Archive for December, 2008

What About the Remaining 20% from the Other 80%?

I think a current buzz word is 80/20, which is also called the Pareto Principle.  From wikipedia: “80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”  Currently, I think it is mainly used for managerial and self-help audiences, viz. 4HWW.  That is: focus on the important stuff, and don’t sweat the details.  Examples of this include:

  • 20% of a written work covers 80% of the material (email, book, article, etc.).
  • 20% of an education class answers 80% of the questions.
  • and even: 20 volume percent of a restaurant salad contains 80% of the calories.

In reflection, I noted that the counterbalances of this rule are avoided.  I think when you apply the rule, you become quite a functionalist.  You function at a relative optimum, somewhere between a perfectionist and a busy-body.  Which means, when you apply the said rule, you eliminate becoming an extremist.  And, to further the argument, many field experts are extremists.

There’s an obvious argument.  One can become a field expert by learning optimally from following the 80/20 rule.  That is reading the 20% of the field background will render 80% of the knowledge, performing 20% of the experiments will determine 80% of the window of results, and so on. Nonetheless, I think the 80/20 rule focuses on efficiency, and efficiency has a downside.  Efficiency impedes exploration.

If you are still skeptical, imagine explaining the 80/20 rule to Kerouac or any other beatnik.  On the Road wouldn’t quite be the same without the characters’ passions and energies.

What’s best, efficiency or extremism?  That depends on the circumstances and/or goals.  And, are 20% of extermists 80% efficient?  Are 20% of efficient people 80% of the extremists?


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Hand-Crafts . . . something to be proud of

After reading the 4 Hour Work Week and being influenced by ERE, I started learning more actively this year.  I define active learning as doing, crafting, tweaking, and most of the time, messing up.  My natural interests are more passive learning, namely reading everything and anything I can get my hands on.
I still remember my first few experiences defecating in the wilderness.   Often it was hard to walk away without staring for a few minutes, lost in my pride for my accomplishments.  Perhaps thinking to myself, “See self, I do give a shit.”  Or something close, probably.

Much is the same in my recent experiences.  Not only do I stare for longer than necessary after I have decided that “I am done,” but I also feel a closer attachment to my feat.  Most recently I have added fenders to my bike, and changed out the cables for shifting and braking.  I find myself looking for puddles to ride through, because I will stay dry.  And, my ego shines more than I like to admit when I am cognizant of my brake tuning and shifting ease.

My upshot is that active learning requires more upfront activation energy, but it has the potential of a more gratifying experience.

Nice work on your passive learning experience.

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