When to followthrough, and when to jump

Navigating the complex field of when to followthrough on something, when to jump ship to something new, and why you need to do both to learn.

Growing up I used to be a bit of a collector, I would follow things through to the end, simply because I felt I needed to. In a time before SMS could easily be backed up, I started writing down my messages. But instead of writing down the ones most important to me, I’d write down everything, even spam. I would log everything I touched.

I figured it would come in handy one day, all that data. More to the point, I couldn’t help myself. This had it’s ups and downs – I could tell you how many time’s I’d messaged my ex, but it took a lot of time out of my day for not much return.

Over time I tried to reassess. Just like most people are happy to only read the summary on the wikipedia page, or own the gym membership without going, I started skipping over things a little more quickly. Aiming subconsciously for something more along the lines of the Pareto principle, I tried to learn 80% of something in the first 20% of time. I tried jumping between things quickly – different cities, different jobs. I learnt a lot about a wide number of things, which has already come in very handy, but I forgot that in that final 20% is almost all of what you really have to show for something. The output.

That final 20% has all the hard problems that teach you the universal values. It has all the building and tinkering and making that really tests how well you assemble all your knowledge together into something new you can show the rest of the world.

So while it’s exceptionally useful to have a wide knowledge, you really do need to go deep in a few areas, in order to find personal satisfaction and to make a difference. What I didn’t know back when I collected everything, was that you don’t have enough time to go deep in everything – you really have to pick.

Jump around for 20% of the time, and across 80% of the topics, but for 80% of your time, really knuckle down and produce things. It’s this followthrough that gets you creating, and it’s only by creating and discussing that you get an idea of where to dive deep into next. So like evolution, jump around and stretch out wide then pick the best and followthrough, stretch out wide then pick the best. Repeat.

It sounds like common knowledge, but diving deep and actually outputting something, not just learning by consuming is something I have to actively focus on doing.

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