Depth Over Width: My Summer Challenge

challenge

The more accessible and abundant information becomes, the less deep we dig into it. During the last few weeks, I was overwhelmed with final exams and projects. Naturally, preparing for the tests, I was reading a lot. Yet I found myself struggling to manage to read a bunch of engrossing articles that I would encounter when checking personalized news feed in Flipboard profile, for instance.  All these pieces of information that I was desperately trying to internalize appeared really insightful, but all shared a single characteristic: shallowness. By shallow I do not mean superficial and not thought-provoking enough. What I mean is that skimming random articles, taking various MOOCs or binge-watching educational videos and jumping from one subject to another does not allow one to cultivate profound and solid knowledge in any of these fields. We gain some insights, learn some facts, briefly think about it and that’s it. We do not try to make deep and meaningful connections and come up with original ideas. We do not understand these fields as comprehensively as needed for contributing to that field.

Of course, the variety and width of information might make one more well-aware of the surrounding world, trends, tendencies. It might be useful in terms of giving one a chance to take on different perspectives, be more of a well-rounded person and cultivate an ability to see the big picture. However, the overwhelming amount of such unstructured information brings about a learning paralysis. Concentrating too much on this kind of materials we are threatened to end up knowing little about everything, instead of gaining deep understanding and mastery in one, or a couple of fields, and being able to apply this knowledge to create value. This threat is particularly severe for curious minds like me who enjoy learning things just for the sake of fulfilling our interests and answering our questions, rather than for applying this knowledge practically.

Not only did I find myself constantly seeking for new sources of information and ideas, I also experienced exhaustion, burnout and anxiety. Headaches would constantly accompany me. My ability to efficiently process this information and think critically about it plummeted. Fortunately, I did manage to pause and focus, thus, finished the semester with more than satisfying results and solid knowledge. However, these few weeks served an alert that it is time to review my habits and try to concentrate on quality and depth rather than quantity and variety.

Can one find a better time than summer to create new habits and make them fun?

So, I’ve decided to take a challenge. During the upcoming three months, I will try to master the fields in which I already have elementary or intermediate knowledge. I will neither start learning something from scratch, nor will I try to read every single article with a captivating header. I won’t try to finish 6-week MOOCs in a couple of days (that’s what I usually do). Instead, I will cultivate mastery in all the fields that I’ve studied superficially. I will capitalize on my strengths and make them my competitive advantage. In this era of digital culture and information overload, I will take the challenge to filter the noise of the information and practice clear thinking based on profound and deep knowledge. I’ve only taken a few real steps yet but the ice is broken. I’ll make it!

Wish me good luck and I challenge you to do the same!

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