| 1055 words

Something I forgot to mention in my last post was that I hit the 50th one out of 1000. That's 5% done I think. It's worth celebration, but I'll do a proper retrospective and reflection when I hit 100. It's just a rounder number.

Something I've been thinking about is learning. I like learning things. In fact I really like learning things. It's by far one of my favorite pasttimes, and it also happens to be one of the best ways to connect with people in my opinion. It's super fun both to do by myself and to do in a group. Yet it sees, as far as I can tell, most people don't feel the same way.

We theoretically live in a golden age of learning. All of humanity's collective knowledge is literally at your fingertips. It's not locked away in great libraries; it's entirely accessible from a multitude of devices, one of which you carry in your pocket every day that can access anything at any time. There is recordings of world class instruction and pdfs of world class textbook on almost any advanced topic available for free; materials that are so high quality that even the richest people a century ago might not have access to better texts.

On that note, did you know that you can watch almost any full MIT course online, for free, whenever you want?

If all that is too much for you, we have even invented human like computers, that can converse with you and give an introduction in just about any topic ever in plain english. That is literally something that science fiction writers used to dream about - if you told someone about it 20 years ago you'd they'd probably think you're joking. Of course this all has the big caveat that this mainly goes for theoretical knowledge. If you want to learn to put together a car or do brain surgery this may be less applicable, yet I find you can still get surprisingly far even in practical subjects.

Times have never been better for fans of learning, who have every resource they'd need at their fingertips, and yet I know many people who don't quite take advantage of it. Not that they're not interested in learning, but more like they kind of want to learn something but don't know where to get started or how to go about things.

Of course I can understand an unfamiliarity with using Google or accessing these resources. Some of them are quite obscure. I can also understand preferring different types of instruction. Some people just don't learn well from a computer screen and need a little bit more to keep them focused. I do think this is something that can be improved for those who truly hunger for knowledge; after all before the printing press people absorbed whatever meager scraps of wisdom they could from what few, treasured books they could find without complaint. However, there are those who profess a desire to learn and a willingness to act, but do not reach out and grab the knowledge that they could.

A question my peers sometimes asked while I was in university was whether it was all worth it. After all, you could theoretically learn everything they teach from the multitude of online resources and textbooks. You could skip having to learn the boring or irrelevant stuff you're forced to learn in university. You could even, with a bit of work, access the high quality lectures and professors that a university provides. They don't check at the door if you're a student and many class schedules are often posted online.

Aside from a discussion of credentials or grades I think the biggest conclusion some people had is that the most valuable part of a university education is the structure it provides. The fact that you pay a huge sum of money, and then you're strongly incentivized to go to classes 5 days a week and required to take exams and tests. Not to mention, being surrounded by people in the same boat certainly helps motivate you to not fall behind and gives you an extra resource.

I find a lot of different classes and workshops you sign up for are similar. Even if the knowledge they provide isn't anything exceptional, you pay for the structure, to have a place to go and people to go with to force you to try and get something into your head. And yet, I've learned quite a lot at home, by myself. I quite enjoy it in fact. Maybe it's not for everyone but there is a key insight here.

If you can identify what the problem is, which in this case is theoretically a lack of structure, then that's the first step to figuring out a solution. And they key part is that I think a lack of structure can be fixed. Not by paying money to some business that will require you to come in 3 days a week but rather by yourself. Learning to give yourself the structure you need to accomplish things might be one of the harder topics to master, but it can be done. And once it's mastered it makes almost everything else much easier.

There are all sorts of strategies to provide structure, and different options work for different people. Some of the most popular ways involve putting up walls around you until you do what needs to be done - disabling all your social media or removing all distractions. Personally, I find boredom to be an incredibly effective motivator. When I want to do something specific, I know I'll never do it if I'm playing video games for 5 hours a day or watching tons of TV. But on a quiet day where I long for interaction, doing something I've been putting off sounds like a really fun idea for some reason.

Anyway I'm not describing it very well and different methods will work for everyone. The main idea is that you can become better at structuring your life the way you want, and once you do that everything else becomes easier. hopefully.