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Monday
Aug202012

studying and opportunity cost

I hadn't realized it, but I've been doing a stupid thing for years now. You see, I consume a lot of information. Between the various sources, it's probably dominated a goodly chunk of my life.

So, I was emptying out my inbox in OmniFocus (my GTD app), because it had gotten so full it was unusable. After I'd moved the actionable, important things back into my newly clean inbox, I looked over the previous inbox quickly to check for obvious patterns. I found it was almost entirely books to read and talks to watch, mostly tech related. At a certain point of my development as a programmer, that was arguably a useful thing. It's helped me develop a breadth of knowledge many of my peers don't have.

Opportunity cost (Please, stop and go read the wiki article if you don't know about it. This post will still be waiting.) is a bitch, though. You know what I wasn't doing, towards the end of this, so that I could keep taking things off of this list? At least two things:

  1. I wasn't coding.
  2. I wasn't having fun.

That's stupid. I can't explain enough how stupid that is. Still, it's understandable how I got there. In fact, I would still not discourage beginners from taking an approach somewhat similar to the one I took when beginning. The approach just needed more refinement.

Go for breadth, sure. Eventually, you find some areas you really care about, and you'll start to dig in. Cool. You're not generalizing quite as much. That's good for you. Once you're generally competent and relatively aware of what you're interested in, you should focus. Firstly your consumption, since that's what you've started with so far. More important, however, is to do something much harder.

Create. If you code, then code. If you write, then write. If you care about the state of the world, fine, go learn about it! Then, share your ideas. Organize. Take action.

Be careful not to act on old, congealed values, at the expense of the things you presently value. That's what I was doing when I kept filling up these queues of content, and slaving away at consuming from them. It didn't help me, and it won't help you.

When your priorities get out of line with your values (and they will, however briefly), you'll end up working yourself to death, dissatisfied all the while.

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