#38: Changing my mind
I want to ponder, first, about note-taking, and, second, about changing my mind.
Ah, wait. Is it, first, about changing my mind, and, second, about note-taking?
Schrew it. The order doesn’t matter.
Last month, I wrote a post about my 2021 annual review, where I highlighted a key realization: I was using overusing a note-taking system called Zettelkasten.
Here’s a snippet from the post:
After I went through my Google photos, I opened my note-taking tools: Roam, Obsidian, and TiddlyWiki. I started to review my Zettels (and also non-Zettel notes).
I was surprised at how uninteresting they were.
I read a ton last year. The world was out of control, and I thought by reading and taking notes I could make sense of what was happening. It was the mindset of: If only I read this one book, I will have learned X and solved this problem in my life; or if only I take another note I will be able to write a better blog post because I can combine that note with another note and generate an insight.
My problem was that I was clinging onto information, onto knowledge, because I thought it would help me to become a better writer. But that’s just tip of the iceberg. I was holding on tightly because I didn’t trust myself. Notes became a crutch.
I bolded the two ideas that I think best highlight my qualms with a note-taking system. First, my notes were surprisingly uninteresting; and second, my notes were a crutch for the real problem: a lack of self-trust about my knowledge.
Now that a month has passed, and the ideas have stewed in my mind, and life has unfolded in new ways, naturally and inevitably as life does, I would like to takesie-backsie what I said.
You might be thinking: “Whhaaat?! How dare she renege on her stance about note-taking. Does she even know what she’s doing? Can I still trust her?”
The honest answer is: Nope, I don’t know what I’m doing. But, flipping that question back to you - do you know what you’re doing?
And yeah, I hope that you can still trust me!
Consider this wisdom from Nobel prize winning economist, Danny Kahneman, who is a proud flip-flopper:
Now, I happen to be very extreme on this dimension. I change my mind all the time, and I change my mind in research all the time. That drives my collaborators -- also, I like to collaborate so I work with people -- and I drive my collaborators crazy. I change my mind.
I keep telling them ... and also I am not very respectful of their ideas, either. I keep telling them: "Look. I treat my ideas as badly as I treat yours. This is part of the process.
I think encouraging people to change their minds is a very, very good thing for an organization to do. That is, rewarding it. That we want people who can "think again.”
Recognizing that the ability to change your mind is just part of good thinking ... that improvements in thinking are incremental. You don't find a flaw and fix it. You find a flaw and fix it, and then you find another flaw in the fixed thing. That's the way it works.
Recognizing that this is the process is very difficult, and I think very useful.
If you need more evidence about the benefits of changing your mind, aka flip-flopping aka reneging, Heineken (yes, that Heineken, the beer company) created a thought provoking video where strangers, from different sides of the political aisle, bond over their similarities, and later their differences, through a series of structured exercises. It’s a beautifully brilliant video that you must watch for yourself. Shout-out to my aunt Laura for sharing it with me!
Surely, we can all identify times when we stubbornly clung to our beliefs, when we judged ourselves and others, and when, despite new evidence, we struggled to change our beliefs.
We are human, after all.
The first step in the remedy to stubbornness is to recognize that we have sticky beliefs in the first place! Next, we start questioning them, putting them under the microscope and teasing them apart, piece by piece.
I’m starting the process now by asking myself questions like, “why did I become averse to a note-taking system?” and “what am I afraid will happen if I rebuild a note-taking system” and “what good things may come from taking notes in a systematized way?”
I have a hunch that I over-engineered a note-taking system and it became too draining to maintain it, like I crossed the tipping point where the input no longer justified the output.
If I’m right, the solution is a simple recalibration, but I’m not sure, quite yet; first, I need to journal about the questions from above, and second, I need to use the process of writing to write my way out of my conundrum.
More to come on this. Stay tuned.
I hope you have a wonderful weekend! ☀️
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