Thursday, August 6, 2015


In a way, competitive gaming taught me empathy. That's not to say that I didn't have any to begin with. But it definitely encouraged me to think about it from a different perspective.

That’s not exactly where I’m going to start though.

At a group dinner (might have been a holiday), I remember somebody saying, “rationality is not part of empathy, it’s an emotional process,” and I stared at them funnily for a bit.

You have to legitimately think your way into another person’s mind to try and understand them. Why do they think how they think? If you don’t already agree with them, then your emotions probably won’t do the trick. You will just go, “no you’re wrong,” and the process will shut down. Anytime you see somebody screaming “you need to be more empathetic!!” at somebody, they should probably be screaming at themselves. Because it’s really hard to scream and yell at somebody if you have actually bothered to understand them.

Rationality becomes an important part of this process. You do not experience the world the way others do. So if you try to use empathy, but you do it lazily, you just wind up being yourself, except in a slightly different perspective. The two phrases “if I were you” and “if I were in your position” sound similar, except they’re very, very different. Empathy is the process of using the first sentence to more fully understand the world. The second one is used for advice, or angry blogging.

One case I see in real life is religion. You may believe that tolerance is a virtue, and you should never force your belief down somebody else’s throat. But this is only virtuous if it’s a value that you already hold.

But let’s imagine. Let’s use a bit of rationality too.

Imagine that you live in a world where you truly believe that there is heaven and hell. Let’s imagine that you truly believe that the wrong behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes will send you to a domain of eternal pain and suffering. Now stop panicking, because that’s actually terrifying.

Now let’s pretend that you truly care about your fellow human beings. You tell them these things (because apparently they don’t know) and they say “go away you’re annoying me.” Your response?

I’m annoying you? That is nothing compared to having malevolent spirits torture you and your soul for an unfathomable length of time. This tiny amount of irritation you feel, the social discomfort I feel knowing that people find me a bit insufferable, this is literally nothing (as a ratio) compared to the evils that await non-believers and non-practitioners. You do not understand. I am trying to help you. And if I let a bit of social discomfort stop me from doing my damndest (ha) to save you from an eternity of pain because it annoys you? What kind of awful, terrible person would I have to be? That is so awful that *I* would go to hell. How can you honestly ask me to do that? If tolerance, as a virtue, means letting my fellow human beings endure infinite pain, then it’s not a virtue I want to have!

Empathy is such a strong tool that people don’t really want to exercise it. I think it’s because they fear that using it on somebody they dislike means becoming what they dislike. And in a way, it is. But not really. You can have empathy and sympathy for a viewpoint without adopting it. I am not religious whatsoever. But I imagine somebody religious, who truly wants to be good and save people's souls (remember, they honestly believe your soul is in danger) would think this way.

It’s the kind of thinking that makes a missionary give up a comfortable life at home to travel into a foreign land filled with disease and spiders and angry natives, to try and save their souls when they don’t even want to be saved. If you ask somebody filled with that belief to stop because they’re being annoying, you probably have not bothered to try and understand.

What About Video Games

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them.... I destroy them.” -- Ender’s Game

To compete against somebody successfully often means seeing the world the way they do. You must know what they want so that you can prevent them from getting it. To do this most effectively, you must have a tremendous empathy for them. You must adopt their worldview, you must know what they are looking for, and then you can prevent it.

You do not understand how to defeat a certain character in a given matchup. What do you do? Well, you might think the best thing to do is to study the best players who have won that matchup. However, it can be equally effective--if not more effective--to try playing as the opponent’s character. This gives you a significantly greater feel for their weaknesses and frustrations. You may come to understand that things that seemed invincible were full of holes. You may find a technique that seemed broken and overpowered was risky and preventable.

You are suddenly your opponent. Where do you find yourself weakest? Where do you find yourself strongest? What suddenly becomes your gameplan, your target? Once you understand those things and you reverse the situation, you can begin the process of defeating them.

Curious sidenote: At some point, almost everything in Splatoon frustrates me when I’m trying to win. But there is one thing that has yet to actually annoy me, which is the Inkzooka. It is easily one of the specials with the most raw power; it’s a long range, one-shotting cyclone of ink that can take out an entire team, shut down any weapon in the game, and is especially brutal in a laggy online environment.

