Too Many Interests” Are More Likely                   To Be Successful According To Research’

 2. Hidden Talents