Knowledge is a jigsaw puzzle

Published on Sep 16, 2020

We all have a personal perception of a learning process - how it starts, continues and when we understand that “we’re ready”. Step by step we dig into books, lectures, essays, courses and acquire new knowledge. But does it always add up? Do we only increase the number of things we know? Definitely not, at least not all the time.

Knowledge isn’t like a snowball. Learning new topics we’re not only adding new layers but revising what we’ve already known (or not known) before. So apart from adding new things to the shelf of knowledge, there are at least three other things:

  • Building associations. The more you learn, the better you see patterns between things, and process becomes more surprising and interesting.
  • Filling the gaps. When you can’t understand something, your curiosity or teacher guides you to find a missing piece.
  • Changing the way you see the world. Truth is subjective, even within one individual it can change over time. Your believes and opinions, the whole way you see life can change even after reading one good book.

Imagine knowledge as a jigsaw puzzle. If it is, then how to assemble it? There are four steps:

  1. Before beginning, take a look at the picture on the box and identify key areas.Find the curriculum and create a roadmap. There can be contrasting and easily distinguishable parts.
  2. Flip all pieces right-side-up and find the edges. Find learning resources for each topic: books, articles, courses - anything that may be useful to check out later.
  3. Start with the edges, understand the borders. Start with the basics, understand the domain. It will give you a good reference of where the other middle pieces relationship with the border.
  4. Do easy sections first, save the most challenging for the end. That will keep you motivated to finish when most of the “puzzle” is already near completion. You will always be satisfied with intermediate success and avoid frustration. It works as a reward system.

Once you’ve finished the puzzle, you’re ready to move forward to another one. You can choose whether to do the one you like the most or even go with a challenge, and pick a more difficult one. There’s a broad, infinite perspective, of puzzles which are also parts of a bigger picture.