This special, however, is part of the kit of my favorite weapon, the Tentatek Splattershot. My strategies with that weapon depended, in part, on using the Inkzooka to win situations that would otherwise be unfavorable. I have used that special too much to get mad when it’s used against me, because I understand how important it is for it to exist, otherwise the weapon would not be nearly as effective. Compare that to other weapons I use far less; when they beat me, I have decent odds of thinking, “ugh, that’s so stupid.” But not for something that I know in and out.

I also know when somebody on the other team will want to use it. As a result, I attempt to shut down the other person when it would be most inconvenient for them. This helps me win. By thinking my way inside the mind of the other person (because I’ve been there) and this provides me an advantage. It helps me come up with answers to it faster, and the nice part is, when I see things I don’t expect, I can relate them back and use them myself.

So the act of putting myself in another’s shoes makes me stronger, in a variety of ways. Use empathy, and destroy your enemies. That sounded better in my head.

This isn’t just about the game though. It’s also more about the spirit of competition in general.

I had a brief and silly conversation with a friend after losing a tournament match against them. I jokingly admonished, “how could you beat me? I wanted to win.”

So they said back to me, “yeah but… I did too.”

This seems like the dumbest, most obvious conversation two people could have after having a tournament match. But let’s think about it anyhow.

You and I both show up to a tournament. We both play to win. We both do what we think will lead to victory. Neither of us want to be eliminated. Neither of us want to play badly. Both of us prepare and practice, both of us are looking for ways to advance. Only one of us gets to. Only one person gets to win a tournament. How do you get to be friends outside an event while trampling each other’s dreams inside it?

Well, empathy. You know what it’s like to be them. So you understand. That’s what the “good luck” is for at the start of the game, and the handshakes after. It’s partially for politeness, but also an acknowledgment that you both are there to play and win. This is why you don’t hold it against somebody for defeating you; you both know why you’re there and what you want.

Of course, you don’t always use this empathy. Sometimes we hate on people for doing something, when we would have done the same thing in their shoes. We don’t stop to think from their mind. Sometimes it takes a lot of extra thinking and questioning. Questions like, “what would it really be like to be this person? If I really was in their position?” You have to use imagination and reasoning that can lead to uncomfortable conclusions.

But it certainly does help. It can help you win, and can also help you when you lose.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Thoughts on Splatoon

Splatoon came out recently, and I know a lot of people have been pretty excited about it. I’ve had several hours to play it, so I thought I'd talk about it a little.

First, the game’s a terrific time thief. You will “one more game” yourself through a whole day if you aren’t careful. That’s usually a selling point, as far as entertainment goes.

Second, it reminds me that the hidden star of the show for video games are their sound effects. Splats and splortches abound, they make everything extra satisfying.

Third, it’s pretty and smooth and stylized. Rather enjoyable to look at, overall. Plus the use of opposing colors is such a smart way to guide the player’s eye, and the initial moment of the match (where you start spraying ink over the level) is a great moment to acclimate the player to “this is my ink” and it mentally turns into your “good” zone. This draws you mentally to the other team’s ink as the “bad” zone and so there’s clear objectives everywhere. This means you can easily keep up with the shifting lines of attack and possibility. You see a big pool of enemy ink, it’s both a target but a hazard, and you instantly know this.

But really, let’s talk about the gameplay!

The two most common complaints that I’ve heard are pretty simple; there are only 5 available maps, and there’s no voice chat. The maps one… well, I disagree. Here’s why.

Play Counter-Strike (any of its versions) and 95% of the games are on Dust2. Play TF2 and you will see 2Fort and Dustbowl. DotA, League, HoN, and for the most part they all use one map. Most fighting games don’t have meaningful differences between the levels.

Smash is the obvious game to point out here, but having played it with numerous groups of people over the years, I can say this; only a fraction of the levels get used, whether your friends are casual players or tournament players. In fact, tournament players get criticized for taking out the casual levels, but all groups of casual players spend over 80% of the time playing on one level, which is Hyrule Temple (well, for Melee). Over the games, you'll find that people mostly want to play Smashville, Battlefield, Final Destination… and most stages end up forgotten. People will dip in once in a while, then go back to their standbys.

