Digging Deeper

The reason I'm writing this post is to encourage you to dig deeper. Ask questions about absolutely everything. Take stock of and challenge existing assumptions/biases that have taken root in your lives. Deepen your understanding of the world around and inside of you. 

One story comes to mind:

As a curious child with too much time on his hands, I remember playing a game very often throughout my teens. In retrospect, it was really more of a mental exercise to see if I understood stuff, but I enjoyed it and thought of it as a game. It went a little something like this:

  1. Pick something: an object, an institution, a person, a cultural norm, etc.
  2. Deconstruct the something at a physical/conceptual.
  3. Where you find gaps in your understanding, find out more. 
    • Go to the library and look it up in the Encyclopædia Britannica (online search repositories were not as accessible or reliable).
    • Ask people who would know about it. Ask them who to ask for more information. Ask those people in turn. Keep digging until satisfied.
  4. After reaching a satisfactory understanding of the what, start looking into the how of the story.
    • E.g. what types of work are required to get it to a finished state? Which of these work processes are combined to be efficient? Where does this manufacturing/production happen? How does it get here? Who gets it here?
  5. From the things I don't understand in the specific topics, dig deeper again.

An Example.

  • 12 year-old Joshua is walking walking walking, down a school corridor, when suddenly he comes upon a door:
Fig 1: the "Door" in its entirety which is visible to the naked eye.

Fig 1: the "Door" in its entirety which is visible to the naked eye.

  • Determine the different parts of this "door" thing: wallframe, door panel, hinges, window, handle with locking mechanism, etc.
  • Further determine the component pieces and materials for each of the parts until satisfied with an understanding of the what for this "door" thing.
Fig 2: the "Door" exploded into components.  Example only, does not match above Fig 1. 

Fig 2: the "Door" exploded into components. Example only, does not match above Fig 1. 

 

  • Go back a few steps, assuming each part is already customer-ready (i.e. assembled), figure out what needs to happen to get it here, in reverse chronological order: (1) it gets installed based on ready parts, (2) it comes from storage in the school, (3) it is received by somebody at the school and put away, (4) it is an order placed by somebody at the school, (5) it is shipped in some way to get to school, (6) it is stored at a commercial facility, (6) it is manufactured by some process, etc. This goes on as far as you want it to.
  • Figure out if steps are missed or assumptions are made: Are these steps actually happening at the school? Does it happen at a multi-school or district level? Is it economical for a small company to do this or do they need some scale to be profitable? Is the truck (or other shipping vehicle) owned by the door company or is it specifically a shipping company? This goes on as far as you want it to.
  • Think about how each of the larger component parts are manufactured, where the pieces that make this up are engineered, where the materials are mined from, etc. This goes on as far as you want it to.
  • And so on :) 

This example is for a physical breakdown, but the exact same line of thinking can be readily applied to social constructs. For example, you could start examining the ideal of home ownership, monogamy, institution of marriage, filial piety, participation in rites or rituals, the democratic government structure, or other widely held beliefs. 

--

This game I used to play really helped me to understand some things thoroughly: at the higher systems/structural level, trickling down to the rational and makeup of specific processes, then into the machinery/equipment and people roles involved, and further again into the nitty gritty material compositions. You have probably guessed by now that I watched a lot of How It's Made as a kid and really enjoyed learning etymology. 

To my pleasant surprise, I would later in business school learn that this game is near identical to exercises done in the professional world* to determine the efficiency + efficacy of business things. When you do that, it will inevitably touch on the one key metrics in business: profitability. 

*This mental exercise is called by any number of names in the business world, each technique/depiction varied a wee bit in a way: (Porter's) value chain model/analysis, root cause analysis, cause and effect analysis, fishbone diagram, five why's analysis, cause mapping -- go ahead, do a quick search on any of these techniques.

...but it all comes down the same thing: Dig Deeper.

In continuing to work this way through the world around you, so many good things happen - among them:

  • You come to feel properly secure in what you know,
  • You tear down the walls of ignorance or social narratives that have permeated your life,
  • You increase the real-world value of your knowledge.