Learn adjacent topics

When picking out a topic to learn, I think it makes a ton of sense to learn adjacent topics to what we already know, i.e. things that have moderate degree of overlap to our existing knowledge base.

I think a moderate degree of overlap is necessary. If there's too much overlap, there's little expansion of the mind that happens when we learn a new thing. If there's too little overlap, there's too big of an entry barrier into learning that new thing. Having a moderate degree of overlap helps.

Operate outside your pay grade

I have heard before rumblings that one shouldn't deliver more value than what we're paid for. Grumbles that sound like, "It's just a job", or, "The company won't take care of you."

As a matter of career advice I would give to someone else, though, I think operating outside our pay grade is what we ought to be doing.

Operating outside our pay grade means both going above what we are paid to do, to get a better/higher contextual view of what we're doing, and moving sideways to do adjacent things beyond our role. (That is where "above and beyond" comes from, I guess.)

What does "operating outside of our paygrade" mean? I think the following:

  1. Taking projects from conception to completion, so that you can build that portfolio of stuff done. (see: Build a project portfolio)
  2. Mastering something rare and valuable.
  3. Constantly cross-training (see: The importance of cross-training) to learn adjacent skills (see: Learn adjacent topics) and complementary ones.

So operating outside of our paygrade really means mastering adjacent skills in pursuit of being able to own a project end-to-end.

Learn like Feynman

Richard Feynman was a legendary teacher. The Feynman Method is one of his lasting legacies.

Thanks to Farnam Street's blog, we have a very succinct summary:

  1. Choose a concept you want to learn about
  2. Pretend you are teaching it to a student in grade 6
  3. Identify gaps in your explanation; Go back to the source material, to better understand it.
  4. Review and simplify (optional)

On that first step, I happen to believe that learning topics adjacent to what you already know is better than learning arbitrary topics (see: Learn adjacent topics).

Learn how to learn fast

How do we learn how to learn fast?

I can mostly only speak for myself, and even then, I know I'm not the fastest learner. But some principles come to mind, which appear to have been battle-tested.

  1. The first is to Build a project portfolio.
  2. The second is to Learn like Feynman.
  3. The third is to Learn adjacent topics, rather than distant ones.