How do you learn?

Mumbai musings and Bombay banter – April 2022 edition

Do the best things in life happen when nothing goes according to plan?

The Bombay trip made me think so.

Did I expect to sleep in a convent school under the piercing gaze of lord Jesus? No.

Did I? Yes.

Did I expect to book 8 nights worth of stay for a 4 night trip? No.

Did I? Yes.

Did I expect to find Stuart Little in my 5-star sea-facing hotel room? No.

Did I? Yes.

Was this the best vacation of the last 2 years? Yes.

Would I do it again? Yes.

This cold open is brought to you by – My Buddy Karan.

If you’d like more such cold opens, reply to this email with an ice emoji.

Before I get into today’s topic, let me set the scene for you. I am writing this from my office. I have absolutely no desire to “work” today. I already killed some time scrolling through Twitter. So now I am writing this newsletter.

Outside my office there’s a dozen or so Group D staff members, most of whom are asleep. They have proper mattresses here. They drink tea, eat lunch and then take a nap. At work. I envy their life just a little bit. One of them is watching some form of autoscrolling bite-sized videos (MX Takatak I think). He just watched a “bete mauj kara di” video four times on repeat. I don’t envy his life.

Why am I telling you this? You will find out in a bit.

Now. About learning.

This is a personal brag – I think I am kinda good at learning things.

Not all things, of course, I am not a weirdo savant. But the things that do fall within my domain of expertise – I think I am nicely above average in them.

Last week, for a work project, I went from ideation to completion in six days. What started as an Excel file became a CSV > HTML > PNG > PDF. All thanks to different technologies - each serving its own very convenient and indispensable purpose.

I didn’t know exactly what had to be done when I started. But I had a pretty good hunch of what could help with what. This whole project involved repurposing bits and pieces of my past work and things I had read into a new end product.

To use a metaphor – I was standing on top of my own shoulders.

I don’t think there is a more efficient way of doing this project. Given the scale and the demands, I worked with just the right amount of overhead to get the job done quickly. And it is all automated now so regenerating the final results with new data will take all of 5 minutes.

How did I get here? How was I able to build such intuition? Is it just a function of the amount of time spent covering a variety of ground?

I don’t know. I don’t think anyone has a definitive answer on it. I could split hairs over this but really there’s no point, it’ll all come out as no-context garbage.

But the one thing that I relearned was this – don’t push things beyond their purpose. It’s the best way to minimise grunt work and maximise novel work. In terms of the technologies I used for this project – each of them did one thing well (for me), and that’s all that I used them for.

Do you have similar experiences? Of you achieving great levels of efficiency in some task? Did you too leverage your previous knowledge? We all have our own optimised ways of doing chores but is there something that stands out for you?

I am curious about how people learn and optimise. It was somewhat of an academic interest at one point. But now it’s just an itch in the back of my head.

What did the comedian’s friends call him when he saved the Earth from mass flooding?

Clever Noah.

I am thinking of switching a few things up with this newsletter. Here’s what’s changing –

  1. I still want to maintain the once a week frequency but I’ll be a bit more flexible with it going forward.
  2. I am going to experiment with the content a little. There will still be questions. But with more jokes, scene setting, cold opens and such. I want to build that part of my writing muscle.
  3. This might just turn into a funny blog. We’ll see. You will be warned adequately.

Why the change? I am not in the same mind space that I was in when I started four months ago. I want to try new things out to keep writing interesting for me.

It feels nice when you write back to me. Do that? Email / text.

Last modified: May 05, 2022