Focused Learning: To Know a Lot About a Little

Here is a exerpt of an e-zine I subscribe to, Wing-tips Newsletter, by Richard Vegas:

There this guy is on the radio talking about a subject you are an expert in and you know the guy is full of bananas. He is talking to the whole city, giving them erroneous advice, maybe doing some people harm, and you think, how can this bozo say that?

Here is the situation. He’s trying to learn a little about a lot. Every time we try to learn a little about a lot, we are depending on luck to bail us out.

And that’s what our radio talk show host is doing. He tries to learn something about everything so he will appear informed, and make his listening audience happy, and never can become an expert in anything.

I only make this analogy because I hear it happen all the time. I’m certainly not picking on Radio talk show hosts. I only make illustrations in my articles to strike your thinking, not to criticize anyone.

The rest of it, he goes on to praise the virture of knowing a lot, about a little, in order to be “successful”. When you concentrate your thoughts/actions/attention/focus on one thing at a time, it can cut through it like a high-powered laser — makes sense. He also says that success is guaranteed if you choose the a lot about a little approach.

The “a lot about a little” approach guarantees you will be labeled an “expert”. This labelling can propel one in one’s career very effectively.

But in my experience, one thing I have found out is that knowing a little about a lot has its kicks too. For one thing, conversation is never one-sided. If I were an expert in technology, and I want to talk to you, and you are not technology inclined, how would the conversation go?

You:Hey, you heard about the plane crashing into World Trade Centre?
Me: Yeah. Saw it on the internet. Channelnewsasia.com sure has a great site. You know they use UNIX systems for their database-computing needs? I wonder why they don’t use VAX systems.
You: Erm…yeah. I wonder how everyone else is going to be affected by this.
Me: Yeah — I mean, the loss of computers must have been great. What a waste of technology!
You:(Leave)

Sometimes, knowing a little about a lot enables us to ask the right questions in conversations. We know a little, but do not claim to know a lot, and ask (sincerely) about what others are interested in or talk towards their interests if we already know. I would then, instead of talking about the waste of technology, ask you about how you’d think the people will be affected.

Besides, the world is so big… so many things to know; so much beauty is missed because we are too busy building up our professional lives (though it is important too, and not to be ignored). So, know a lot about a little, but don’t ignore the rest of the world!

Hell On Earth

Ever wondered where we went to when we died? Ever thought about reincarnation? Ever thought of Heaven and Hell? How about Paradise? Well, if you put them all together, you actually come up with something pretty interesting.

Reincarnation comes from Buddhist belief, while the concepts of Heaven and Hell come from largely Christian belief, Paradise from Islam.

How can we reincarnate, land back on Earth, and still go to Heaven or Paradise or Hell? Ever heard of “the word is flesh”, or “you are what you think”, or “the truth is what you believe”? Well, that’s just about it.

Buddhist Teachings

Reach enlightenment, and you transcend suffering. You are still the same person, going through the same things, but your mental perceptions of them will not be the same. In effect, you’ll be living Heaven on earth, or enjoying Paradise on earth.

Ah, but who knows?

My, oh my. Who knows where we go? We won’t know even if we do a million good deeds where we’ll go, but who really cares anyway? You’ve got this life, live it! And of course, help others enjoy it too! Remember, every action that is done in this life will be echoed in eternity, so watch what you do! In other words, receive the good, enjoy the good, and give out the good.

Right Wisdom and Property

In buddhist teachings, there is this term called right wisdom, which roughly means the ability to know that what is being perceived by the senses is not the same as what one percieves in the mind.

We have to learn to separate what is happening from what we think is happening. When you lose something you like and had (once possessed), you cry. But when you realise that it was never yours in the first place, you will also realise that you never lost anything. Nothing is ever yours except in the mind.

On Property

Property was a concept invented by man, and if one were to dig deeper into the study of property, you’ll realise that it’s far more than what you had thought it was. Here’s a quote from a book I got, attributed to “Theory of Property”:

If I were to answer the following question: What is slavery? and I should answer in one word, It is murder, my meaning would be understood at once.

No extended argument would be required to show that the power to take from a man his thought, his will, his personality, is a power of life and death and that to enslave a man is to kill him.

Why, then, to this other question: What is property? may I not likewise answer, It is theft, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second proposition being no other than a transformation of the first?