For Splatoon, there are five maps. This is already more than most people gravitate to in any given game. If the five maps are well designed, then there isn’t actually much to complain about. So far I have a favorite level (Blackbelly Skatepark), a least favorite (Saltspray Rig, because I am awful there) and I enjoy the other three fairly equally. So I enjoy four of Splatoon’s five maps, and the fifth one I can tolerate. To me, that’s a winner. Especially since there will be more later, I’m fine just learning these and exploring them as deeply as I can.

I want to give some credence to the other perspective, however. Some people enjoy the feeling of exploration and constantly trying out new things in a game, and that is the appeal to them. The value of a game lies in how many new things it has to offer, and so the complaint goes “I can’t believe I paid $60 for five maps.” Because once somebody knows a map, the map stops being fun. So for them, fun correlates to the amount of content.

There is also a very wise reason for making numerous maps. If you don’t know which map or stage is going to be the most popular, then the shotgun approach can be the most valuable. Make twenty stages, end up with two that people play forever, and you’re golden! Conversely, if all of Splatoon’s five stages fail to become the game’s version of Dust2, people will quickly stop playing. They will feel cheated of the money and time they’ve invested. Then you’ve got a dead game. No bueno.

If somebody tells me that makes them wary about the game, then I understand. But judging the maps before playing them doesn't seem fair.

My own preference tends towards “depth in simplicity.” Or rather, include few features, but make them excellent so they last a long time on their own. Take a map that is really good and you will enjoy it for a long time, finding new strategies and tactics, then perfecting them. Take a game whose basic rules are simple but well thought out, and it creates emergent gameplay. I like when a simple idea gets expounded upon in numerous subtle ways, and I have hope Splatoon is going to do that. The fact that you can approach positions from so many angles because of the ink/movement combination means that stages feel very dynamic. The feel of the levels changed tremendously as I improved. That’s a good thing, I think.

I think this will apply to the game’s mechanics as well. First off, it’s a team game. I hope to see synergies between coordinated players as the game develops more and more. Strategies for taking different parts of maps, coordinated two person tactics, balanced team loadouts, things like that. I have a few ideas in my head for some basic tactics and the roles that various weapons might play, as well as how the stat modifiers on the equipment might influence gameplay to suit preference and strategy.

One possibility is simply two players trying to attack over a hill or ramp; one hides in ink, the other fires a line of ink up the hill, and his/her teammate swims up the ink trail to surprise whoever is holding the position. Another is the use of various subweapons and super weapons in conjunction to control large amounts of space. Those are just the ones unique to the game; any squad based shooter should always have elements of flanking, angle control, and target diversion for teammates to make plays. Splatoon, when players get better at it, should have that as well. I feel like the game is going to evolve in a very interesting fashion, as long as the players push it intelligently.

So moving on, this is also why I have to agree with the voice chat criticism. Nintendo’s philosophy on the subject is “people will be mean to you and ruin your fun, so we won’t let them.” That’s entirely understandable; after growing up on a variety of online games, I know too well how that goes.

But the real solution to that is just have voice chat disabled by default (for the kids), and let players activate it if they’re interested. Then let them mute each other if somebody is being a twerp. This lets the communicators communicate while avoiding trolls and jackasses.

I have another few criticisms, most of which involve menus and how the game handles lobbies. You have to leave the lobby you're in if you want to change any settings. If you’re having fun matches with a lobby full of equally skilled players, but you’re tired of using your current loadout? You have to leave, or just play with the same setup. You can’t even change things like aim sensitivity or axis inversion. This turned out to be a source of hilarity when I was swapping the controller with my friends, since I use X-Axis inversion and they don’t. So to change one thing meant going through multiple menus and leaving the lobby. That was irritating.

I think having the ability to save loadouts would be useful as well. The clothes you wear offer stat bonuses, and one outfit might be tailored more for a given weapon. So if you want to switch weapons, you not only need to leave your lobby, but also individually select each part of the outfit. Saved loadouts would be unbelievably convenient, and it saddens me not to see them.

Menu annoyance continues. You can’t cancel from joining a game; once you’ve said “yes I’m joining the lobby,” you’re stuck. These criticisms aren’t part of the gameplay per se, but they still can inhibit it and annoy the player. If the annoyance comes before the fun, then you’ve done the fun a disservice.

Because, as it turns out, I find the gameplay incredibly fun! I enjoy using the ink and squid form to navigate and attack from surprising angles, I like predicting enemies, I like setting up positional traps with teammates, and I like camping a tiny splotch of ink around a blind spot then popping up and getting a double splat. I look forward to playing with buddies and setting up team tactics (of course, this necessitates me actually getting a Wii U somehow, rather than just playing it at my friends’ place).

