Friday, February 7, 2020

Am I studying what is really important to me?


The most important decision we can make in this life is the one that allows us to be able to consciously choose what to do with our time.

“Who in the world am I? Ah, THAT’S the great puzzle!”
-Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

"Do you have a book to recommend for me?"

This is a question that I hear very often. And even though I am a crazy reader, I never know the answer to this one.

Another similar question is "What is your favorite book?" I don't have one. 

In this article I will try to explain a little bit about this. Oh, and this has a close relationship with the title - and with the Cheshire Cat. 

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Alice in Wonderland holds a special place in my heart (no, it isn't my favorite book). The way the story develops, and some of the characters are the reason for that admiration.

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.Alice: I don't much care where.The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.Alice: ...So long as I get somewhere.The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

Choosing books for fun is certainly a way to go. Read them for obligatory reasons is also a way to go. However, both reasons may not lead us to the place where we want to be.

Understanding our objectives is also a challenge! Maybe we think we want to go somewhere, but we may be wrong about it. In other instances, we may think that our actions will lead us to where we want to be, and we may also be wrong about it.

I will not talk much about the first scenario. If you want to be a doctor and you don't like blood, well...

About the second scenario, there may be two approaches to it: I will call them the Alice way and the mirror, mirror way.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

One of the aspects of the Alice way is described in her conversation with the Cheshire Cat. Having questions is good! We can always get help with the input from others. I mean, most of the times. People we trust and know we can rely on. Get away from stupid people!

There's another aspect of the Alice way that I can mention here: the remarkably curious spirit that Alice displays can be mimicked: if I want to be a doctor, I can observe other doctors. And by doing so, I can learn what got them there. I watch, and imitate. If it worked for them, it is possible and probable that it can work for me. Not guaranteed, but much more likely.

Being like a children can be very beneficial. Children ask questions. Children learn from watching.

Unlike the Mirror, mirror way.

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

The difference between the Evil Queen and Alice is a subtle one. They both ask questions. So, this is a common factor. However, while Alice asks others, the Evil Queen asks the mirror. Not to mention that she doesn't ask the mirror in order to get insights or a good feedback about stuff. All she wants is to feed her ego.

Bo Eason, in his great book There Is No Plan B For Your A Game, talks about many situations in which people asked him what they should do to be great, only to feel offended, scared or even discouraged by his answer.

People who follow the Mirror, mirror pattern are not interested in learning from others. Their stubbornness and ego is what drives them. Can they end up succeeding in their objectives? Yeah. It is a considerably harder path, that takes too much time, too much pain and has a very high cost. It is feasible, yeah. But hard.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

Why does that relate to books? 

Our relationship with books should be similar to our relationship with food. We have nutritional needs that need to be met in order to maintain the balance of our body functions. In a similar manner, books are meant to be used to satisfy certain needs - that if we want to extract the most from them.

Time? We seldom have it. So, we'd better choose our books carefully, according to our professional needs. And the only way to adequately comprehend our professional needs is if we have a clear understanding of both our goals and our plan to achieve that goal. 

There it is: the proper mindset is needed to have that understanding. The Evil Queen mindset makes it harder to choose between Harry Potter and that tedious book about Quality Management, right?

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"What is your favorite book?"

"Do you have a book to recommend for me?"

Yes, I do have a favorite book. Today. Tomorrow it will probably be a different one. And I would only recommend a book if I know what is your goal and if I actually know about it.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


There is, however, a final observation to be made here. If you have read all the way through here without asking yourself what is the meaning of the weird poetry that is written in this post, you failed as a curious mind. 

Don't worry though: Alice failed the same test. These lines are from a poem written by Carrol, called Jabberwocky. And if they seem meaningless, it is because they are really meaningless.

And when Alice read these lines, she said: 

"It seems very pretty," she said when she had finished it, "but it's rather hard to understand!" (You see she didn't like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.) "Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don't exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that's clear, at any rate.

So, if even Alice can be a little bit of Evil Queen, don't be too harsh on yourself in case you look in the mirror and see any similarities with the Wicked Queen...
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About Ricardo Prins
Ricardo Prins is a Software Engineer who thinks that technology is not the answer to all our problems.

1 comment:

  1. This is amazing, it was nice to read. I've continued to learn more from you. Thank you.