Capitalism is not as free from faults as the majority of people believe (or want to believe).

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking a term coined by Edward de. Bono for a thinking tool he devised. In most schools (in Singapore anyway) this is more often refered to, albeit incorrectly, as Brainstorming.

In lateral thinking, the aim is to come up with as many alternatives as possible, without any inhibitions. Even if the idea is apparently stupid, or unusable. Lateral thinking is so called because it forces us to think of alternatives, as compared to vertical thinking where we build on a single idea.

It is like a row of terrace houses as opposed to a block of apartments; in a row of houses, the foundation’s never the same, you don’t build on a single foundation (idea).

The reason this is important is because in thinking of a solution/alternative, we often pick the first adaquate one that comes to mind. It might even be considered a good one. But keep this in mind, the good is often the worst enemy of the best. When we pick the first acceptable solution, we refuse to think any further and we stick to that mediocore option.

Next time you are asked to brainstorm alternatives, do not just come up with a few “sensible” ones, but with dozens of ideas, ideas apparently silly or otherwise.

Answers that are impossible or even stupid at first sight will lead you to think outside of the box, causing provocative thoughts that will lead to insights.

Appearances Do Matter

This has always bothered me. What is it about appearances? Can the appearance of a man dictate how he is judged?

I thought it was just me, seeing how the world seems to codemn the superficiality of looks, I naturally assumed that everyone else was not like me. I thought nobody would actually be swayed by how a person looks, especially when it didn’t matter.

But apparantly there are a lot of people like me, most in fact. We can tell ourselves we don’t care for looks. But it cannot be denied… looks do play a part in how one judges others, and how one is judged.

There was research on this, whereby thousands of people took part in an experiment as jurors (this was in the United States). These people went in, the results of the cases were taken, tabulated, and the results were astonishing.

These people were first asked if they thought if looks would play the part in a jury decision, and most said no. The results were basically like this: those who “looked like a criminal”, were more likely to be found guilty, those who “appeared handsome and heroic” were less likely. The increase in the frequency of the former being declared guilty was 30 to 45 percent higher than the latter.

There have been more studies on this, some also on similar court trials, all have come up with similar findings. Looks do matter. If you look overly pretty, you look academically stupid; and if you have a high forehead and wear horned-rimmed glasses, you look smarter.

Appearances do matter.

Life’s Journey

I just lost a lot of my personal files…the CD I backed up my files on doesn’t work…and I just formatted my computer. Oh well, life’s life.

Here’s a story I found on one of my old CDs, which I came across while looking for some photos I lost in the format. It was written by me in the year 2001, in July…it’s pretty interesting to look back at something written so long ago by yourself. Here it is:

Life’s Journey

Another day’s passing, slowly as ever. I sit down, read my book, knowing that everyday is going to be the same. I expect nothing, so as to eliminate the possibilities of having disappointment in my great expectations.

When I was younger, I expected the world. I thought about how nice it’d be if I could change the world, for the better of course. Now, I sit down, and read. I have joined the other billions of people, who have become but statistics of this sorry world. How nice I thought growing up in this world would be. However, after graduation from school, where uniform and strict discipline was the norm, I expected freedom in adulthood.

What was adulthood? I thought it was the right to do anything you wanted. I was young then. Expecting much from my 18th birthday, I went out with a group of my friends and we got dead drunk at a great party. Thinking I still had it in me, I took to the wheel. Nothing would go wrong! I’m 18!

That night all I remember I was that I was at the wheel. Next thing I knew I was sitting on a bed in the hospital. I never touched another alcoholic drink.

I also expected to earn great money. However, due to the economic downturn, I could not get a proper job. I worked as a clerk for a while, but was promptly fired due to my ‘lack of respect’ for my superiors. Bah! I would get another job soon enough, I thought to myself. I did get a job, and as a administrator, after 3 years.

I earned pittance, and the amount I earned could not support the lavish lifestyle I prepared for when I was younger. Now 25, I expect nothing. The fear of disappointment turned me away from having expectations. I have been disappointed at this world, at this life! How I wish to die!

However, since young, I have been a coward. I thought I would grow out of it, I expected to grow out of it, I never did. I now think I never will. Life now just goes on. I go to work, I come home. Next day, work, then home. It just goes on like this. This cycle. I am now 25. If I work like this till I’m 60, what a life I’d have lived!

