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A lazy way to broaden your general knowledge

McKinley Valentine — 2 min read
A lazy way to broaden your general knowledge
Photo by Luke Chesser / Unsplash

Every time you look up a fact, read the whole Wikipedia page.

So for example I saw a cute flamingo photo and thought, “hang on I don’t actually know why flamingos stand on one leg” and I googled it and the answer was “because it doesn’t use any muscles”. But I read the whole page and found they live in toxic lakes, which I had no idea about 5 minutes ago and would never have thought to google. I didn’t know it was a thing to know. “Why do flamingos stand on one leg?” is a question that naturally occurs to you if you see a flamingo. “What sort of lakes do flamingos live in?” is not. You would never find out about the toxic lakes just by finding the answer to the questions that naturally occur to you.

Even if it’s trivial, like you suddenly want to know whether Jennifer Aniston is married now. Fine, but read the whole page on Jennifer Aniston, not just the answer to that question. Or you want to know who a song is by. Again, read the whole article on the album or artist. Now you know way more than you did before.

And you’ll be expanding outward from your natural curiosity, so it will feel way less like “work” than choosing a whole book that you feel like you ought to read. And the more you learn cool extra little facts, the more motivated you’ll be to do it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from doing The Whippet, it’s that cool facts never walk alone. There’s always, always some other rad thing I would never have found out about on the same Wikipedia page as the first cool fact. For example, flamingos also have special glands in their beaks that filter out salt water. That’s a third cool flamingo fact I didn’t know, and none of these are flamingos’ main schtick, being pink.

Stage 2 is checking every time you notice a knowledge gap. (Like me seeing the photo of the flamingo and realising I don’t actually know why they do that.) And getting better at paying attention and following up on the little sparks of curiosity.

Do that for a year and you’ll end up with a vast shoreline of knowledge where you know a little bit about heaaaaaaps of stuff and have little outwardly growing promontories and peninsulas of areas where you know a pretty decent amount.

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #98 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

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