Discover more from 1, by Jonathan Yagel
1, #46 - Do you fight with what you read?
On Kenjitsu — Estimated Read Time: 55 seconds.
How much of what you read sticks?
For most of us, the answer is: Not much.
James Somers suggests that the solution is a unique form of active reading. He quotes mathematician Paul Halmos:
Don’t just read it; fight it! Ask your own questions, look for your own examples, discover your own proofs. Is the hypothesis necessary? Is the converse true? What happens in the classical special case? What about the degenerate cases? Where does the proof use the hypothesis?
Somers recommends applying this approach beyond mathematical reading and outlines 6 tenants of what he calls kenjitsu (or, ‘knowledge-fighting’):
Act like the student who slows down class: Ask questions excessively. Read at the speed of your understanding.
Read with a pen: Take notes and harass the author. Note why you find passages interesting.
Translate concepts into your own reality: Use the phrase “that would mean…” to inspect concepts in your own circumstances and consider the implications.
Generate counterexamples: Throw caveats at general claims to see whether they hold up.
Be adversarial: For every position you run into (and most content takes a side), try to argue the opposite.
Explain stuff: “There is no easier way to expose the holes in your own understanding than to try teaching someone else.”
I can’t imagine having the time to do all that with all the content I consume… which makes me wonder if I should be consuming less content.