information rentention

Recently, I got flak for making a comment on a subject I had little formal education on. It was mostly well deserved I would say, but the way I retained that piece of information in my head is how I have survived in my career, as well as my life in general.

I have been developing myself to have the famous T shaped knowledge: expert in very few topics, shallow knowledge in a broad range of topics. For the second part, I bias towards learning things that are practically applicable. I also don't find it productive or efficient to retain every little detail, so instead I take a layered approach to what's important and what isn't . Often that looks like not knowing the why, but a lot of whats and sometimes hows. It also sometimes look like going from “A results in B doing C, which releases D” straight to just “A causes D”. Sometimes a generalization, sometimes an oversimplification. Sometimes a misrepresentation.

On the other end of the spectrum, I believe that being a good teacher is an intrinsic part of being knowledgeable. If you can't explain what you know properly, you have an unstructured understanding of the subject. When a person comes to you with a lot less knowledge than you, assume they have no context and infinite knowledge. Not everyone has the same context, and not everyone needs to know the details of what they know for what doesn't apply to their purpose of learning.

For both ends of the spectrum, it is essential to be kind and humble in the way we speak, the way we teach, the way we present. Because sometimes we will make mistakes, and sometimes we will find holes in our own knowledge. And we would want the other party to listen to and treat us in the same way, with patience, respect and kindness.

This is also a reminder to myself.

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