Addicted to Learning

Am I addicted to learning? Perhaps it isn't the learning itself, but rather the outcome of learning. I meticulously track my progress in hopes to determine if I am making the best use of my time. How many hours have I worked? How much high quality leisure have I done this week? How many books have I read, and which books do I want to read again? How many courses and books have I bought, but haven't even started? But I need to keep going. I need to keep learning. I need to keep doing. I need to keep adapting.

And so it goes and repeats, even to the point where I feel I'm still behind. Still haven't learned statistics. Still haven't touched linear algebra. Still haven't reviewed calculus. Still haven't practiced coding R. How will I ever learn about machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence? Oh, but Bayesian statistics seems so interesting, and now there's a thing called causal inference. I wonder if I can read about that? Wait, this book on cybersecurity was really interesting. Shouldn't I learn a bit of that to make sure I protect myself online? And then there's social engineering, which ties into psychology. I bought those books on cognitive behavioral therapy a while ago that I haven't read yet. Wouldn't it be great to get some kind of certification? Maybe REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy) is better, but I haven't read Albert Ellis' book yet. I really should read that book by Donald Robertson which ties in CBT, REBT, and Stoicism, which reminds me, I haven't finished Ryan Holiday's "Lives of the Stoics" yet, but at least I started on his Stoicism 101 course. I still should read the classic texts from Epictetus (Discourses) and Seneca (Letters from a Stoic) that I purchased a while ago. Speaking of classics, I still have the Divine Comedy that bought years ago and haven't touched. I wonder what happens after Inferno. Wouldn't understanding the classic stories of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid enrich my life too? But I don't have time for that because I need to stay up to date on my coaching. Still need to watch more of those BWF coaching workshops on YouTube. Still have to go through the Language of Coaching, Building the Elite, and Second Wind express. Still need to review my old coaching notes, the BioForce Conditioning Certification, and Recover to Win courses and find ways to augment them into my current coaching context. I should also write more too, maybe I'll just draft a new blog post...

So here I am now. Month after month, I find that I'm no closer than I was to certain goals. Something else always gets in the way. I've even tried to create a table where I could rank my current interests (round robin style) so I can choose what to focus on. But in the end, I think I default to the easiest things (hey, isn't there a new book about that by Greg McKeown, author of "Essentialism"?). As much as I want to spend my down time productively, I've set myself up for failure with such a massive list of options to choose from. I end up playing video games instead so I don't have to think about it, and that's a beast in itself. Fortunately, I don't allow myself to play online or to play games that are open ended. Games must have some story element and they have to be able to be finished, because it creates an end point where I can stop. Open ended games are too addictive. For me, the best thing to do is not to start.

Speaking of addictions, I just finished a book on behavioral addictions and I'm starting to wonder if I've created a bit of a productivity or learning addiction. It's difficult because I often get frustrated when I'm not spending free time doing something productive, even though it's okay to enjoy my free time for what it is. Though I've never regretted putting time into reading a book or going through a course, I find it creates additional strain as it can become more of a chore than it should be. There's also the internal pressure I create for myself because the more things I want to learn is inversely proportional to the free time I have. It's creating a bubble that's going to burst at any moment. Oh, that reminds me. I forgot to mention learning about finances, investing, taxes, cryptocurrency, blockchain, and other financially related things.

Yes, I know. One thing at a time. I cannot multitask. Yes. I KNOW... Also, less is supposed to be more; it's better to subtract than to add. I've gone through so much, but how much have I retained? And shouldn't I revisit important concepts in addition to learning new things? Information overload. Even if I eliminate a few things, should I focus on my strengths? Or should I focus on my weaknesses? I know, I should learn the best way to learn! Yup, there I go again, down another rabbit hole. How do I learn better? Are there hacks? Or should I learn deliberately? Specialize or generalize? Habits to automate things? Memory training? Mind maps? Memory palaces? Spaced repetition systems?

Okay, STOP. Maybe I do have a problem. Maybe it's a good problem to have. Maybe, just maybe, I already have the solution to this problem based on all that I've learned so far. Where do I start?

"Explore versus exploit." Let's use whatever knowledge I already have instead of trying to find new knowledge to solve this problem.

Less is more. Let's remove things instead of adding things. So let's not worry about cybersecurity, cryptocurrency, and blockchain. Let's avoid finance and keep investing very simple. No more business books, until I'm doing something business related. No more buying books; no more signing up for courses.

Focus on what I can control. I can't control the outcome of my learning, although I can take an outcome-based approach in completing materials related to learning (i.e. finishing courses or books). However, that doesn't mean finishing more books equals more learning. Learning is captured better by doing projects, rather than finishing books or courses; therefore, I should eliminate the need to finish books or courses that have no relevance or added value to what I'm trying to learn.

Perhaps I need to respect the learning process more. It's the same as my coaching. How much progress can I expect from my athletes? If I expect them to learn faster, then shouldn't I also be learning things faster too? Learning takes time and practice, so why do I have eight books to read in a month as a goal? Though I get frustrated that I finish about four books per month only, I forget that finishing a book per week is likely more on the excessive side when most people barely go through a couple books per year. It's only May and I've already been through 26 books. The most valuable lesson from all this reading didn't come from any of the books themselves though. It's the lesson that I will always have much to learn and I will never learn it all.

As a final thought, maybe a learning addiction is a good problem to have. I know I can't learn it all, but I can try. Learning about many different things keeps me grounded in reality, instead of looking for a way to escape it. I can't control the outcome of my learning, but the effort counts. If I can learn something that will save me from trouble in the future, then it would be worth it. I cannot predict what will happen in the future, so learning broadly is the best way to be prepared. If anything happens, I can at least be content that I did the best with what I had.

I've always had this thought experiment in my mind: "Would you spend a lifetime trying to master a martial art if there was a chance that it could one day save your life?" If you chose to, you would have a higher chance of survival if a situation ever came up. If you chose not to,  you would have perished in that situation.  In my mind, all the added training time would be paid back by the time gained by surviving the chance encounter, given that the encounter actually happens.

I also reverse the thought experiment: are there things that I can eliminate that are slowly subtracting my lifespan? It's really just sacrificing short-term pleasures for longer-term benefits.  I also consider what else I could do if I wasn't able to coach badminton, if I lost my job either temporarily, permanently, or considering how much I could coach if I was physically disabled. COVID-19 has made this a reality for many people, and I'm fortunate I'm only looking at a thought experiment over the real thing. Because of these possibilities, perhaps this is why I'm in pursuit of something else, just in case.

I suppose this way of thinking has come from my pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, and I do think things have changed tremendously over the years of ongoing personal development. Maybe this addiction has perks after all.

Perhaps that's why I chose to write today, because if all fails, maybe I can be a writer.

But I wouldn't count on it. I still haven't reviewed my math, remember?
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