We’ve got an obsession with ‘newness’. We’ll take the fresh-off-the line, shiny iPhone any day of the week, despite the last year’s model still working perfectly. We’re enamoured with constant progress – or what we see as progress. This rapacious desire for more, newer – why is it our instant assumption that this means it’s better?
It’s incredibly tricky to focus on anything for anything length of time in this age of instantly accessible information. We haven’t evolved to deal with the amount of stimulus we’re dealing with, especially in the way we’re being bombarded with it (more on this here).
I’m currently in the midst of revising for my final exams. Revision is a slow process, little by little strengthening the neural pathways between ideas, seeing how they work together, relaxing and tightening assumptions as you move towards understanding.
I’ve experienced a lot of long, frustrating hours before being graced with a blissful moment of clarity.
I’m fighting the impulse to Google stuff with every fibre of my being. It seems so easy – just a quick few strokes of the keyboard, and all my problems will be solved. We’re used to instant gratification, instant results.
But it doesn’t work like that. That’s not the way to actually get to know your way around a topic. The quick fix is a lie – a complete sham.
Every day as I sit down to study, I’m reminded of the power of books. They’ve got the advantage of being proof read, edited, rigorously checked for errors and often written by experts with a proven track record. There’s a helluva lot more scrutiny applied to a thick, meaty econometrics textbook than to someone’s throwaway answer on a forum. They’re designed to lead you through a difficult topic, to help you piece together a complete image.
You just have to have the patience to go through them, to use them as they’re meant to be used – not tossed aside in frustration when they don’t reveal an answer instantly. And that’s increasingly hard when we’re used to everything we want right now.
You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.
What ‘new’ thing has currently taken your fancy? Perhaps it’s a ‘productivity’ app which is actually giving you another job, when a simple list would suffice. Or maybe it’s an obsession with the latest, trendiest diet (anyone remember the ‘low fat’ craze?).
Do yourself a favour. Take a moment to reconsider: is new always better?