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!

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