We cannot hope to grasp the inherent joy and beauty of learning nor lead a life of serious accomplishment if we only skim the surfaces of subjects and acquaint ourselves with thin layers of knowledge. In order to excel, our approach to learning must emphasize depth over breadth. We have to resist the attraction to superficial stimulation that our media-driven society cultivates. The alternative is to dive deeply into small pools of information in order to explore and experience the operating principles of whatever we are learning. Once we grasp the essence of our subject through focused study of core principles, we can build on nuanced insights and, eventually, see a much bigger picture. The essence of this approach is to study the micro in order to learn what makes the macro tick.
In Josh’s Words
The learning principle is to plunge into the detailed mystery of the micro in order to understand what makes the macro tick. Our obstacle is that we live in an attention-deficit culture. We are bombarded with more and more information on television, radio, cell phones, video games, the Internet… When nothing exciting is going on, we might get bored, distracted, separated from the moment. So we look for new entertainment, surf channels, flip through magazines. If caught in these rhythms, we are like tiny current-bound surface fish, floating along a two-dimensional world without any sense for the gorgeous abyss below. When these societally induced tendencies translate into the learning process, they have devastating effect.
Further reading: Chapter 11: Making Smaller Circles
From THE ART OF LEARNING by Josh Waitzkin. Copyright © 2007 by Josh Waitzkin LLC.
Reprinted by permission of Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc