Addicted to Learning

Should you kick a habit that is good for you?

Addicted to Learning

I consume over 30 hours of audio content each week, 90% of which is educational. My most used app is Audible. Most most used piece of technology, my headphones. If I am not interacting with my family, or friends, I am listening to something educational. I love cleaning the floors, watering the garden, scrubbing the toilets… why? Because I get to sneak in 30–40 more minutes of a great audiobook or podcast. This is a problem.

A problem?

Yes. I get anxious when I forget my headphones at home. Knowing that I need to face my 40 minute commute without learning something feels like a waste.

I have confessed this addiction to friends and they have given me a look that can only be described as, “Are you fucking kidding me?”. Shut up Kent. They wish they enjoyed Audiobooks and non-fiction as much as I do. They wish that they too, could consume and integrate 2–3 books / week.

There in lies the rub, integration.

The difference between knowledge and wisdom is that knowledge is knowing a thing, and wisdom is actually doing the thing. The problem is that we have a mismatch of consume and integration. We gain knowledge fast but with little wisdom. For me, it’s due to my lack of time between books. Once you have read a lot of non-fiction, you realize that each book only contains 2–3 new ideas, and of those, one of them is hopefully good enough to justify the time spent reading. You won’t read as many books as you think, so choosing them wisely is a skill. However, why read a book, if you are not going to integrate the knowledge and build it into wisdom? We need a system for this, I need a system for this.

A thought experiment.

Spend Monday and Tuesday commutes not listening to anything, I get anxiety even writing those words.

What to do instead? Think with a purpose.

Thinking has received a bad wrap thanks to meditation and Eckhart Tolle. I spend more time trying not to think, than to think explicitly, however, my most recent read, Deep Work has surfaced some ideas I want to explore. These ideas are:

  1. Carving out time to do focused, distraction free, productive work
  2. Carving out time to think with a goal.

Pick a problem that you have in life, and think through it in a focused way without paper, or a whiteboard, or a terminal, or a text editor. Engage the mind’s eye and stay with the problem for a set amount of time. According to Cal, many greats, Einstein, Yung, Gates, Jobs used this strategy on a daily basis to great effect. I will hopefully find similar benefits.

This morning, if you see me on the streets of Toronto with my headphones on, please stop and give me a swift kick in the nuts. I will report back in a month with my learnings.