Here’s how they can accelerate your learning.
Do you ever feel guilty about the book staple you haven’t read? Polymath Nassim Nicholas Taleb says you shouldn’t:
“Read books are far less valuable than unread ones.”
Yes, you read it right. The pages you haven’t studied indeed add value to your life. Here’s why.
Antilibraries protect you from ignorance
When you just read a few books in your life, you’re likely aware of what you don’t know. But once you’ve read through some hundred books, you tend to become ignorant.
You might be too confident, too sure, and less aware of the things you don’t know. That’s where antilibraries come into play.
The books you haven’t read (and will never read) assemble your antilibrary.
They represent unknowledge and are the best cure for overconfidence. Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes:
“A private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool.”
Antilibraries help you overcome the biggest enemy
The illusion of knowledge — the things you think you know — is learning’s biggest enemy. The authors of the learning bible ‘Make it Stick’ write:
“The illusion of mastery is an example of poor metacognition: what we know about what we know. Being accurate in your judgment of what you know and don’t know is critical for decision making.”
Stuart Firestein, professor of Biology at Columbia University, adds an important point:
“We know a lot of stuff but of course there is more stuff that we don’t know. And not only is there more stuff that we don’t know — but the more we know, the more we increase the amount of stuff we don’t know, because there was all that stuff that we didn’t know that we didn’t know before. […]
An image I always like is of a circle of knowledge — but as the circle grows, as the diameter increases, so does the circumference that’s in contact with all that darkness outside the circle of light — that ignorance.”
When you’re convinced, you know something, learning something new means you have to change your mind.
People who don’t want to change their minds keep stuck in the same place. So overcoming our egos is one of the big learning challenges.
Antilibraries accelerate your learning
“You will never read all those books,” friends say when they look at my want-to-read list. The list grows by 2–3 books every day.
My friends are right. Even though I read 1–2 books a week, I will only get through some of them.
But that’s the point: My antilibrary is a constant reminder of what I don’t know. It helps me stay curious and humble. Psychologist Adam Grant writes:
“No matter how much brainpower you have, if you lack the motivation to change your mind, you’ll miss many occasions to think again.”
How to move forward
Don’t ever feel discouraged by the books you haven’t read. Instead, see them as a reminder to be humble and curious. Combined, they’re the essential ingredients for life-long learning.
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