Learning new things is one of the best ways to better ourselves and implement self-development and growth. But when you’re expanding your knowledge pool are you doing it as efficiently as possible?
How often do you come across an article, book or any kind of instruction tool that goes towards gaining better knowledge in the area you’re expanding your mind, and see the phrase “for example”? After all, examples are the best way to apply your new-found knowledge to a real-life scenario, helps connect the dots and makes things much clearer. Or do they?
Why “For Example” Isn’t As Helpful As You May Think
Don’t get me wrong, throwing examples into the mix can go a long way in spelling out what you’ve learned. Seeing a way that the fundamental theory can be applied practically helps the brain put it into context.
However, this isn’t exactly the smartest way to do this and here’s why.
While “for example” creates a pathway in the brain to understand the concepts, it’s coming from the mind of somebody else. In other words, an example doesn’t really teach us the underlying mechanisms or allow us to come to our own conclusions. We may read the example and get the ‘light bulb’ moment but we tend to accept that one example instead of thinking up several more of our own.
Thinking up different, unique examples and even making them more applicable to yourself is much smarter than taking in analogies cooked up by someone else.
Reasoning By Analogy Versus Reasoning By First Principles
There are two ways we can make decisions and come to conclusions; one is reasoning by analogy and the other is reasoning by first principles.
Reasoning by analogy is when we base our conclusions and decisions on pre-existing ideas. Examples that are fed to us only allow us to apply what we’ve learned to an already established idea and what others are telling you. However, this is how most people work – our mind often finds the easy way out by building on an idea that is already out there. As a result, we take on problem solving from a space of assumption rather than questioning.
Reasoning by first principles is something Elon Musk has been an advocate of and praises his success on. This is when you take the basis or fundamentals of what you’ve learned and come up with your own application. In other words, come up with your own ideas free from any of the pre-existing ideas and allows us to potentially see something in much finer detail.
The Difficulty Of Putting Examples Into Practice
You could be given all the examples in the world, and while the writer or teacher is trying to be as helpful as he or she can, it’s not allowing you to easily put these into practice. For sure, it’s helping you to remember the concept but when it comes to applying it, you could become stuck pretty quickly undoing the work you’ve put in to thoroughly learn the subject.
To really understand the concept, come up with multiple examples that fit the rule to confirm in your mind that you have fully understood. In addition, don’t use “for example” when explaining things to others. Encourage them to think up examples of their own and watch how they begin to formulate the new ideas themselves.
So next time you come across “for example” when learning something new, take it onboard but be cautious with it. Make sure you think up different ways you can transfer it into different situations and see it form a new angle breaking free from limited, existed thinking.
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