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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to Not Do Your Econ Homework

Have you ever thought about what your friends' talents are? Or just their hobbies? Some people have very distinct interests. When I think of myself though, I just see a whole slew of stuff that I'm trying out without being particularly good at anything. I see my half finished kitchen tiling job, a quarter of a painting I started, a stack of books I started and never finished. That used to make me feel pretty guilty. BUT, not anymore. Recently I read Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, and I feel a lot better.

Why? Well, because he talks about how being into different things can be OK and can actually spark innovation. For example, last night I wanted to start on my economics homework after finishing the econ readings, but instead I read some of the Johnson book for fun. It just so happens that the book was actually talking about economics in a way much different than my econ book itself was, so I learned something new. And that's one of the basic ideas in Johnson's book - different ideas running together from disparate places is a GOOD thing. The act of ideas colliding from separate fields brings new perspective. I really like this idea and I can see it ring true in my own life. At work I can sit at my desk for an hour trying to solve a problem until I want to cry, or I can think about something else for awhile and come back to the problem later. Nine times out of ten I will have a new way of looking at the problem, and I will solve it. So next time you are about to throw something (or cry) try working on something else. Even if it's just an elaborate way to get yourself out of doing your econ homework. It works for me!

I recommend Johnson's book for a quick and interesting read. It provides fascinating history behind many modern day ideas and inventions without being a history book. He provides theories on which environments and interactions help the development of good ideas. It's also inspiring to see his perspective, what I understood to be that good ideas don't just come from pure genius, something in the brain that we can't lock down, they come from a concoction of social interaction and dissemination of existing ideas and theories.

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