July 17, 2020

I’m obsessed with self-growth. I believe this is one of the fundamental things that makes life worth enjoying, and I’ve seen it clearly in my own life. When I am struggling, learning and achieving - those happy endorphins rush through my body. If I go a few days without challenging myself and learning something new - those same endorphins abandon me in the desert.

The main issue, as always, is time. With a full time job, a startup, and several side projects running, this is the number one limiting factor. Time will always be scarce so it comes down to allocation and prioritisation. Due to having a broad interest I end up spending a little bit of time on a lot of things. My current thinking is that this is still a net good - I get an understanding of several different domains, just deep enough to be meaningful. These patterns can then be matched between problems and domains which creates a lot of value. The issue is that I never become good enough to do any “serious” work - it’s that difference between mid-level understanding and very senior or expert level. You’re good enough to get most things done, but the truly difficult problems are far beyond your reach.

I think this goes back to the Pareto principle - by allocating 20% of the required time to learn something deeply, you can get 80% of the value. Granted, that final 20% is the difference between an average Joe and an expert but by getting to this level across many different subjects you become pretty handy all round.

One of the biggest issues I have with shallow learning, however, is that a lot of the joy of creation and problem solving comes from a deep understanding of something. When you are in the depths of a problem in a very specific domain and you finally comes across that edge case or logical error or race condition and fix it - it feels incredible. It’s like training hours every day for boxing, six days a week and having one or two matches every year. Those matches are what you train for, they’re your time to shine.

My general approach to learning is as follows: go shallow across as many subjects as you want. If you think something is interesting, investigate further. Repeat and keep repeating. Stop when you lose interest and dig deeper when you don’t. I believe this will land up with a shallow understanding of many topics and skills across many different domains, with a handful of very deep knowledge and skillsets. This, to me, is the ideal - a kind of modern day renaissance man.

I’ll finish the post off with a current list of interests of mine. These cover the main topics I’m interested in, and I switch between them often. I try to commit at least thirty minutes per day to learning, hopefully getting in an hour or more. On the weekends I aim for a few hours a day. For perspective, I hope to get through this list within the next four to six months - there’s no rush at all. There will also undoubtedly be items added to this list during that time.

Business

Software

  • Vue Mastery. Great courses on learning a great language. Big fan of the simplicity and approach of Vue.
  • SwiftUI from DesignCode. I’ve been interested in mobile applications for some time, and have read how easy and intuitive it is building in this language, so decided to give this course a shot.
  • The Go Programming Language. This is on the re-read list, and will be followed up by recently released books.
  • I’ll be finding a course that dives deeply in to Go. This is one of my “expert” focal areas, where I am happy to spend much more time than on my other interests.

Economics

  • When Money Destroys Nations. A journey through the hyperinflation that happened in Zimbabwe, with some guidance for other money-printing nations. Particularly interesting now with governments printing money to prop economies up due to COVID.
  • Radical Uncertainty. King’s previous book was so, so good. Looking forward to getting through his latest.

Culture