If You Know the Way Broadly, You Will See It in All Things

In my last blog post, I mentioned a quote by Van Gogh: "If one is the master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time insight into and understanding of many things." This is a quote and an idea that resonates with me. I was very intrigued to hear a similar quote while listening to the Joe Rogan Podcast . Rogan said he has a tattoo that reads: "If You Know the Way Broadly, You Will See It in All Things." The quote is by the legendary Samurai Miyamoto Musashi. So, as the Arte Suave Economist, maybe I'll use the Musashi quote in the gym and save Van Gogh for dinner parties.

Let me tell you a story about why these quotes resonate with me. I was sitting in a conference room waiting for the Experimental Economics Reading Group to start. I was sitting next to a guy named Ed Cokely. Eventually, Ed asks me how many push ups I can do (normal conversation for a psychologist and an economist). I tell him between 75-100. He says: that's a decent amount, what do you think the record is? I reply: 1000. Ed says: better guess than most, but it is closer to 10,000. I reply: WOW, while thinking to myself: This guy Ed is full of shit.

Well, Ed was correct. The record for legit consecutive pushups is 10,507. I later found out that Ed was a student of Anders Ericsson, the "expertise/genius" guru. My takeaway from a periphery look at Ericsson's work was: genius is expertise, expertise is not innate, expertise comes from deliberate practice, everyone can deliberately practice, anyone can become a genius. In terms of athletics, this surprised me, but did not shock me. I should say that it does shock some people. One of my favorite things to witness in a BJJ gym is the guy that starts out as a wimp with garbage physical attributes but the heart to train hard week in week out put a beating on a more "talented guy" that quits for months at a time. I was much more shocked by how this changed my view of what it meant to be "smart." I was of the belief that if you were smart you were smart and if you were dumb you were dumb and that is the end of the story. I was absolutely wrong.

It takes deliberate practice and a strong coach to attain expertise/genius/mastery, but once you know the way, you will see it in all things.

Here is a nice Musashi documentary if you want to know more about him: