“That will be $8.99”, the cashier said as I purchased my 7th notebook in the span of 2 months...
I picked up the habit of reading with the ambition of becoming a better, wiser person. And I was entirely convinced that I had to retain every piece of knowledge I read so that I could quote it later.
I tried countless ways to cram more and more information into my brain hoping that the wisdom from the pages I was reading would ooze out into my personality.
So I tried journaling notes. And it would never stick. So I journaled so more. And continuously failed.
I thought that maybe buying my 7th notebook would help. A fresh start! After all, this one was leather and that would make me write better...
I had this idea that if I couldn’t retain the information I was reading, then it would never come to fruition and I would never be the person I wanted to be.
It wasn’t until I read this quote…
“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” - Emerson
Emerson’s insight was eye opening to me. No longer was I stuck in the cyclical anxiety of retaining information in every conversation and interaction.
Rather, the information and the personal development tools I was learning were simply shaping who I was… slowly.
My struggle to remember the exact techniques and skills from personal development books got rough over time.
Instead of investing in the present person in front of me, I remember trying so hard to remember personal development tools from How To Win Friends And Influence people or from Ask or others. And I would entirely miss out on what was happening in front of me…
Like the really smooth time I went up to a girl I liked and stepped on her foot while giving her a hug and was flustered the entire conversation….
Mainly, because I was stuck in my head the entire time. Keenly focused on how I should be acting rather than simply acting.
Neural pathways slowly shape us
Our intelligence and memory are shaped by the repetition of neural pathways being fired. Essentially, this is why repetition is so crucial to memory and critical thinking.
But it’s not just repetition alone. It’s repetition from different angles and styles and techniques.
If we only memorize something from one angle, then we’ll never obtain the critical processing skills that are needed to actually be good at something.
For instance, I remember a kid from my high school who was obsessed with Metallica. He learned all of the riffs. And he was incredibly good Fade to Black (it was his go-to song).
But he had no idea how to play anything other than Metallica.
He simply memorized one dimension of the guitar, but didn’t understand how it all works together.
The same applies with personal development books. Or anything else you’re learning.
You can spend all your time trying to memorize and regurgitate information.
Or, you can relax in the understanding that you don’t have to memorize or even understand everything.
In the process of continuously treating ourselves to observation and information, we form new neural pathways that mold us into who we are.
I used to be consumed with understanding and applying all of the principles of every self-help book I’ve read.
Now, I crack one open, glean some knowledge, and then forget about it.
Because I don’t have to remember everything about an experience for it to shape me.
Instead, I choose to constantly expose myself to things that will help me grow. And then I trust the process.