What I Wished I Have Learned

Below are the things that I wished I have learned early, I have read them and liked them and I often look them up to remind myself. Although I titled it as what I wished I have learned early, it is also true that it is never too late to learn something. As the age of “self-improving”, “life-changing” books, articles and essays, I also would like to suggest taking them with a grain of salt, like everything else.

Reading #

All of us agree that reading is a good thing and the impact is obvious. We gain knowledge and observations by reading different kinds of books on different topics. For example, reading history books can teach us how we end up being who we are from the stone ages until now, the mistakes and lessons people before our times have made and learned. How they invented new technologies. How they created new businesses. How they lead their people etc.

The truth is, eventually, we would remember very little from what we have read. Reading combined with our own experiences train our view on the world. What we learned from the books may even be different throughout the course of our lives. Therefore, it is a good habit to re-visit the books we liked. We may see the things differently or learn new things we did not notice before.

It is important to remember that reading is not a race or a competition. Buying and collecting more books does not make us anything. What we have read, what we have learned from the books and how we could make use of them count. Not the numbers. To put in another way, quality matters more than quantity. Read what you love.

Strong opinions, weakly held #

It is okay to have strong opinions, even if we are the minority against others.
Most of us have the opinions and bias about the football teams we support, the religions we believe in, the political parties we are voting for or even the phone brands we love and use. However, when our opinions and beliefs are challenged, we tend to be defensive and feel offended. We quickly jump to conclude that the other person is misinformed and our opinions are right. We shut what the other person is trying to say. So, we lose the information the other person is trying to give.

Instead, we should assume positive intent and listen to what the other side has to say first. At the end, we might learn new information or in some cases, they might. Everyone benefits from having different opinions.
If we still end up disagreeing with other people, we can still respect their choices and let them be. We should not judge them.

There is no reason to look them down just because they have different opinions with ours. If our strong stands are wrong, we should be willing and able to adjust and even quickly reverse our stands. When we held our opinions too strong, we will not notice our flaws. Similarly, if we doubt too much, we will not get started. Other people opinions are an answer to the questions “What do I think of this?”

Choices and Mistakes #

It’s an important thing to realize we can make different choices in every aspect of our lives. We can sleep throughout the life or work very hard for what we believe in. We can choose to stay still or move on. We can stand up to fight for the right things or we can stay in the gray area to keep our public perception and maintain personal comfort. We can choose the given choices as they are but we don’t have to. If we feel that we might regret not doing something, we should probably do it after we carefully learn what the consequences are.

Our choices lead to our success and mistakes. Let’s talk about mistakes, particularly. There are mistakes of commission, which are the ones we choose to do something and we realize later we are wrong. We make such mistakes most of the time. We can only learn not to repeat them. Then, there are mistakes of omission which we had a chance to do something and we did not do anything. We look back and think we should have done the right choice. We regret more mistakes of omission than mistakes of commission and they follow us for the rest of our lives. They are humbling experiences and we will make more or less.

Mistakes are inevitable. Therefore, we have to be ruthlessly open minded to avoid fewer mistakes and consciously re-examine our bias to make the choices. For example, just because working in the computer field is less popular choice than becoming a doctor or an engineer, it does not mean that it is not a good choice. Things that did not work in the past might work now.

Curiosity #

There are a lot of things we did not learn at school. They could be as important as the things we learn in school. Always, always be curious about everything. Dare to ask stupid and hard questions and find out the answers.
It is a hard thing to do. And hard means worry. We worry people will think of us as weird or stupid. We worry people will laugh at us. Instead, we should still ask for what we want to know and worry less. Only then, we will be able to understand what we are studying and our questions. What are the great things happening in our fields? What are we interested in? The more curious we are, the more we learn; the more we can do and the more opportunities.

Career #

It is hard to be successful by doing something we do not enjoy at all. One way to find out is by thinking really hard what we might like, learn about them and asking questions in the fields. It is okay to take career risks when we are still young.

There are two paths one can take.

  1. Becoming one of the best people at one specific thing.
  2. Becoming very good (top 25 %) at two or more things.

1 is very hard thing to do.
2 is doable for most of us. Everyone has strengths they know and good at.
For example, Aye Aye is an accountant. She also has very good communication skill in English. That makes her more valuable and rare than other people and it’s more likely she will get a great job.
We can make ourselves rare by combining two or more very good skills until not a lot of people can match our “mix”.

( This is the TL: DR version of Dilbert’s Career Advice )

Miscellaneous #

PS: I have been asked to write something to put it on a journal (which you probably will not find it anywhere) and this is the result. Giving that my niece recently passed her high school exams, I thought, maybe, writing one like this would help her as well. I know all these sound like cliché but thank you for reading anyway. If you have any feedback or questions or want to send me cute corgi pictures or criticisms, please feel free to shoot an email.


Now read this

Vincent Van Der Heyde to Richard Feynman, July 3, 1986 and Richard Feynman Reply

This is an excellent excerpt from the book I’m reading right now (as of this writing, 7th May) called Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track. Here’s what the book is about via GoodReads. Perfectly Reasonable Deviations... Continue →