Reading articles, blog posts, and newsletters is such an enjoyable activity for me because it reduces blind spots without needing a lot of cognitive effort. Finding out about a novel approach that I can use in my work, or a tool that gives me new capabilities, is exciting. I get to see what else is out there without expending much mental energy.
You know when you’re trying to achieve something, you try the most complicated ways, and then a friend comes along and shows you a simple way to do it. It’s great when it happens. You just saved hours, days, maybe even weeks of time. Reading articles and newsletters does the same. On steroids.
I divide reading into focused and unfocused. Focused reading is part of learning and acquiring skills. It’s about picking a topic, reading about it and practicing what you read. Practice is important to hammer in the learned material.
Unfocused reading can stand alone. It’s about reading non-fiction content for enjoyment, without the goal of learning anything specific. There are many different reasons to enjoy it. It might be a good story, the ups and downs of emotions, the validation if someone agrees with your view, or any other reason. For me it’s mostly about excitement when I discover something new.
Phrasing it differently, it’s about reducing blind spots and expanding my horizon.
The world contains so much information. A lot more than we can ever know. Luckily, being aware that information exists is a lot easier than knowing what that information is.
For example, the information that it’s possible to create images with AI by describing what I want is already helpful. I don’t need to know which software to use. When I am in a situation where I need it, I can use Google to find relevant software. But if I didn’t even know about it, then I wouldn’t think to look for it.
And that’s what I mean by expanding my horizon and reducing blind spots. To widen the top line of the T, in T-shaped knowledge. To have superficial knowledge without knowing the details. If I need the details, I can dive in. But without knowing that there are details to explore, I wouldn’t know where to start.
This is where relatively short-form content, usually less than 30min, excels. I can expose myself to new and different knowledge at a high rate.
In a similar sense, this also exposes me to new and different ideas at a high rate. People often write about how they see the world, and about their unique insights. Some ideas resonate, others don’t. But all of them inform and expand my own thinking and often lead to my very own new insights.