As humans, we are pretty good at consuming. In fact, we are downright fucking champions. If medals were awarded for consuming, we’d be right up there on the podium with… I don’t know, the black hole – consumer and destroyer of all known matter in the universe.
But unfortunately, no-one is handing out medals for being good little consumers. Truth is, our rabid consumption may not be the best thing ever (shocking I know).
Now it’s obviously not doing wonders for the environment, and capitalism has a few things to answer for, but that’s not the focus of this post.
No, I’m talking about learning and self development.
I.E. our tendency to devour book after book in a speed reading orgy, priding ourselves on getting to the next book as if someone were sitting there with a timer.
Here is the issue: when we consume too much too rapidly, we don’t really learn.
FROM RABID CONSUMPTION TO REFLECTION
“From Rusticus…I learned to read carefully and not to be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole, and not to agree too quickly with those who have a lot to say about something” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Until recently I simply read a book and that was it. Of course, I learned from them, but on reflection, I missed a great deal of wisdom.
Why? Because I didn’t stop to reflect.
I would power through a book and once I’d finished it, I’d move on to the next one. The ideas I’d gained from it would float around in my head, bouncing around my short term memory before eventually dissipating into vapour.
Occasionally, some would take root and embed in my memory, but much wisdom was lost forever.
That has now changed.
PASSIVE TO ACTIVE READING
“the sentences you read that make you look up for a minute, sometimes you don’t understand their full potential until much later” – a friend of mine
After reading a great article by Ryan Holiday, I was struck by the simple truth…
If you want to learn more, take notes when you read. Don’t just consume, study. Take notes in the margins, underline passages and write your own thoughts down.
When I say write them down I mean that literally. In a physical notebook. Pen and paper.
Since doing this, I’ve seen a massive difference.
I am remembering more, internalising concepts and now have a notebook full of insights and wisdom.
But that book is not just a place for notes from books. It is a place to consolidate all thoughts, insights and knowledge you encounter. Whether that’s from a podcast, a movie, a cab driver or thoughts of your own, write that shit down.
You know all those times where you have said “I should write that down” and you haven’t? What happened to that thought? Exactly.
Could you replace this process by using Evernote or some other digital solution…? No.
WHY PHYSICAL TRUMPS DIGITAL
OK, well sure you can do whatever you want. But here’s why I feel physical pen and pad is better for this kind of thing.
1) We value more what we put effort into
2) We value more that which isn’t easily replaceable
Digital solutions like Evernote are great because they are convenient. But learning isn’t always about things being easy. Easy isn’t always the goal.
Consider this… in the past two years I’ve read almost exclusively on Kindle. I was thrilled to have the highlight feature, because now I could easily highlight all of the great stuff in the books I read. I highlighted like a meth’d up uni student in a late night cram session. And you know what I did with all that great stuff?
Highlighting things on the Kindle was easy. Too easy. I would read something and think “that’s cool, I should remember that” and I would highlight it and move on.
Its convenience was its downfall.
The second reason a physical notebook is better is that… if you lose it, it’s gone. Woah, hold up… that’s an advantage??
Yes. Because it means you value that notebook. When everything is backed up in the cloud and accessible from anywhere, we become complacent with its value.
But a notebook of wisdom… well it is something irreplaceable in a digital world.
And I think there is something beautiful about that.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY
ACTION: buy a notebook and start using it to build your personal repository of wisdom.
I like the unlined A5 softcover Moleskin. It’s a great size and the lack of lines gives you freedom to do diagrams and change font size.
Don’t just use a shitty exercise book. Really. This isn’t something to write your shopping list and to dos, it’s a place to collect life’s wisdom. Spring a little extra and get a book you will feel proud of.
That’s it.. simple.
Buy the notebook, and start putting that wisdom in it.
Here’s a quote you can start with…
“None of us have much time. And you act as if things were eternal – the way you fear and long for them. Before long, darkness. And whoever buries you mourned in their turn”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations