Taking Ideas Seriously is Hard

Most people don’t practice taking ideas seriously. I think it’s because most people don’t know how to. I didn’t either, until I stumbled upon an implication.

For example, what would it mean to take compounding seriously?

Ugh. I can feel your aversion. You’ve already heard so much about compounding, how it works, how it’s the eight wonder of the world, etc. etc.

But, familiarity is not the same as taking it seriously.

Say you start with $100, and every year, make 10% more. This compounds, since the extra money is a function of how much you already have. The more you have, the more you get. It’s a positive loop that keeps on increasing.

That’s the familiar interpretation. The earlier you start, the more money you’ll make.

To take this interpretation seriously would mean investing your earnings for a similar return. Reality has a surprising amount of detail, and sometimes assumptions break. You don’t make 10% — which means you need to balance your investments somehow. That makes things complicated. However, this complication is not related to compounding.

Taking compounding seriously means taking it a step further. Your net worth is just one implication. What else compounds?

Your life experiences and knowledge. What would it mean to leverage compounding here?

If you’re taking compounding seriously, you’d learn the skills with the greatest return first. That means learning the broadest applicable skills you’d apply throughout your life first. That means learning how to think well — before learning the new fancy tech you want to learn.

Of course, sometimes you need a medium to learn the skill better. That makes sense: learn to think well via this new tech you wanted to learn. Purposes are fragile though, and it’s easy to get lost in the tool, instead of the overall goal.

What makes this example so good is that you’re probably very familiar with compounding. What else are you familiar with, but haven’t realised you’re not taking seriously?

A good way to practice this is to ask this question: What are the implications of (idea) in (field of interest)?

For example, asking myself What are the implications of compounding for my self-directed knowledge base led to the above insight of learning broader skills first.

Written by

I write about Code and Life philosophies. Sometimes both. | https://neilkakkar.com | Engineer @Bloomberg | Write (Code). Create. Recurse.

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