Why Our Brains Are Designed for Quality, Not Quantity

Become a specialist, not a generalist. Your brain is built for it. 


We are exposed to increasing amounts of information on a daily basis.

People liken this to the world speeding up, but it’s not. Our endless media feeds only make it seem like it is. We’ve been moving at the same rate and will continue to do so.

Our addiction to the scroll and ever-changing headlines speed us up.

We can become fragmented by the quantity of information we consume. By quantity, I mean from a variety of disciplines, viewpoints, topics etc.

Or

We can become directed and complex by optimizing for quality. Quality breeds expert status – A master of your craft.

Optimizing for quantity is reserved for the directionless.

And, no successful person lacks direction.

So if you want to be successful, optimize for quality. This builds a society of specialists contributing in ways big or small.

We all need to consciously limit our curiosity in order to thrive. These self-imposed limits allow us to hone in on our craft. Ironically, once we do this, we start to see our craft bleeding into other disciplines. How we forge these links may birth disruptive innovation – a product of true creativity.

This post will go into how the brain of a novice in any given field differs from the brain of an expert.

Our Brains Aren’t Built for Quantity

Jumping from one thing to another keeps the learning we acquire in an unstable state.

Unless we engage in repetition and specialize, learning is fruitless. A scroll through Twitter may give you the illusion of valuable learning. However, due to its fragmented nature, learning is not valuable on social media unless you revisit the post. And let’s be honest, who actually reviews the posts they’ve saved?

The forgetting curve is a phenomenon that says we forget things as time goes on.

Chances are you’ll forget most of this post. Unless you come back to it, most of the information you consume leaves you as quickly as it arrives. Information on the internet may captivate you but only until your attention is disturbed by the next piece of content.

Revisiting the information is the only way to offset the forgetting curve.

If we are consuming boatloads of information on a daily basis, this isn’t possible.

Our brains aren’t built to retain quantity. This lack of retention is caused by favouring quantity over quality. We can handle both, but I’d much prefer to be good at one thing than mediocre at many.

Our Brains Are Built for Quality

Quality information means information that sticks with us long enough to use it to better ourselves and the world.

Society functions because of the specialists. These people are good at what they do. You can just tell an expert from a novice by their gracefulness.

When people are this good, it is evident they were meant to do this.

They’ve found their passion, calling, and purpose.

No matter what you call it, our brains are meant to specialize in something. Why is this the case?

It’s because our nervous system consolidates and reconsolidates memories. This largely happens when were asleep. The act of consolidation is when the brain cements what we learned for the first time. Reconsolidation strengthens already existing memories. This is why practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes PERMANENT!

Imagine throwing your brain a dozen different pieces of information from a variety of disciplines.

This is like expecting a line cook to cook meals from a dozen different Michelin-starred restaurants.

And our brain cannot effectively consolidate this information because the sheer quantity negates the consolidation.

A Case for the Experts

Cue the montage.

When I think of a montage, I think of the movie Rocky. There is something about an athlete going through physical pain and suffering that speaks to everyone. No matter the career, this pain and suffering is inevitable if you want to be great. Despite not being as sexy as the physical grind, your off-camera montage can be a great source of motivation.

I want to get better at writing, so I write. I’m not going to film a montage with Eye of the Tiger blaring in the background. But in my mind, I try to mimic the Rocky cut scenes.

No one’s watching but myself.

And that’s the beauty of it.

Because once you achieve whatever you want, you’ll value the sacrifice only you will know about.

What’s worse? The sacrifice or regret of not participating and specializing in life…

Experts build the world because they are specialists.

Would you rather be okay at numerous things or great at that ONE thing that shapes who you are and society at large?

#sparkperception

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