Notes Clarify Understanding

The act of writing notes of self contained ideas and facts leads to deeper understanding. The feeling of not understand something you write is unpleasant and motivates taking a closer look. If writing is thinking, then note taking is encoding.

  • Note Blogging for Podcasts

    Short form podcast episodes with a single idea or concept is like note blogging. For example, Naval Ravikant’s podcast often takes a recent tweet and expands on the context and concept behind it. He’s previously remarked that ‘he thinks out loud’ on Twitter and they serve as reminders so he can recall that information again later and notes clarify understanding. In that way it is not just beneficial to listeners, but also to himself.

  • Thinking Better Thoughts

    I remember when I first started working at Stripe I felt like the dumbest person in the room. I was amazed at how smart everyone seemed and the writing…gosh, the writing! If I wanted to be like that too, something needed to change.

  • Weekly Reflection Clarifies Broad Based Worrying

    At the end of the week I reflect on what went well, what’s not working, and what I learned. The key is to write down an observation and then add specific supporting examples. What I typically find is that I’m drawing conclusions from a small number of instances—or none at all. This is often enough to dispel broad based worrying that accumulates at the end of the week (especially on weeks that haven’t gone well).

  • Notes Are Easier to Write Than a Blog Post

    A blog post is the synthesis of multiple ideas communicated to an audience where as writing a note is the act of collecting an idea written for yourself. This makes it substantially easier to do and why most people take notes, but don’t write blog posts.

  • Language Is Crucial to a Developing Mind, but Not Essential to a Fully Formed Mind

    The notion that “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world” (Ludwig Wittgenstein) is only partially true. To a young developing mind, delays in language development hinder math (it’s hard to count above 5 without words for it) and inferring other people’s thoughts—as is the case with some deaf children. However, adults that lose their language facilities (global aphasia) do not lose other cognitive functions such as the ability to do math, theory of mind, music, and more.

  • Temporary Intellectual Home

    Writing an essay is like living in a temporary intellectual home for awhile. It means you are spending time with the subject, getting to know it’s details, nuance, and depth. It’s the opposite of being an intellectual tourist with a passing understanding.