ESS Podcast Episode 018

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Winston coming to peace after overcoming perfectionism, free learning in China


Golden Nuggets

0:04:00 Make an effort very small, a matter of seconds.


The hosts discuss evolving their approach to incremental reading and battling perfectionism. They highlight using a Vim script for quick edits. They reflect on SuperMemo usage, emphasizing effective collection management. They cover merging projects, integrating job-related material, and managing high school topics. Winston shares his recent involvement in Chinese SuperMemo events. Writing in their SuperMemo workflow is emphasized for its therapeutic and creative benefits.

They discuss societal pressures, Chinese education challenges, and the importance of pursuing passions. The guest expresses frustration with the system's emphasis on rote learning. They highlight the need for more narratives on successful non-traditional education paths. The guest values their college experience in jumpstarting their free learning journey. They stress the importance of sharing stories to shift societal attitudes towards education. They emphasize that self-directed learning based on interests is key to meaningful education. The guest shares their approach to helping Chinese learners through SuperMemo and free learning. They aim to strike a balance between visibility and personal peace. The conversation ends with a mention of a future discussion on Piotr Wozniak's approach to education.

Extended Summary

In this podcast episode, the hosts discuss the evolution of their approach to incremental reading and overcoming perfectionism. They highlight the effectiveness of small, quick edits using a Vim script to counter perfectionism tendencies. The host emphasizes the importance of finding peace with one's learning style and acknowledges that perfectionism can sometimes be beneficial. They also reflect on their journey with SuperMemo, noting a shift from multiple collection deletions to maintaining multiple collections successfully.

The hosts discuss their approach to merging projects into their main SuperMemo collection. They talk about how they integrate job-related material, such as tutoring notes, into their collections. The conversation touches on subjects like high school topics, including biology, chemistry, physics, and English. Winston, reveals that he has shown his face in recent Chinese SuperMemo community events. They reflect on the evolution of their SuperMemo usage, with a particular emphasis on the benefits of writing collections and the importance of managing the incremental reading process effectively.

The hosts discuss the significance of writing in their SuperMemo workflow, emphasizing its creative and therapeutic aspects. They highlight how writing is an iterative process, promoting a sense of peace and individuality in learning. The conversation touches on the ongoing process of modifying their Vim script and acknowledges that perfectionism is subjective and personal. They also talk about the possibility of creating personalized learning software in the future.

The hosts reflect on the dangers of perfectionism and the tendency to compare oneself to others. They discuss how this mentality can stem from competitive environments and scarcity of resources. They emphasize the importance of self-reflection and finding joy in the learning process. They also touch on the pressure to attend prestigious universities and how it may not always align with optimal learning strategies.

The conversation delves into the challenges of the Chinese education system, where there is immense pressure to excel academically. The guest reflects on how Winston was fortunate to have more freedom and supportive parents, allowing him to explore various subjects and eventually become a freelance tutor. They emphasize the importance of pursuing one's passions and not getting lost in predefined goals. They also discuss the cultural differences in understanding terms like "journal" and "diary" and how writing in their native language triggered negative school memories, while writing in English offered a fresh perspective. The host expresses interest for Winston in writing articles or a book to inspire others, highlighting their journey from struggling in elementary school to achieving proficiency in multiple subjects and languages.

The guest expresses frustration with the Chinese education system and its emphasis on rote learning and standardized tests. They observe that many people in China, despite suffering from the system, still hold it in high regard, possibly due to a form of Stockholm syndrome. The guest believes that learning another language, like English, is crucial for gaining a broader perspective and accessing a wider range of knowledge. They find it challenging to connect with individuals who are solely focused on their country and its education system. The guest also touches on the difficulty of breaking free from the system's constraints and the importance of role models who have succeeded outside of the traditional educational path. They emphasize the need for more narratives and examples of individuals who have pursued free learning and found success in China. The host highlights the importance of sharing such stories to create a domino effect that could lead to a shift in societal attitudes towards education and learning. They conclude that self-directed learning, focused on one's interests and passions, is the key to meaningful education.

The guest reflects on the importance of their college experience, acknowledging that it played a crucial role in kick-starting their journey into free learning. They highlight that without college, they may not have explored certain subjects like Latin, which ultimately led them to the method of memorization and subsequently to SuperMemo. The guest acknowledges that despite initially dropping out of high school, they eventually returned to pursue higher education, gaining valuable social skills and experiences. They emphasize that their unique path, while not fitting the conventional mold, has been instrumental in their personal growth and learning journey. They also note the challenges they faced during the three-year period when they were primarily engaged in virtual interactions and online gaming, citing family issues and personal struggles as contributing factors. The guest concludes by highlighting the informal nature of their learning process, emphasizing that some aspects of personal growth and development cannot be neatly certified or structured through traditional education.

The guest and the host discuss the social dynamics in China, particularly regarding homeschooling and non-conformity. The guest shares observations about homeschooling communities in China, noting that some individuals in these groups may experience isolation due to societal norms. They explain that non-mainstream or non-conformative behavior is often stigmatized in Chinese society, making it challenging for individuals who deviate from the norm to socialize with others. The host acknowledges the complexity and nuances of Chinese society, emphasizing the difficulty of initiating a domino effect for change. They highlight that standing out or going against the norm in China can lead to being labeled as "weird" or "non-conformative," making it challenging for individuals to gain acceptance or recognition. The guest reflects on their own journey and accomplishments, noting that they do not fit the traditional mold of success but value their modest and unknown status. They express contentment with their path and appreciate the opportunity to pursue free learning and personal growth.

The guest reflects on their approach to sharing knowledge about SuperMemo and free learning, particularly in the context of helping Chinese learners. They express a desire to strike a balance between being known and maintaining a sense of quiet and anonymity. The guest emphasizes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for overcoming perfectionism or for pursuing free learning, as individual circumstances and environments play a significant role. They highlight the importance of targeting those who have internet access and are seeking information on free learning. The conversation ends with a mention of a future discussion on Piotr Wozniak's approach to education. The host encourages the guest to participate at their own pace and for leisure, without any pressure.