I noticed a tremendous difference between how the game felt when I was new compared to when I’d practiced a few basic maneuvers. Being better at the game makes it feel more and more fun, which is always a good sign. Hopefully this trend continues and the game will be worth playing for months to come.

Some other thoughts:

  • I like that you claim territory with your weapon. This means that while camping ink in squid form has power as a surprise attack, it’s not an unstoppable strategy . It also means you can cut off people’s escape by claiming the ink behind them, and that puts them in awful position.
  • Again, I cannot wait to see how people manage team synergy. I’ve got some pictures in my head of different setups and purposes for various weapons, I hope a couple pan out as viable tactics.
  • A few of the duels I’ve had in areas with relatively even ink-spread (constantly switching to squid form, trying to predict their position, all that) have been pretty fast paced and intense. Hopefully this continues to be true as average player skill rises.
  • I’m glad that splatting happens so quickly, considering the power of squid form as an escape. If you lived too long then it would be too easy to escape and counter-claim territory and the gameplay would go nowhere fast.
  • The sniper squiffer guns seem pretty weak. Aerosprays are very strong and prevalent among high level players. The roller is amazing when everybody in the room is bad; once they become good at dealing with you, you suddenly require some finesse and intelligence. Splattershots (Jr. and otherwise) all seem solid and have various purposes. Weapon balance seems mostly decent, for now.
  • Being efficient at covering territory is a darn useful skill. Time is the resource you consume to spread ink; wasting even one extra second in every place you spread ink adds up to tremendous loss over the course of the game. The same is true with hunting for splats; they’re fun to get, but they only matter if it means denying the opponent territory. Chasing somebody for six seconds while their teammate paints half the map is no good.
  • Using the walls well is amazingly fun. I’ve gotten out of some awful situations by wall riding to safety, and also done some tricky ambushes. Squid form is 85% of what makes this game interesting, so getting good at maneuvering in it is key.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Hopefully I’ll be able to play with some of you soon!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Knowing Matchups

You can know all the facts about a matchup you want, it does not mean that you will win the matchup every time.

Being strong in a matchup can go beyond knowing about the matchup. It can mean knowing facts, implementing them, understanding nuances, and executing well. However, just because you are strong in the matchup does not mean that you will still defeat the opponent.

Why should this be so?

Consider games like Street Fighter, where certain characters have remained--in concept--nearly identical over the years. Specifically, the one that comes to mind is Ryu. It is hard to imagine being surprised by Ryu if you’re at all familiar with the game. It is also hard to imagine that somebody familiar with the series doesn’t understand, on some level, how to deal with him.

Little differences could easily matter, of course. Without being a Street Fighter frame-data guru, I could imagine variations of Ryu’s fireball that are more or less easy to deal with based on frame data and hitboxes and whatever; these things are facts about the matchup, and whether you know those facts would be a factor in deciding how strong you are. That, in turn, could influence how well you know the Ryu matchup for a given incarnation of the game.

And yet, even though everybody sensible ought to “know the Ryu matchup,” Ryu players can still win. Because sometimes, despite your matchup knowledge, the Ryu is just the stronger player.

(Side note: I would argue that this is one of the hallmarks of a game that has a robust foundation; if knowing a matchup means winning it 100% of the time, the character is probably very gimmick centered without good basic tools, or to put it less nicely, awful.)

This is because knowing a matchup does not mean you are prepared to fight the strongest version of that matchup. It also probably means that there are fundamental elements of the game, things that have a say in the outcome, which are independent of matchups.


This concept is interesting to me because I think it applies elsewhere, outside asymmetric competitions like fighting games.

People ask me for advice on handling anger and stress during competition, because I have allegedly become pretty good at doing so over the years. You could say this means I understand the matchup between myself and my anger, my frustration, my stress.

But does that mean I am prepared to fight the strongest versions of my angers, frustrations, and stresses? Does that mean I will always win?

Without visualizing myself as a character in a goofy 2D fighter trying to zone out the embodiment of my own salt (too late, just did), I feel like the answer is no. There may be times when I encounter an incredibly strong version of my own anger, and it attacks me harder than other versions. Though I may know how to deal with it, I may not succeed.

