You Can Use Everything – Joseph Oliver
You never learn something you cannot use. You just have not figured out where they can be used yet. This is called the knowledge transfer or learning transfer problem. It is a complex problem — learning is very context-dependent. Can kids who learn in a classroom transfer that knowledge into action elsewhere? The research says: it depends.
Part of my reasoning behind telling people they should read everything is that the more you learn, the more you can use what you learn. Isn’t that the only way learning is valuable?
Here is a meta-analogy: Transfer itself is like an analogy.
Think of a story. You have an introduction, a conflict, the story progresses into a climax, and finally, a resolution. As a picture, it might look like the chart below.
Now, imagine an airplane flight in the same visual format.
In virtually every subject you can think of, there are principles present that will transfer to different subjects with the same value. It is like an infinite puzzle. The trick is putting the pieces together.
You can often find solutions that are not clear within the context in which the problem arose by looking in other disciplines. Many giant leaps forward in technology and science have come from people outside of that field. Like the saying goes, “you cannot solve a problem because you are too close to it.”
Let me bring it home with an example of knowledge transfer in my own personal development.
I am not interested in economics; it is technical and complex to me. I still thought I should know the basics since I am in business and I was sure I could learn something useful. I watch Ray Dalio’s video How the Economic Machine Works.
Dalio explains credit in basic terms — we purchase something, it is paid for, but we have not paid for it yet. We pay for it later.
A light bulb went on.
You mean to tell me when I use a credit card (even if I have the cash to cover the purchase), I have to pay for the item twice? It seems fairly obvious.
When I charge an item to my credit card, then I have to pay off my card. The way I see it, I have to pay for my purchases twice, not in dollars, but in time.
I stopped using credit immediately. Not only are my finances much easier to manage from a cash flow perspective, but I am saving a ton of time by not paying for things twice. One could argue it is a small amount of time — but everything is cumulative.
The story does not end there.
I like to make lists of things that I need or want to do. Suddenly, I saw this as a credit problem. If I put something on a list, it is like charging it to my credit card. I now have to go back and do it (pay for it) later. Tasks pile up. Suddenly I am in “time debt.”
Immediately, I changed how I managed my time. When something needs to be done, I do it now. If it is complex, I outline what needs to be done and take the first step now.
One principle from economics simplified my finances and revolutionized the management of my time, which boosted my personal and professional productivity. By seeking to learn things outside of my immediate interests often, I learn things that I can transfer to my immediate interested.
I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly valuable this principle is to grasp.
My challenge to you: Pick a subject that is unrelated to your career or main interests. Learn about the new interest and try and imagine that everything you read could be related to your existing knowledge — play with it and experiment. There are connections everywhere and one might change your entire life.