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How to gain knowledge

When we want to gain knowledge about some field, the first thing we do is study it by probably picking up a book, a video course, audio material or some other kind of presentation. We can gain knowledge through all these means but there are certain techniques that might not be obvious that can enable us to gain solid knowledge, the kind we can pass to another.

There are several techniques to studying that you may have come across like note taking etc. This is not a post about notetaking and I will be as brief as possible in what I have to say.

When you want to gain knowledge about a field the first step is to collect as much information about that field as possible. Well, with the internet there is an almost inexhaustible source of information out there that might confuse and scare you but the technique I will advice here is very simple and will aid to clear out most of that confusion.

Just get about 3 books about the item that interests you. Start with some Google search or go to Amazon. Just pick 3 books on that topic that interests you. I said pick 3 because this is the method I use personally and I will not recommend a technique I have not tried and tested no matter how appealing it may sound.

Apart from books, I will also recommend getting one or two video lectures or at most 3 from different sources. After you have gotten these preparatory materials, read the books one of after the other. You could take notes or not but just read through the books first. You are not required to solve the problems in the exercise section in the first read. The writer of the book has knowledge of the material they want you to study but they have no idea about your mental capability. If you are an extremely smart person then there is no need reading this post except you want to just audit my method but if you are of average intelligence like me, then it might be difficult to solve the problems in the exercises until you are a bit familiar with the field.

Just read through the books in sequence, you could also be watching the lectures simultaneously and going through those in-lecture quizzes without judging yourself too much if you get the wrong answer.

I am not personally a note taker because I study to the point where I have a full view of the information such that I can teach it to someone else without making reference. Notetaking is good if you are preparing for examination and since that is not the main objective I usually don't take notes. I want to know things to be able to create things, solve problems and of course teach others.

After reading through the books and the lectures you might have gained a kind of view of the whole field. Then I advise you to start from the earlier book and course. Start over again in the second iteration. If you focused on reading books first before watching the video courses, this second iteration will come after you have gone through the video courses. Keep it at 3 books and 3 courses so that you are not slogging along for too long and you can finish on time.

You cannot gain a wide view of a topic from studying only one material, no matter how deeply you study. A book is the opinion of the authors and as accurate as it might be it will not give you the full view of the field. Get materials from multiple sources.

On the second iteration, you can also read the exercises and attempt to answer them but don't judge yourself too harshly if you cannot answer most of the questions. You are still building your background knowledge which is the only true knowledge you can utilize in solving real problems.

No matter how well you do on exercises, it still does not guarantee your success in applying your knowledge in a wider context.

After your second iteration, it is time for your third. After your third iteration, you be well versed in your topic but it doesn't mean you are a master yet. Mastery takes time and will happen in plateaus of understanding but after completing the third iteration you will be able to take on the many real-world tasks requiring knowledge of the field of study you engaged in even if you are not able to answer all the exercises correctly.

You should continue expanding your knowledge of the field by exploring other books, course materials and associated fields that are close to your primary field of specialization. There are many nuggets of knowledge in fields where we might least expect them.

Don't judge yourself too harshly while studying, the more fun you make studying the more knowledge you can hope to obtain.

Thanks for reading up to this point!


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