Thursday, October 22, 2009

Learning to learn

Charlie Munger, is one of the most famous personalities in the investment world today. He is much more than just a role model. He is an investment manager who has been yawping from the rooftops about the importance of importing ideas from other disciplines into our own discipline or profession.

But much has been said about the benefits of this tendency of interconnecting ideas or principles between disciplines. No one really talks about how to do it. I was really surprised by the lack of or the abundance of pretentious material which dealt with this topic. But nevertheless, I took it upon myself to understand which would be the most efficient way of learning to forge interdisciplinary understanding of things.

After reading about Munger and his approach, it became clearer to me why it was difficult to propagate a standard means to learn how to learn. It's easy to realize that everybody has a different learning pattern. It becomes exceedingly difficult to import someone else's chain of thought if that person isn't in sync with our pattern of thought. It may sound possible ideologically, but it's very difficult to implement practically. But in that case, each and every thought must be difficult to import. But that's not so. Logically it might seem that it's difficult to import thoughts from other people and implement in our own thought process, but intuitively we all thrive on the same hardware for cognition. Awareness can only be converted into actionable thoughts by going over the same concepts in different contexts.

In one of the Annual Shareholder Meetings of Wesco, where Charlie Munger is a Chairman; in his address to shareholders he mentions Alfred North Whitehead who said that "Civilization itself progressed rapidly in terms of GDP when mankind invented the method of invention". I think its a very beautiful thought to carry around. Despite of a ring of entitlement to the statement, it deserves every bit of merit in saying that if I think I can learn in a particular way, that process of learning itself must be imprinted upon the way I approach things. Once I am comfortable with a particular learning process I can very easily use it to learn whatever else I want to learn. Why wasn't this idea so obvious in the way I learned things as a kid? It's a shame I had to spend so much time till I finally came face to face with this thought.

Another thing I found very difficult to understand, but have finally realized it, is that 'extreme loyalty to an ideology or an identity destroys cognition. I can't be restrained by the power or irrefutable logic of some thought or an idea. If I am, then I have a serious handicap in considering any other thought which is not congruent with it. That means I have less opportunity to learn that I can be wrong and face the consequences of being wrong instead of being aware of it and avoiding it.

And finally, I am beginning to wonder why I enjoy refuting my own arguments sometimes when I can very easily stick with them for the rest of my life?

No comments: