💀 Revisiting your "classics," or your mind's dusty shelf


Revisit the basics (on an actual schedule)

June 6, 2019

Between the dual subject of this email and its totally different title, maybe it's obvious that I'm not totally set on a way I like to talk about this idea of actually revisiting the basics.

I work with javascript and so I often come across these long posts about how to pass a javascript interview, which are ubiquitous, and I usually take a look. I'm always surprised by what it reminds me. Maybe it's concept taught in a new way, or it's just clearing off dust from a topic not really part of your day-to-day (like learning [and forgetting] high school calculus). I didn't really get currying until I read its explanation for the umpteenth time by Eric Elliott.

Seneca, writing on a totally different topic in "On Business as the Enemy of Philosophy" opened that letter with:

"The subject concerning which you question me was once clear in my mind, and required no thought, so thoroughly had I mastered it. But I have not tested my memory of it for some time, and therefore it does not readily come back to me. I feel that I have suffered the fate of a book whose rolls have stuck together by disuse; my mind needs to be unrolled, and whatever has been stored away there ought to be examined from time to time, so that it may be ready for use when occasion demands."

This is good advice. In practice, though, when is it we ever remember that some knowledge of ours is rusty and should be polished?

Instead, I think I want to propose an experiment: once per week, read something you've read before. Pick a day, mark it in your calendar. If you keep a record of things you read that you find useful - e.g., using Pocket, or a just a journal - this is infinitely easier. You could even randomize it.

If you're a developer then it doesn't hurt to drum-up those interview questions. If you're a designer, revisit gestalt. I'm not sure yet whether it matters so much which metaphorically dusty book you pull off the shelf, just that the shelf itself is consistently revisited, the books are reshuffled, and the dust doesn't have time to collect.

Craft virtuously.

Your pal,

Refer virtuously

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