Depth over breadth

From Josh Waitzkin’s awesome book, “The Art of Learning“:

Our obstacle is that we live in an attention-deficit culture.  We are bombarded with more and more information on television, radio, cell phones, video games, the Internet.  The constant supply of stimulus has the potential to turn us into addicts, always hungering for something new and prefabricated to keep us entertained.  When nothing exciting is going on, we might get bored, distracted, separated from the moment.  So we look for new entertainment, surf channels, flip through magazines.  If caught in these rhythms, we are like tiny current-bound surface fish, floating along a two-dimensional world without any sense for the gorgeous abyss below.  When these societally induced tendencies translate into the learning process, they have devastating effect.

It’s interesting because a few years ago, I thought being able to multi-task was a good thing.  Certainly, it is a good skill to have at times, but when it comes to learning something or getting things done, single-tasking is FAR more effective.

I think most people know this, but so few actually apply it.  How often do you work on something for ten minutes then check your email?  And how many people do you know who’ve actually mastered something? Anything?  If you want to master something, you’d better be passionate about it because you need to let it consume your life.  It takes a lot of work in a concentrated period of time to be great.  It takes even more work over many years to become a master.

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