Tag Archives: Learning

Diminishing Returns

That’s the modern version of the saying “everything in moderation.”

In any area of life, you can look for optimization until the search for optimization takes over life itself.

On the other hand, it does not make sense to do things the hard way when there is a better alternative.

The point of diminishing returns is the boiling temperature for optimization.

When the effort expended in creating improvement is greater than the effort required to endure the situation without improvement, it’s time to stop, and reevaluate the situation.

Painting: Sisyphus, by  Vecellio Tiziano


The term in vogue today is “lifestyle design”, especially in online media.

A few years ago, it was “personal development.” Even today, books are being released under this category. Books, after all, for better or for worse (but fundamentally for better) move more slowly than the internet.

Before that, it was “self-help.” But it ceased to be, because in this brave new world, only the weak need help.

Long, long ago – in the age when animals talked, as my grandmother used to say – the term was yet another:


The art that led man to know himself, to discover his values, which pointed him toward the path to orient himself in the world, according to said values.

The reputation of Philosophy was destroyed by school, but we could not do without her. She is too important, she is too essential, she is the only guide that we have on how to live.

That’s why we camouflage her. We dress her up in costume, we cover her face with religious, spiritual or even commercial masks (or any combination of the three) and give her other names.

And it works, it works, but something is lost in translation. Each mask comes with its baggage.

How many more sacred disciplines has school violated?


They always taught me that it was through books that one learned. School cemented this: the most important things in school were the books, or the notes, or the slides that the teachers projected during class.

But it is always worth reassessing our beliefs. It is possible that the book has emerged as the main learning mechanism for purely technological reasons. Speech is a much older ability than writing; it makes sense that our brains are more apt to capture information through the spoken word.

In antiquity there was no way to preserve sound. The oral tradition was very strong, but it suffered from the inherent limitations of memory, and what information was transmitted through that mean was corrupted as it passed from generation to generation.

I have always been reading and writing: highlighting passages, elaborating marginalia. Not doing so is almost heresy. It pains me to believe that I can learn more (or retain the knowledge better) by simply listening. After all, reading and writing is an art that I spent much of my life mastering.

Yet, I can not deny that some podcasts, some interviews, some audiobook sections have left a much stronger imprint in my memory than most of the notes I’ve made over the past few decades.

It’s time to explore this further.