Resonant Thoughts: Sönke Ahrens’ “How To Take Smart Notes” (2017)

“The reason why Watson and Crick or [the chemist August] Kekulé had these insights and not a random person on the street is that they already had spent a very long time thinking hard about the problems, tinkered with other possible solutions and tried countless other ways of looking at the problem. Our fascination with these stories clouds the fact that all good ideas need time. Even sudden breakthroughs are usually preceded by a long, intense process of preparation.

Most often, innovation is not the result of a sudden moment of realization, anyway, but incremental steps toward improvement. Even groundbreaking paradigm shifts are most often the consequence of many small moves in the right direction instead of one big idea. This is why the search for small differences is key. It is such an important skill to see differences between seemingly similar concepts, or connections between seemingly different ideas.

If we accompany every step of our work with the question, ‘What is interesting about this?’ and everything we read with the question, ‘What is so relevant about this that it is worth noting down?’

Learning, thinking and writing should not be about accumulating knowledge, but about becoming a different person with a different way of thinking.”

(This book is about note-taking, but more so about how we think and connect ideas.)

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