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Brainhack by Neil Pavitt

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30 Do Something Different

“If all you own is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Abraham Maslow

If asked whether it is better to have more knowledge of a subject than less, most people's natural inclination would be to say more. It's why we have the phrase “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. The implication being, with a little knowledge you can be misled into thinking you're an expert on a subject.

But knowledge is often just other people's ideas and is often seen as set in stone. If you want to look at something in a fresh way you need to break away from existing ideas on a subject.

I think that's why Einstein tweaked it to: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.”

It's no surprise then that Einstein himself had what was called his “miracle year” (or his miracle “three and a half months” to be more precise), when he was just twenty-six. In that time, he wrote three papers, one of which won him the Nobel prize, one that confirmed beyond doubt the existence and size of atoms, and another that introduced the mind, space and time-bending concept of special relativity.

Although he took a teaching diploma at Zurich Polytechnic, he never went to university and so was not influenced by the ideas and theories of “learned” professors. At the time he was working in the patent office in Bern and was doing science on the side.

Once we ...

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