Not only that, a player’s performance can vary on a given day. Why can mine not? Maybe you and the best Ryu player in your city normally go even, but you generally win. Then you play on a day where you got barely any sleep, and on top of that you had a stressful day at work. You play, and you lose.

Does this mean you suddenly don’t know the matchup? No. But it does mean that you will not always be equipped to handle every version of a matchup that the world can throw at you. It means that there will be times where your performance varies, and things get the better of you regardless.

And sometimes, even when you think you know the matchup, somebody finds a little hidden technology to throw your way, and get the upper hand. In parallel, sometimes you find something unexpected depressing you or upsetting you, and you’re not really equipped, in that moment, to deal with it. So, for the time being, it defeats you.


This isn’t really one of those advicey posts where I have something clever to say to handle everything. But I’ll throw out a little bullet point of ideas that might pertain.

  • For reasons above, just because you lose a matchup (literally or proverbially) doesn’t mean you don’t know it. You might have forgotten something, you might have been a bit off, or it might have just been the strongest version of that matchup you’d ever encountered. Don’t overreact, analyze and try to understand.
  • If you’re in the heat of a moment and the matchup throws a curveball at you that you’ve never seen before, two options come to mind. First is solve it very quickly. If you can’t do that, then your best bet is avoid the situation entirely until you reach a point where you understand how to deal with it.
  • Steal. See how somebody else better at the matchup handles the thing you don’t understand, do what they do, and see what happens. It might not work for you perfectly but at least you’re gathering data and learning.
  • The best way to learn a matchup is to encounter it repeatedly, often losing in the process. The only way to learn how to handle an emotional issue is to face it and experience it; avoidance can only last you so long.

Those are my thoughts. Thanks for reading. Let’s try and get another update soon, I have been away far too long.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Where Learning Happens, Being a “Math Person,” and History Class

Learning happens where you actually study the information in front of you rather than gloss over it.

Studying information doesn’t just mean reading it, or hearing it, or repeating it until you’ve memorized it. Studying can mean imagining an application for the information. It can mean trying to relate that information to other information in a way that makes sense.

Humans need air. We need water. We need reliable wi-fi. We wither and die without these things. What do information and knowledge rely on? Their air is application. Their food and water are the relationships with other pieces of information and knowledge.

Why is it hard for people to learn things? They do not actively strive to relate information to other information, nor do they seek to apply it. They gloss over and hope it sticks. When it does not stick, they assume they just aren’t smart and give up. Hey, sometimes information is hard. It's tricky to understand why something is the way it is; sometimes you struggle to find that connection. But sometimes the information is not tricky, and sometimes it's because you are not figuring out where or why it applies. You are not figuring out what you could do (or will end up doing) with that information. So, removed from the soil, it rots.

Taking college classes again made me realize this. That’s another way of saying that it made me realize what I had failed to do my first time in college. What I did in the past was learn information specifically so I could repeat it on a test, get my grade, then let the knowledge (and time spent gaining it) die. Then wondered why I hated school so much.

Nowadays I try to be more active with the information I acquire. This very blog helped me a lot, because writing it forced me to try and explain the things I thought about and read about. I had to try to make them relate (or rather, to see the relationship those facts already shared). Even if my initial guesses and ideas about those relationships were wrong, the fact that I searched for helped make the facts stick.

During this past semester (which, go figure, interfered a bit with the blog, which is why I announced a glorious return and then didn’t update) I was a lot more active during my classes. Taking statistics, I was constantly playing with my calculator, because I wanted to run equations back and forth to make sure I understood why I was getting the answers that I got. I tried--very actively--to relate every equation and concept to one another. If the teacher gave us an equation without explaining it, I began ignoring her and looking it up (okay, maybe not the #1 student role model). This had some interesting results.

Result number one: I did better in this statistics class than any math class I’d taken before.

Result number two: When I studied with other students, I was constantly explaining material to them, because I had done way more mental footwork while listening to the teacher. They called me “really smart.” That felt good.

Result number three: One of them also said, when I was explaining a concept to her, “look, I’m just memorizing it to pass, I’m not a math person like you.” This was the first time anybody had ever called me a math person, and I made a weird snorting sound at her, like if a cartoon pig was also an evil bureaucrat in pantaloons. I was never a “math person” before. It just no longer made sense to me to try and memorize something without figuring out its applications.