Living on the brink of bankruptcy, unable to pay certain month’s rent, no girl wants to marry or even associate with me. Alone, for the rest of my working life is what I think will be happening. Sad, sad world.

Could I ever become whole again? I have lost my soul, my mind and my body. Now just an empty shell, and a ugly one at that. I have no one, and am no one. Death awaits me, after the torture of life has done with me. This journey of life has been the worst journey I ever had.

Even though I cry at night, nobody knows. Nobody wants to know. I’m useless, worthless, and have no will anymore. The book Im reading, it’s supposed to change my life. I expected it to. However it has not! I cannot stand life’ disappointments no more. This is it. I have lived long enough.

** ** **

I have grown strong, I have shed my cowardice attitude. Now, I know what I have to do. And I’ll do it. The journey ends here. The torture ends here. Illusions of life end here. I… end here…

I don’t really remember why I wrote it. But at that time I was pretty upbeat about life actually, ironic as it may seem. I presume it must have been about when I finished reading Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations or F. Scot Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

In case you don’t know, those two books have the theme of unfulfilled expectations… something I have tons of experience in.

See also: Great Expectations, Great Disappointments

Life's Journey

I just lost a lot of my personal files…the CD I backed up my files on doesn’t work…and I just formatted my computer. Oh well, life’s life.

Here’s a story I found on one of my old CDs, which I came across while looking for some photos I lost in the format. It was written by me in the year 2001, in July…it’s pretty interesting to look back at something written so long ago by yourself. Here it is:

Life’s Journey

Another day’s passing, slowly as ever. I sit down, read my book, knowing that everyday is going to be the same. I expect nothing, so as to eliminate the possibilities of having disappointment in my great expectations.

When I was younger, I expected the world. I thought about how nice it’d be if I could change the world, for the better of course. Now, I sit down, and read. I have joined the other billions of people, who have become but statistics of this sorry world. How nice I thought growing up in this world would be. However, after graduation from school, where uniform and strict discipline was the norm, I expected freedom in adulthood.

What was adulthood? I thought it was the right to do anything you wanted. I was young then. Expecting much from my 18th birthday, I went out with a group of my friends and we got dead drunk at a great party. Thinking I still had it in me, I took to the wheel. Nothing would go wrong! I’m 18!

That night all I remember I was that I was at the wheel. Next thing I knew I was sitting on a bed in the hospital. I never touched another alcoholic drink.

I also expected to earn great money. However, due to the economic downturn, I could not get a proper job. I worked as a clerk for a while, but was promptly fired due to my ‘lack of respect’ for my superiors. Bah! I would get another job soon enough, I thought to myself. I did get a job, and as a administrator, after 3 years.

I earned pittance, and the amount I earned could not support the lavish lifestyle I prepared for when I was younger. Now 25, I expect nothing. The fear of disappointment turned me away from having expectations. I have been disappointed at this world, at this life! How I wish to die!

However, since young, I have been a coward. I thought I would grow out of it, I expected to grow out of it, I never did. I now think I never will. Life now just goes on. I go to work, I come home. Next day, work, then home. It just goes on like this. This cycle. I am now 25. If I work like this till I’m 60, what a life I’d have lived!

Living on the brink of bankruptcy, unable to pay certain month’s rent, no girl wants to marry or even associate with me. Alone, for the rest of my working life is what I think will be happening. Sad, sad world.

Could I ever become whole again? I have lost my soul, my mind and my body. Now just an empty shell, and a ugly one at that. I have no one, and am no one. Death awaits me, after the torture of life has done with me. This journey of life has been the worst journey I ever had.

Even though I cry at night, nobody knows. Nobody wants to know. I’m useless, worthless, and have no will anymore. The book Im reading, it’s supposed to change my life. I expected it to. However it has not! I cannot stand life’ disappointments no more. This is it. I have lived long enough.

** ** **

I have grown strong, I have shed my cowardice attitude. Now, I know what I have to do. And I’ll do it. The journey ends here. The torture ends here. Illusions of life end here. I… end here…

I don’t really remember why I wrote it. But at that time I was pretty upbeat about life actually, ironic as it may seem. I presume it must have been about when I finished reading Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations or F. Scot Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

In case you don’t know, those two books have the theme of unfulfilled expectations… something I have tons of experience in.

See also: Great Expectations, Great Disappointments