A year ago I knew nothing about cars. Since then, thanks to my lovely friend Tanuja Desai Hidier and her husband giving me their old car, the knowledge needle has nudged its way past 'Go'.
Whilst necessity is more commonly known as the mother of invention, I can also confirm it is the breeding ground of knowledge. Even so, I'm still surprised to think how much more cars enter into my random thoughts, and how I have acquired a certain, albeit still very rudimentary, knowledge without even trying. From practically zero knowledge identify signs of fluid leaks, identify steering alignment issues and possible causes. Car stereo accessories, brake pads, suspension, tyre sizes and quality. All these now occupy a space in my head.
I have acquired this knowledge because I've had to (I hadn't particularly wanted to). It is one of the few advantages of keeping an older car. However, it led me to wonder if and how I might be able to apply this to concept of knowledge acquisition. One of the major problems I have with learning new things, new skills, new programs, etc. is that it's not strictly necessary. I do it because I want to and because I think it will be good for my personal development, or to get better at my craft. Often, however, there isn't a pressing need. And that, I believe, affects my ability to successfully add to my knowledge in a meaningful way.
Another way of putting it is this. I might set myself a minor target of learning something new. I might dive into the topic and acquire knowledge - facts - but because of the lack of necessity, the resulting quality of my knowledge is poor, both in the ability to apply it successfully and in the ability to make that knowledge long-lasting. The answer seems to be to make my knowledge gathering necessary. But how?