July 6, 2017

Immersion and Motivation

tunnel vision

I’ve realized over the past few years that, in order to stay motivated, I need to immerse myself as much as possible in a topic.

For example, if I’m learning about design, or development, or product management, I need to fill my Feedly account with feeds, load up Overcast with podcasts, follow experts on Twitter, and subscribe to as many email newsletters as I can on the topic.

By surrounding myself with the ephemera of a topic, I’m more likely to stay interested and keep learning about that topic. Which makes sense. I surround myself with experts and inspiration. The expertise makes learning easy, while the inspiration keeps my spirits high and me emotionally involved in the topic.

It’s worked reasonably well so far. But, there’s one problem I’m still trying to solve:

How do I balance immersion with a huge diversity of interests?

That’s a weird question, so let me break it down a bit more.

It’s wonderful to be able to immerse yourself in a topic, but that immersion comes with the risk of myopia. If all I read and listen to is focused on one topic, how do I become a well-rounded person with a healthy view of the world? It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of one particular topic and forsake all others in the pursuit of mastery. But we’ve all seen the examples of experts in particular topics that don’t know shit about the rest of the world. I want to avoid that at all costs. It’s a tricky problem, and one that I’m still trying to solve.

Things aren’t as bad as I make them out to be, either. I have a ton of different interests (music, technology, illustration, politics, reading, writing, my family, etc.), so I don’t think I’m at risk of becoming a hopelessly dumb person that knows all there is to know about HTML email design. But it’s still something I worry about.

That might be the way to solve it. Have a healthy number of interests, pursue one of them passionately and with deep purpose for X amount of time, then move on to the next one. There’s still a bit of tunnel vision going on, but it’s not permanent. Jumping around between topics keeps things diverse and helps round me out as an individual, while still keeping me motivated and allowing for immersion in a topic.

Anyone else think about this stuff? If so, how do you tackle deep learning while staying educated about the world and things outside your particular area of study? Let me know.