It’s not that I was doing something she couldn’t, because I was magically mathematical (mathemagical?) and she wasn’t. It’s that I was repeatedly doing things she wasn’t. Things that younger me also didn’t do, when he also assumed that math wasn’t his thing. Turns out, it’s not that math is fun, or that figuring out how the calculator performs its binomalpdf function and writing my own equation for it is inherently fun. It’s that finding connections is fun. Applying the knowledge of those connections in a demonstration of my ability is fun; I get to say to myself, “look what I can do!” In this regard, every subject is fun. There isn’t a single subject (as far as I can tell) that doesn’t contain those elements of forming connections and implementing applications.

I realized this very clearly during my history class. I think the reason many people struggle with history is because they feel that history requires memorization (question: what year was the 24th Amendment to the US Constitution ratified? Better question: what was the 24th amendment to begin with?). This is sort of accurate, but probably less accurate than most people think.

History is the study of people who did stuff for reasons. As your picture of the people involved becomes more clear, and your picture of the reasons and motivations they had becomes more clear, what they did and when falls into place. You can use an almanac or a textbook or scribbled notes on a sheet of paper to store the minutiae, though with enough detail, it all makes sense anyhow.

It sounds like a lot of effort to learn the “why” of a historical fact. But learning that “why” makes it progressively easier to learn everything else. A lot of people have no trouble remembering the long and drawn out details of their favorite television shows or books or movies or whatever. Yet many people struggle with history, when fundamentally your favorite TV show and your least favorite history class are the same thing. People doing stuff for reasons. Why did this character on Game of Thrones stab that one through the neck? You know because they’re both people with motivations involved in a conflict that you’ve come to understand. As long as the thing you’re reading or watching isn’t crappy fiction, the actions will make sense to you. Even when there are twists that surprise you, they (should) make sense in retrospect. Because you know why.

For the same reason, you can easily learn why one country invades another, or why one politician doesn’t get elected. These “why” questions force you to form a better picture. The more facts you acquire and the more you understand why those facts are true, the better the picture synchronizes with itself. Then, if you don’t actually remember something, the things you do know can help you recreate the fact. It will be the only thing left that makes sense, given what you know.

History is the biography of everybody. Knowing this, history should be significantly more interesting to significantly more people. When you look at how obsessed some folks can be on social media over the most minor happenings, it’s a surprise they’re not more interested in history. People love politics and drama! Just ask high-school students.

But to be fair to the high-schoolers, the classes and textbooks and sometimes teachers do a tremendous disservice to history. They present a series of facts in the dullest manner possible and say “go forth and forget.” How are you supposed to remember the year Texas broke from Mexico without something to relate it to? Imagine trying to put a puzzle together by memorizing the coordinates of every piece without ever looking at the picture. That's how many people study history, and--coincidence?--why many people don't like it. Without a why, your puzzle pieces are blank.

Be the annoying child. “Why?” your world to death.

Not just “why?” but “how?” And not just “how did that happen?” but “how can I use that?” and “how does that fit?” Not just “how does that fit?” but “what does it fit with?”

Life is full of information that you gloss over. And in truth, that is totally fine; if you didn’t gloss over a lot of the world, you would get very little done. Your questions would spiral down to the quantum level in an endless cycle of why and how and then you would notice that you forgot to eat. Then you would be too busy finding your hunger a curious happenstance, and something else would eat you instead.

But you don’t get to gloss over the stuff you want to keep and use. Many of us go through the “why” process automatically when we’re excited; we look for applications of things when we’re having fun. We ask questions just because we are curious, we search for applications because it’s fun. Once novelties wear off, however, once the obligations set in and you just want to clock in and get it done and go home, the learning stops too. Being an auto-mechanic for twenty years doesn’t mean you’re good with cars, it means you spent twenty years in a garage. Being an auto-mechanic who spent twenty years learning, tinkering, exploring, researching, asking questions, and making all that information relate to each other is what makes you a good auto mechanic. In fact, it’s probably what makes you a great one.

So do that! You learn a new fact, “how could I use this?” You learn another one, “how can this be used with the other one? How do they relate?” Even if your guesses are wrong, attempting to relate them is a form of using them, and helps them stick.

This is how learning happens. When you learn consistently and automatically, you develop something that looks a bit like genius, but is really just unconscious, persistent effort.

Thanks for reading.